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How to Grow a Bay Leaf Tree

By Katelyn Lynn ; Updated September 21, 2017
Dried bay leaves

Bay trees (Laurus nobilis) are slow-growing evergreen trees that are indigenous to the regions in the southern Mediterranean. Bay leaves has long been used as a flavoring in Italian, French and Spanish cooking but they also have been used for their medicinal properties in liniments for arthritis and sore muscles. Bay trees can grow between 10 and 15 feet high and are hardy in the USDA Zones 8 to 10.

Dig a planting hole for the bay tree that is approximately 3 feet deep and 3 feet wide. Choose a location for planting the bay tree that is in full sun, to partial shade and will offer some protection from wind.

Remove the bay tree from its planting container. Place the container horizontally on a sturdy surface and use a block of wood or a trowel to give the rim of the container a few taps in a downward direction. Remove the container as soon as it is loosened from the root ball.

Plant the bay tree in the planting hole. Scoop soil into the planting hole until the hole is well filled with soil. Tamp the soil down in and around the bay tree using your foot, then water the bay tree with at least 2 gallons of water.

Spread a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch around the bay tree to conserve moisture. You can use leaf mold, grass clippings, straw, or pine bark. Keep the mulch about 1 to 2 inches away from the trunk of the bay tree.

Fertilize the bay tree twice each year, once in the springtime (once new growth appears) and once in mid-summer using a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 granular fertilizer. Read the instructions provided by the manufacturer so you will know how much fertilizer to use. Fertilizing the bay tree will ensure vigorous growth.

Water the bay tree during the growing season (spring through summer) as soon as the soil at a depth of approximately 1 inch feels dry to the touch. Provide the bay tree 1 gallon of water for every foot of its height. Bay trees require frequent watering, according to Floridata.com.

Prune the bay tree as needed to keep it to a manageable size. Bay trees naturally grow in what is referred to as a "lollipop" shape. The time for pruning bay trees is in spring through early summer (March through June). Cut back any scraggly growth or broken branches as well.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Trowel or block of wood
  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Snips


  • Use care when weeding around the bay tree since bay trees are shallow rooted. Hand pull any weeds.
  • If any suckers, or side branches form at the base of the bay tree near the root system, snip them off at the trunk. Suckers can cause the bay tree to become lopsided and grow unevenly.
  • Once bay trees become established (usually within two to three years) they are drought resistant and will require less frequent irrigation.

About the Author


Katelyn Lynn has been writing health and wellness articles since 2007. Her work appears on various websites. Lynn is a certified holistic health practitioner who specializes in orthomolecular medicine and preventative modalities. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in health sciences from TUI University and has extensive experience in botany and horticulture.