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.
**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.