by Jennifer Poindexter
Do you enjoy cooking with bay leaves? Would you like to learn how to grow bay laurel so you can have this fresh ingredient on hand any time?
You’ve come to the right spot. If you’re interested in growing the bay laurel tree, I’ll fill you in on what you should know to begin growing this plant.
You’ll be introduced to the plant’s growing conditions, ways to propagate this tree, you’ll learn how to care for it, and also how to protect it from common garden pests and diseases.
This information can make all the difference when you set out to grow the bay laurel tree. Here’s what you must know to grow bay laurel successfully around your home or garden:
Growing Conditions for Bay Laurel
The bay laurel tree is a fragrant, evergreen tree recognized for its shiny, dark green foliage. The tree can reach heights between 25- to 55-feet.
However, you may also keep this tree at heights around 2- to 8-feet with consistent pruning. When kept at this height, it makes the tree an excellent indoor or patio plant.
You may even train the trunk of this tree, while it’s still young, to grow in spiral or braided shapes for an even more unique look.
Now that your interest is piqued, let’s discuss where the tree grows best. Bay laurel is hardy in planting zones eight and higher.
It prefers growing in a location with full to partial sunlight. The tree can be grown in the ground outdoors or in a container (both indoors and outdoors).
If growing bay laurel indoors, it needs full lighting. Outdoors is where you can get away with growing the tree in a little more shade.
Wherever you choose to grow this tree, ensure it’s surrounded by nutrient-dense soil. The actual soil type isn’t as big of a deal as this plant can grow in loamy or clay dirt.
However, should you grow bay laurel in a container, it’s vital that the planter drains adequately as well. Once you have these growing conditions under your belt, it’s time to learn how to begin growing this plant.
How to Plant Bay Laurel
You can grow bay laurel using a variety of methods. The first way to grow this tree is from seed.
Each spring, bay laurel produces yellow flowers. In the fall, these flowers will turn to small purple fruits which contain a single seed.
You may collect these fruits and extract the seed from each by removing the outer casing. When the seeds are removed, sow them into a growing tray.
The tray should be filled with well-draining soil. When prepped, place a single seed in each cell of the tray. From there, place the grow tray in a cold-frame, a greenhouse, or a sunny window.
Care for the seeds until they’ve sprouted by ensuring the soil remains consistently damp and has enough lighting.
When the seedlings are established, transplant them into larger containers. You’ll know they’re established after they’ve formed their first set of true leaves.
Keep in mind, it can take up to six months for the seeds to germinate. They’ll need six to eight hours of sunlight to provide the proper conditions for germination.
Plus, they should be kept in a place where the temperature is around 70-degrees Fahrenheit. The plants won’t be ready to transplant outdoors for two years, but you should transplant them during this second spring.
The second method to growing bay laurel is from a cutting. Remove new growth from the bay laurel tree. It should be approximately six inches long and flexible.
Once you have the cutting, remove the bottom leaves, and dip the cut end in rooting hormone. Place it in a pot with well-draining soil that’s kept consistently moist.
You may wrap the pot in plastic to provide a greenhouse effect. Keep the container in a sunny location and ensure the soil remains consistently damp without oversaturating it.
In approximately one month, the cutting should form roots. Continue to care for the cutting for two years until you transplant it outdoors or into a larger container.
The final way to grow bay laurel is to purchase a plant. Ensure you provide adequate growing conditions as mentioned earlier.
You should only plant bay laurel in the spring while it’s still partially dormant. Water the tree regularly to help the roots become established.
These are the three ways you can add bay laurel to your home or landscape. Pick the method you’re most comfortable with and get your gardening adventure started.
Caring for Bay Laurel
When caring for bay laurel there are some specific instructions you must follow. The first thing you should do is water the plant correctly.
If you plant the tree in the ground, eventually it should become stable enough that it can thrive on the water in nature. The exception is in times of drought.
However, if you’re growing this tree in a container or while the plant is becoming established in the ground, it’s vital that you water it correctly.
Be sure to water bay laurel deeply. The idea is for water to drain from the bottom of the container, if applicable.
Don’t apply more water without testing the soil first. Stick your finger into the dirt next to the tree. If the soil is dry to your first knuckle, it’s time to water the plant deeply again. If not, hold off on watering for another day or so.
The next thing you must do is fertilize bay laurel over the spring and summer months. Use an all-purpose fertilizer and apply it once per month if the tree is planted in the ground. If grown in a container, fertilize bay laurel every two weeks.
Next on our list is pruning. No matter the size of your bay laurel tree, be sure to prune away any dead or damaged parts of the tree.
If you’re growing bay laurel in a container or trying to keep it a specific size or shape, be sure to prune to maintain these characteristics.
However, if you must do a hard prune, spread it out over a couple of years. The reason being is bay laurel is slow to grow.
Therefore, if you break the pruning down over a few years, you’ll always have foliage on the tree during the spring and summer. Otherwise, the tree might look odd for a few years if you prune hard all at once.
The last few things on our care-list pertain to container grown bay laurel trees. First, you must repot a container grown bay laurel tree once every two to three years.
When doing this, trim the roots down by 30%. Plant the tree in fresh soil, but ensure the top two inches of the fresh dirt is nothing but compost.
Second, when overwintering bay laurel indoors, be sure to move the plant in when temperatures are regularly dropping below 50-degrees Fahrenheit.
Pick a sunny location for the plant to grow inside. However, you don’t want the area to be extremely warm. Also, keep the plant away from areas with drafts or direct heat.
It’s wise to wrap the container portion of bay laurel in bubble wrap or burlap as this will insulate the roots while it’s indoors.
A sunroom might be a good area to overwinter bay laurel. If you don’t have a sunny, cool location inside, you could store bay laurel in your basement under a grow light.
The final thing you must do when overwintering bay laurel is ensure the humidity is adequate. You won’t need to water bay laurel as frequently during the winter.
Again, test your soil prior to adding any additional moisture. However, if your plant begins to drop leaves, it could be because your home is too dry. This happens easily over winter.
If you see this occurring, move the plant to naturally humid rooms in your home such as a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room.
You can also add a humidifier to the room your plant is growing in or spritz the plant daily with a spray bottle of water to keep the humidity levels up.
These are a few tips you should take into consideration when caring for and overwintering a bay laurel tree.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Can Impact Bay Laurel
Bay laurel trees are plagued by a few threats no matter where they’re grown. The diseases which most commonly impact this plant are leaf spot, powdery mildew, root rot, and other fungal based issues.
The best way to keep fungal issues away is to ensure you’re growing the plant in proper conditions.
If bay laurel is growing in well-draining soil, a well-draining container (if applicable), in full to partial sunlight, and in warmer conditions, you shouldn’t have issues with fungal disease.
The reason being is fungal issues arise in cold, wet soil. These diseases also thrive when the foliage doesn’t have enough airflow to dry quickly. By avoiding these instances, you should have less of an issue with the diseases mentioned above.
However, should these issues arise, most of the diseases can be cured using a fungicide. The only exception is root rot. You can dig up your tree, give it time for the roots to dry, and try transplanting it into better growing conditions.
I must warn you, plants don’t always bounce back from root rot. Therefore, it’s important to provide adequate growing conditions from the start.
The pests which frequently plague bay laurel are mealybugs, scales, and spider mites. They can be treated with an insecticide.
You may also treat spider mites by spraying your plant forcefully with soapy water. Scales can be treated by rubbing the plant with neem or canola oil as this suffocates the pests.
Finally, mealybugs can be treated by applying rubbing alcohol to the plant with a cotton ball. You may also use the other methods mentioned above. Forceful water and neem oil work well for treating mealybugs, too.
Take these tips into consideration because if pests or diseases arrive on the scene, it could ruin a perfectly healthy plant in a short period of time. Stay alert to best protect your bay laurel tree.
How to Harvest Bay Laurel
The final step in raising bay laurel is harvesting the plant. You may harvest the leaves at any time during the growing season.
Simply pluck the leaves from the plant. You can enjoy them either fresh, frozen, or dried. If you have a larger harvest, choosing to dry or freeze them might be the best way to prolong your harvest.
This concludes our discussion on growing bay laurel. Hopefully, this information will help you have a positive experience growing this plant.
Bay laurel is a gorgeous tree that can add beauty to your landscape and delicious flavor to your food.