How to Take Care of a Bay Leaf Plant

Overview

The bay leaf (Laurus nobilis), also called the bay laurel or sweet bay, is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 60 feet tall, but usually stays 3 to 10 feet tall in home landscapes. The thick, shiny, leathery dark-green leaves are aromatic and used as seasoning in a wide range of cuisine. The bay leaf plant is hardy down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit and can be grown in the ground outdoors in most climates with semi-cold winters. In colder regions, the bay leaf plant can be easily grown in a container and kept indoors during the winter months.

Step 1

Water your bay leaf plant deeply once or twice each week to soak the soil down to and around the roots. Water the tree during the spring, summer and early autumn when rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.

Step 2

Feed your bay leaf plant a slow-release tree fertilizer once each year in early spring, following the instructions on the label. Fertilizing the bay leaf tree is usually only necessary during the first two years after planting it.

Step 3

Prune your bay leaf tree to shape it once every year in autumn. Remove all damaged or dead growth from the tree, and prune back the branches to control the tree's size.

Step 4

Keep the area around your bay leaf tree free of weeds by hand-pulling the weeds. Avoid hoeing weeds around the bay leaf tree, because it has very shallow roots that are easily damaged.

Step 5

Harvest the bay leaves by simply picking them off the stems. You can begin harvesting the leaves when the bay leaf tree is just two years old, but you should pick off only a few leaves at a time when the tree is young.

Tips and Warnings

  • Watch out for bay suckers infesting your bay leaf plant. Bay suckers (Trioza alacris) are plant lice that cause the bay leaf tree's leaves to turn yellow and curl at the edges, eventually turning brown and dropping from the tree. Treat bay sucker infestations by removing and burning the infected leaves, and then spraying the undersides of the remaining leaves with a dilute solution of liquid dish soap and water.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden hose
  • Slow-release tree fertilizer
  • Pruning tools
  • Spray bottle
  • Liquid dish soap

References

  • Garden Action: Bay Laurel, Sweet Bay or Laurel Tree, Care and Cultivation

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Bay Laurel
Keywords: bay leaf tree, Laurus nobilis care, grow sweet bay, bay laurel trees

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.