Bay laurel plant
image by mrmac04/morguefile.com
Bay laurel has a rich and diverse history. The ancient Greeks used it as a material in garlands, and modern cooks loften use bay in savory dishes. Gardeners who enjoy a well-stocked herb cupboard will benefit from a thriving bay laurel plant in a container. When grown in its native environment, bay laurel may reach heights of 60 feet. Herb gardeners grow a much smaller version that will live happily even when root-bound in a container.
Fill the container almost full with the potting soil in the early spring. Place two to three bay laurel seeds on the surface of the soil, and cover them lightly with more potting soil. Water the seeds lightly and move the container to a completely dark place with a constant temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep the soil lightly moist during the germination process. The typical germination time is one month, but it may take as long as three months for the seeds to germinate. Move the container out of the dark after germination, and thin the seedlings so that one strong seedling remains in the container when the seedlings are 2 inches high.
Move the container outside to a sheltered location that receives direct sunlight after the last threat of frost has passed. Keep the bay laurel outside as long as the temperatures are above freezing. When the weather falls to near freezing temperatures, bring the bay laurel plant inside until the following spring.
Fertilize the bay laurel two times each month by mixing the fertilizer with water according to package directions.
Prune the bay every autumn to make sure it stays the size and shape you desire. If you allow the bay laurel to grow without pruning, it will grow into a sizable tree. Expect a bay laurel plant to grow to approximately 5 feet tall when grown in a 12-inch diameter container.
Harvest bay leaves to use in cooking whenever you need them. Clip off the bay leaves in the beginning of the day, and place them under a solid weight to prevent them from curling as they dry. Store them in a sealed container for as long as one year.
Allow the bay laurel to dry out significantly over the winter months. Keep the container in a room that has indirect sunlight and cool temperatures.
Move the bay laurel back outside to its summer location when the temperatures warm up the next spring. Remove the top inch of soil from the container, and replace it with fresh potting soil. Begin the bimonthly fertilizing again at this time.
Allow the bay plant to grow for up to six years in its original container. After this time, transplant it to a 14-inch diameter container.