Bay leaves grow on bay laurel trees. Bay laurel leaves are also called sweet bay leaves. The leaves are used in cooking, to add savory flavor to dishes. The leaves are deep green, shiny and waxy. Planted directly in the ground, the bay leaf tree can grow taller than 12 feet. For culinary use, it's best to control the plant's size by growing it in containers.
Purchase a bay laurel seedling that is at least 6 to 8 inches tall. Find a glazed flower pot with a 12-inch diameter. Terra cotta is too porous, and will dry out too quickly during the summer months. Make sure the flower pot has a drainage hole in the bottom; if it does not have a drainage hole, use a drill with a masonry bit to create a drainage hole.
Fill the flower pot half way with moisture-retaining potting soil. Create a small dip in the center of the soil, and place the bay leaf plant's root ball in the well. Fill in the empty space with more potting soil, filling up to 1 inch below the rim of the flower pot.
Water the plant thoroughly immediately after planting. This enables the bay leaf plant's root system to work out any trapped oxygen bubbles.
Keep the plant's soil moist. The bay leaf plant prefers moist soil. Dry soil causes the plant to become stressed, resulting in leaf drop.
Fertilize the bay leaf plant once or twice a month with an all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer. Use fertilizer only during the growing season (spring and summer). During fall and winter, the bay leaf plant enters dormancy; fertilizing during dormancy will burn the root system and leaves.
Prune the bay leaf plant to maintain its shape and size. Use gardening shears to cut off dead wood, sickly branches and branches with yellow leaves. Prune the plant to a height that is manageable for you.