Growing Bay Laurel~ How to care for your Bay tree

by HollieT

Everything you need to know about growing and caring for your bay laurel plant.

Growing Bay Leaf.

The bay laurel, otherwise known as laurus nobilis, sweet bay or bay tree, is a fragrant evergreen which originated in the Northern Mediterranean. The leaves from the bay tree are used extensively in cooking to flavor soups, stews and an array of different dishes.

In addition, this aromatic herb is known to possess antiseptic and antioxidant properties as well as containing high levels of vitamin A and C, Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Selenium and Zinc. Given these benefits, it is hardly suprising that growing bay laurel leaves at home for a supply 'on tap' is becoming increasingly popular.

Bay leaf plant.
Bay leaf plant.
By Gary Houston Ghouston 16:40, 2 Jun...

Growing bay leaf outdoors.

If you have decided that you wish to grow bay laurel in a permanent spot in the garden, you will need to plant the tree in a position that receives a lot of sun. This evergreen however, is not winter hardy, therefore, if you live in an area which experiences severe winters with lots of frost and biting winds, then it may be worth considering growing bay laurel in pots or indoors.

 If on the other hand you have decided to plant outdoors, but do experience some cold weather during the winter months, you will need to think about protecting your plant as much as possible in winter.

Wrapping fleece or pipe lagging around the head and the trunk of the plant will help protect your bay laurel during the colder months.

In addition to plenty of sunlight, bay laurels prefer well drained soil. Consider the planting spot very carefully as bay laurels can live for several decades and once established, it is not advisable to move them.

Try to leave a good distance between your new plant and other plantings as your bay will need sufficient space to spread. The end of summer is the best time to plant in the garden and the young bay laurel will do well in moist soil which is why you need to ensure it is watered regularly.

During early spring apply a well balanced fertilizer containing equal levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Think also about about applying a top layer of water retaining mulch.

Growing bay laurel in containers

Growing bay laurel in containers is advisable for those who live in regions where the temperature drops below 25 degrees in the winter. Select a starter plant of around 6-8 inches and choose a large ceramic planter of around 10 inches with good drainage. Use a high quality, gritty compost. Bay laurel plants can be obtained from garden centers during early spring and this is an excellent time to plant in containers.

Water young plants regularly, particularly during hot weather and do not, under any circumstances, allow the plant to dry out. During the summer months, feed the plant roughly every 10 days with a good quality liquid feed.

Bay laurels thrive during the warm weather and for this reason you should avoid bringing indoors (if you live in an area with cold winters) until late fall. However, the plant should not be exposed to frost.

Once you have brought your plant inside you need no longer feed it. You can also reduce watering, however, your bay will still need adequate light so find a well lit position for your plant. The bay laurel can be taken outdoors again during the spring but must be gradually acclimatized before leaving out all summer.

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Pruning and harvesting.

Prune the plant during the spring months and then again around July, helping to retain the bays shape. There is much debate about whether fresh or dried leaves are the best for culinary use, however, this will largely depend on your personal preference.

Fresh bay leaves are somewhat stronger, however, they can be rather bitter. When harvesting, remove the older leaves first, they ted to be stronger and more flavorsome. You can remove them with scissors, or carefully by hand. Having said that, you are free to take leaves whenever they are needed, whatever time of year, and with a little care and maintenance, growing bay laurel should provide you with an abundance of leaves for many years to come.

Updated: 11/13/2012, HollieT
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Amalie on 08/27/2014

This was the most useful web article so far on planting & maintenance of the shrub. My in-ground sapling died last winter during ice storms, so even though I live in North Carolina, I am planting my new one in a container until it is pretty sturdy. I probably won't bring the container indoors during winter, but at least I can bring it closer to the house for protection.
I am very much intentionally growing the plant for the culinary use of the leaves.

HollieT on 01/23/2013


It's great to be able to pull some leaves off when you need them too. My mums always asking me to bring some round, she adds them to every soup and stew that she makes. :)

katiem2 on 01/23/2013

Now that my kids are older I'm interested in getting back into raising and enjoying indoor plants again. The bay laurel seems like a great starting point. Lovely bay tree. :)K

HollieT on 12/03/2012

Mines indoors at the moment, Mira. It's too cold in the Uk to leave them outside in the winter. But as long as you put them in a nice sunny spot indoors, they'll do just as well as they do outdoors.

Mira on 12/03/2012

I would plant this if I had a garden :)

HollieT on 11/21/2012

Hi 2uesday,

Mine is, lets say, very mature but was already well established when my grandfather gave it to me. As long as they're in a nice sunny position they thrive, so it's definitely worth buying small bays and growing them on.

HollieT on 11/21/2012

Brenda, I've had mine getting on 25 years, it was my grandfather's plant and it's still going strong.

2uesday on 11/21/2012

One day I would like to have a pair of bay trees in terracotta pots as they look nice by the door. They are very expensive to buy in the UK when fully grown in this way, so I might have to grow small ' bays' on to achieve this..

BrendaReeves on 11/20/2012

Bay laurel makes a lovely plant. I will have to remember this when I move back to
Southern California.

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