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



Similar Posts


  1. Thank you for this great site. I will try growing my laurus nobilis indoors this winter in Chicago. I bought it this year and is doing well outside so far but I have to move it in soon. Question: what is better, a plastic or an unglazed clay pot? Thank you for your help

    1. I prefer clay pots, because they are more….old fashioned and organic. Plastic can leach chemicals into pretty much everything, so I avoid plastic when I can. The negative side to using clay pots is that they can be more heavy when filled with soil/plants. Since you move your bay plant, you might want to get one of those cool devices that put wheels under the pots so you can move it in and outside easier. Unless you can handle heavy pots!

  2. I had my bay laurel shrub for over 30 yrs now. I live in 9b and have it in the ground. It has always been in full sun and thrives. It is great plant to grow and cook with!

  3. I live in Corpus Christi, Texas. When I got my plant at the nursery the tag said “shrub”, which led me to believe it would be maybe 5-6 feet tall. I planted it on the south side of the house in clay soil about 5-6 feet from the house. I now have to get on the roof 3-4 times a year to trim it back. Good news is that none of our friends have needed to buy bay leaves for the last 20 years.

  4. Hi, I have bay leaf plant in the ground…about 3ft. high. I want to dig it up and put it in a pot…I think it was planted from bird droppings…it not in an ideal location…it’s been there for more than 10 years… I always cut it down…but keeps coming back…would appreciate any tips to replanting it…Thanks

    1. Try to wait until fall, when plants start going dormant. Then dig down around the plant as deep as you can go. A 10 year old bay leaf is gonna have deep and sprawling roots. Try not to break the main roots if you can. Make sure your spot for the plant is already prepped so you can smoothly move it from one place to the other. Good luck!

  5. My plant has been growing healthy indoor winter and out side summers.
    This year the entire plant turned brown,but the leaves remained turgidly attached.there are 3 new growth,from the base. I have removed many leaves with a gentle pull, but most remain attached. What is happening?

    1. Hmmm…I don’t know! That’s not a lot of info for me to go off of. Spoil your bay leaf plants for a bit and maybe things will get back to normal. Good luck!

  6. I have a small bay laurel which was doing well, all of a sudden started having leaf die off. Examination showed what looked like eggs bit they don’t rub off. The stalk has oval tan scabs which are hard and don’t come off either. Any idea of what this might be and how to deal with it?

    1. Oh no! That sounds like brown scale. It is often best to discard heavily infested plants but if your plant is only lightly affected, you can try washing the leaves and stems with a diluted dish detergent and water solution. Use a cloth to gently remove both the scale insects and any sticky fluid from the leaves. Using a Q-tip dipped in alcohol and rubbing it on the spots might help, too. I hope you can save your plant!

  7. I acquired one that is over 5’ tall and live in Ohio. It is tall with only a few branches and the leaves seem to droop downwards istead of being upright.

    I have it in a pot indoors with fresh soil and trying to figure out the amount of water it requires. Wondering also if I could chop half of it so that it is more bush like instead of the charlie brown chrismas tree.

    1. I grow mine like bushes instead of a tree. You get more bay leaves that way and it’s less work with the fancy pruning. Make sure your soil isn’t too rich! Bay leaf is a Mediterranean plant and likes good drainage and lots of sand in the soil and not rich compost, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.