How to Grow Bay Leaves

This is a continuation of my Spice Series. Welcome to my information on How to Grow Bay Leaves!


How to Grow Bay Leaves

**The bay leaf comes from the bay laurel tree, an evergreen that originates from the Mediterranean region.

**Bay leaves are beautiful additions to anyone’s garden. They are also known for both their medicinal benefits and their culinary uses.


**Due to the vast amount of information on Bay Leaves, I will only be posting about How to Grow Bay Leaves in this post. Click here for my information on the Medicinal Benefits of Bay Leaves. Click here for my information on the Culinary Uses of Bay Leaves.


How to Grow Bay Leaves:


**The Bay Laurel tree, also known as Sweet Bay and Laurus nobilis, is an evergreen tree that can potentially become very tall, but only if you live in a very warm climate and can plant it in your yard. If you live in zones 8-11, you can grow  a 30 to 60 foot tall bay laurel tree outdoors, and it will give you more bay leaves than you will ever need in a lifetime. They are beautiful and aromatic, so if you live in those zones, it might be worth growing them.

**For most of us in cooler zones, however, we can count our blessings because Bay Laurel trees grow very well in containers. You simply bring them indoors for the winter and prune them into pleasing (and smaller than 30 feet tall!) shapes.

**Since Bay Leaves are a wonderful and natural insecticide (especially against mosquitoes), AND can be pruned into pleasing shapes (the most popular being a pyramid), AND have aromatic foliage, they are a favorite plant to grow, especially if you put your pretty trees in containers on your back porch for all of these purposes.

**Bay Laurel trees do, however, have a few requirements in order for them to survive and thrive. These plants cannot tolerate cold weather, but if you live somewhere hot, you need to give your plant shade because they also do not tolerate extreme heat. Planting them in containers makes it easy to keep up with their temperature needs, but also means you need to be paying attention to the weather and remember your plant!




**If you live in zones 8-11 and your weather is mild, you can plant your bay leaf tree outside. Make sure to keep your tree protected from strong winds and if you live in a hot climate, give your plant partial shade, give your tree well-drained soil as well.

**In cooler zones than zone 8, you should plant your bay leaf tree in a container. Bay leaf trees do not mind being pot bound. Make sure to give it a loose and well-draining soil. Put your pot in full sunlight in the warmer months and move indoors to a sunny and warm location in the winter.



**You can propagate from seed, but it can be difficult. You will need to scarify your seeds and plant them in the fall in a container. Cover with coarse, sandy soil and place somewhere with temperatures around 68 degrees F for at least one month. Germination takes 5-12 months and you should keep it in a pot for 2-3 years before planting outdoors (only plant outdoors if you live in zones 8-11). Sometimes trying to grow bay leaf trees from seeds does not work and the plants do not take root.

**You can also propagate from cuttings, but this is also challenging. Take cuttings from new growth in late summer or early fall. It is difficult to propagate bay leaf trees from cuttings; they often do not take root.

**If you are not an avid gardener who is up to the challenges of propagation experiments with bay leaf trees, it might be best to simply buy a small bay laurel tree (like this one) from your local garden store. That way, you can enjoy the culinary aspects and the gardening aspects without the frustration and effort.




**Bay leaf trees need a few basic maintenance things, like feeding and pruning, in order to have a healthy plant.

**You should feed a good organic fertilizer to your tree twice a year, once in the spring and once in the summer. Make sure the fertilizer you choose is good for both indoor and outdoor plants.

**Pruning is the most important thing for your bay leaf tree for maintaining its shape and size. You need to keep its height, width, and shape pruned. Remember, it wants to become a 30-60 foot tree!


**You need to prune twice a year, once in the early spring and once in the late summer. In the spring, besides regular pruning, you need to look at the base of the tree for additional shoots/stems. If you see any, you will need to prune them off and leave just the original trunk.

**Prune the foliage in any shape you like. Some ideas include triangles, box-shape, or circles. If you do not care to have a particular shape, just make sure you trim off the top 2-3 inches of the branches.

**Make sure to water your plant regularly, especially in the summer. While bay trees do not want to be soggy, they will become stressed if they do not receive enough water.

**Check your bay leaf tree regularly for rusting, mottling, mold, leaf spots, and pests. If you keep your tree properly pruned, feed it twice a year, and bring it in during cold weather, your tree should remain very healthy and strong against these problems. However, it is still a good idea to check your plant on a regular basis so that if it has a problem, you can deal with it and still salvage your tree.



**This is an evergreen tree, so the bay leaves can be picked for fresh use all year round.

**You can use bay leaves either fresh or dried. Fresh leaves are stronger flavored than dried ones, so you might need to experiment with recipes, since most recipes call for the dried bay leaves that you can find at the grocery store.



**Do YOU have a bay leaf tree? If so, is it healthy and easy going? Do you have any difficulties with it? Please feel free to tell me about your plant in the comment section below.

**Please click here for my information on the Medicinal Benefits of Bay Leaves. And don’t forget to click here for my information on Bay Leaves and their Culinary Uses.

**Also, click here for the rest of my Spice Series!

**Like the beautiful Bay Leaves illustration? The super talented artist Christy Beckwith made this pretty picture and other lovely spice illustrations for my spice series. Here is how you can buy some Spice prints for your kitchen.

How to Grow Bay Leaves




Related Posts

Comments (20)

[…] of Bay leaves in this post. Click here for my information on the Medicinal Benefits of Bay Leaves. Click here for my information on How to Grow Bay […]

My bay “sprig” was about 5 inches tall when purchased in a 3″ container from a November nursery sale. I have kept it under gro light in my kitchen, 4 hours/day, 2″ above, watered lightly to keep moist, miracle gro once in 3 months. It put out two new leaves at the top immediately, but two bottom leaves curled and got brown-ish, The dry leaves I plucked off had no aroma. It’s a cute baby, but seems stalled…any advice?

Give it more light than 4 hours. That should help. Also, what temperature is your home? Even if you take plants indoors for the winter, they might go dormant for a few months, especially if you home is colder than 65 degrees.

[…] vast amount of information on Bay Leaves, I will only be posting about the medicinal benefits today. Click here for my post on How to Grow Bay Leaves. Click here for my post on the Culinary Uses of Bay […]

[…] The Spice Series: Bay Leaves: How to Grow | The Homestead Garden They are also known for both their medicinal benefits and their culinary uses. **Due to the vast amount of information on Bay Leaves, I will only be posting about How to Grow Bay . **If you are not an avid gardener who is up to the challenges of propagation experiments with bay leaf trees, it might be best to simply buy a small bay laurel tree (like this one) from your local garden store. That way, you can enjoy the culinary aspects and the gardening aspects without the  […]

[…] Bay Leaves (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) […]

Pinterest link is not working properly, I love your posts, thank you.

Found your information very usefully. As I was worried as my ornate tree had branches coming through the bottom. Didn’t know what to do.Thank you

I have been enjoying my bay tree for 8 years now. I’m shaping mine into a hedge or bush shape. I’m also giving turmeric a try this year. Any advice? I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading more from you.

Thank you for the kind comment! 🙂 What type of advice would you like? I’ve got a turmeric article already, if that’s what you were looking for:

That was a very useful post. I live in hot climate and I have a shaded balcony which is north facing. There is no direct sunlight at all except during peak summer when we get 2 to 3 hrs of direct sunlight. Is bay leaf gud for my balcony?

Thanks! And hmm…maybe? It’s always hard to know with plants and not being at your place. You could always try!

I have a bay leaf plant that is in my garden and doing great! I live in Ft. Worth, TX and I’ve had it in my garden for 6 years. This year the plant has finally gone crazy with new shoots coming up while the main shoot is 5ft. tall. I plan on pruning the outlying shoots and letting the main shoot grow into a tree. I have never had to cover it in winter and so far no damage. I don’t know if I should knock off the leaves on the main branch, but I suspect I should in order to make it into a tree. If anyone has any hints, I would welcome a response.

Hi! Our bay leaf tree is planted in zone 8A but the lebes are bright yellow. Is it getting too much sun. It has all day sun we live in NW Oregon.


My bay leaf tree is two years old but some of the leaves are drying out. Am I not watering it enough? It is in a large pot and leaves seem to be drying up??

Well, if it’s dry, you can usually tell by putting your finger in the soil to see if it’s moist or not. Otherwise, maybe your bay leaf tree needs some trimming? Maybe someone else will read this comment and have an idea for you, too! Hope that helps!

I live in seattle. Can I plant my tree outside after I’ve had my tree indoor for a year

You can try! You should very slowly introduce your plant outdoors and see how it does with the first few cold days in the fall.

I live in Manchester , England and I was given two bay leaf, mini trees in large containers, with a single twisted trunk, They have a shaped top, seemed originally they were spherical, However , while one is just a ball shaped top on the twisted trunk. The other has separate branches growing up from the soil all around the centre trunk. I was given these by my neighbour who was living more and more abroad, This was after I tried to rescue them last summer, where they had dried out and the leaves had gone to copper brown but where still on them and strong, including on the branches coming up from the soil. Eventually the leaves began to fall of so I removed them leaving just the bear branches . however new shoots had pushed through the soil surrounding the trunks, more on the single tier and smaller ones between the branches coming from in the soil so I am watered regularly and fertilised them to see if could bring them back. The branches however show no signs of producing anything but they are still a red colour. The pots are very large for the size of these minis trees ,which are only about 3 feet tall so I don’t think they are pot bound. I didn’t know what they were at all and my neighbour returned and said bay leaves, so that’s how I know. I have them standing on gravel. I loved the copper coloured leaves when she gave them to me but she said they were originally green. Don’t know what to do to help them back to life but they seem still alive and will the leaves ever come back on the main trees. The new shoots are giving us hope. are the main trees dead and should I remove them leaving the shoots to grow on but these are very week with no trunk so far. Nothing is appearing on the branches, carn’t see any new growth on them, only what’s coming up through the soil around them. Please advise.

I would suggest taking them out of the pot to see if they are root bound. Also, when you gently take them out, you will be able to see if the roots look good. You can also check at this point if they have enough drainage, or if the roots are rotting from too much moisture at the bottom of the pot. If too much moisture, add more drain holes and/or add some gravel to the bottom of the pot. After checking them over, try putting them back in the pot (unless root bound, then give them bigger pots) with new soil. They might just need some nutrients that were lost when the soil dried out last year. As long as the roots look okay, you should be able to bring them back to healthy life. Hope that helps!

Leave a comment