Tips to Grow a Bay Leaf Tree
Bay leaf is also known as the bay laurel this tree is highly prized in the culinary world for its aromatic scent and the flavors that it brings to so many recipes. This every green tree that is also a large shrub belongs to the flowering family Lauraceae. Its scientific name is Lauraceae and is native to the Mediterranean region but is now widely cultivated in other regions of the world.
The bay laurel tree is slow-growing with glossy green leaves that are oval and pointed with a leathery texture and is believed to be one of the oldest spice trees that have been cultivated going back as far as ancient Greece and was used to fashion the laurel wreath that was given as a prize at the Pythian Games.
If left unpruned bay leaves can grow up to 60 feet in height when growing in an outside garden. In a 24-inch pot, this tree can grow from 4- to 6-foot by keeping well pruned. The seem can happen when growing bay leaves indoors keeping them pruned 4- to 6-foot, a bay leaf tree can live up to 20 years or even longer depending on how you take care of it. For more on how to grow and care for sweet bay laurel tree let’s take a closer look.
Bay leaf planting location
The sweet bay laurel tree should be planted in an area that gets full to partial sun.
Bay leaf soil requirements
A soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter will work wonders, the soil’s pH range should be between 5.5-7.5.
Bay leaf water requirements
Water your bay leaf tree regularly but allow the tree to dry out between watering.
Bay leaf fertilizer requirements
Every 15 days apply a liquid fertilizer that is high in nitrogen from spring to summer. During the winter months discontinue feed which will encourage leaf growth that will be winter-killed.
Bay leaf tree mulching
During the winter months especially when temperatures fall below 25 degrees a 2-3 inch layer around the base of the trunk will insulate the roots from the cold. When the weather starts to warm up remove the mulch so the soil can warm up and dry out quickly.
Growing bay leaf in a pot
When growing a bay leaf tree in a container the container should be large enough to accommodate your tree. The container should have drain holes for water drainage, a good well-drained commercial potting mix is ideal. Fertilize and water as stated earlier along with treating for disease and garden insect pests.
Growing bay leaves indoors
When growing bay leaves indoors the pot or container should be placed near a window that gets a lot of sunlight. Keep your bay leaf plant from being exposed to the heat from appliances and drafts outdoors. Misting your bay leaf regularly with water when the humidity is low will help to prevent leaf drop. The leaves that fall however can be used for your food recipes.
Bay leaf insect pests
Common insect pests of the sweet bay laurel tree.
- Asiatic garden beetles
Aphids are sucking insects they do damage by sucking the plant’s sap which causes yellowing of the leaves followed by leaf drop. These soft-bodied insects can be either green, red, brown, white, or black. The use of neem oil, horticultural oil, or insecticidal soap will bring control.
Scales are soft-bodied sucking insects that extract the plant’s sap, scales appear as small bumps or scabs on the plant that remains in a fixed position. Plants that are infected with these insects have yellowing and browning of the leaves. Twigs will also have a scorched appearance, neem, and horticultural oil will bring control.
Psyllids are jumping lice tiny sap-sucking insects that secrete sticky substances known as honeydew which sooty molds form that can affect a plant’s health. The use of neem oil will eliminate these garden pests.
Thrips are sucking insects that do damage by extracting the plant’s sap, thrips can be either dark brown, black, yellowish, translucent white. Thrip damage includes yellowing and browning of the leaves, applying neem oil will bring control.
Asiatic garden beetles
These beetles do damage by causing browning of the leaves followed by brach defoliation, this beetle lives on twigs consuming portions of the leaves.
Bay lead diseases
Common diseases of bay leaf.
- Downy mildew
- Powdery mildew
- Root rot
Downy mildew is a grayish fungus that covers the leaf surface, which appears as mold or mildew. Control this disease with a copper-based fungicide or neem oil.
Powdery mildew appears as a white powdery substance on the leaves and the stalk. This fungal disease encourages distorted blossoms and chlorotic leaves. Moderate temperature and humid weather are favorable for this disease. Provide good air circulation by properly spacing and pruning plants. A fungicide may also be applied in the more extreme case.
Root rot is caused by overwatering, therefore ensure not to overwater and if you are growing bay leaf from a container the container should have drainage holes. It’s recommended that adding Trichoderma harzianum to the soil will help to prevent root rot.
Anthracnose causes curling and distortion of the leaves along with black leaf spots, botanical fungicides like neem oil will bring control.
Harvesting bay leaf
Although bay leaves can be harvested at any time it is believed by some that younger leaves carry more flavor. The leaves can be snipped off or handpicked and lay on a baking sheet.
How to dry bay leaf?
A dehydrator is one method that you can use to dry bay leaves, once the leaves have been picked and washed, pat them with a paper towel to get rid of the moisture. Let the leaves sit for about two hours before placing them in the dehydrator.
Lay your leaves on the dehydrator shelves ensuring that the leaves are not touching each other. Your dehydrator should be set to 42°C. The leaves are dried when they are crispy and brittle, check on leaves every hour to ensure they have reached this stage. You may have to keep them in the dehydrator for an extra hour or two if needed.
Remove the leaves from the dehydrator and let them sit for about an hour to cool on the kitchen countertop out of direct sunlight. When the leaves crumble and curl and the stem starts to split is a sign that the leaves have dried. Remove the stems and store the leaves in an airtight container.
A large baking sheet with paper towels laying on it is needed for this method, leaves should be spaced apart so they don’t touch each other. The leaves should be placed in a well-ventilated room that’s dry and warm exposed to direct sunlight which will cause the leaves to wilt and brown.
The leaves should be left for about a week then turn over so the other side can dry evenly, and let sit for another week. If some of the leaves once checked after the second week still have spots of softness and green areas should be left out a litter longer.
The leaves that are completely dry can be store in an air-tight container, the leaves however should be stripped from the stems. Once the other leaves have completely dried follow the same process.
How to store bay leaf?
Store bay leaves in a sealed container in a dark, dry, cool spot, such as a pantry on the kitchen cabinet. Bay leaves will last for about two years in this condition without losing their flavor. The sealed container can also be placed in the freezer.
The final word on the sweet bay laurel tree
Growing the sweet bay laurel tree is that simple, all it takes is some know-how which I have provided for you. By following these steps you will be well on your way to having much success. The leaves from this tree will bring that wow to your favorite recipes so add this tree to your home garden and join the many homeowners who are enjoying these flavors.
About the author
Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.