How to Plant
Bay Laurel is a Mediterranean tree and is available as a potted plant.
Planting in the Garden:
- Choose a location in full sun to light shade that is protected from heavy winds with rich, well-drained soil. Excellent drainage is essential. If you live in a cooler zone than zone 8, plant in large containers with a commercial potting mix to bring indoors for the winter. Plants can grow tall; be sure to use a container at least 20-24 inches tall and wide. Bay laurel prefers a soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones. Add several inches of compost to the bed and blend it well.
- Dig a hole large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball, if tight, with your hands to encourage good root development.
- Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand leaving a slight depression around the plant to hold water.
- Water thoroughly, so that a puddle forms in the saucer you have created. This settles the plant in, drives out air pockets and results in good root-to-soil contact.
- Do not allow your plant to dry out, but never let the soil stay wet either.
How to Grow
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
- Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For herbs, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
- Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- Use a slow release balanced organic fertilizer following the manufacturer’s directions.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
- Prune bay laurel in the late spring to early summer to maintain a balanced shape and to control the height. Remove any leaf tips damaged by winter.
Harvesting and Preserving Tips
- Harvest bay leaves as needed any time of year.
- Cut older leaves with scissors; try to avoid damaging the branches when removing the leaves off
- Bay laurel leaves may be used fresh or dried. Dried leaves are not as strong and will not have the bitter taste of fresh leaves.
- Dried leaves may be stored in an air-tight container out of direct light.
- Leaves are used whole in recipes and removed prior to serving.
Common Disease Problems
Anthracnose: This is a fungus disease causes brown spots with purple edges on the leaves. The spots turn black in the center; leaves become yellow, dry and fall off. The fungus overwinters in diseased plant debris. Burpee Recommends: Avoid overhead watering which can spread the fungal spores. Maintain a clean garden, remove and discard all diseased plant material. Use a mulch to prevent spores from splashing from the soil onto plants.
Bacterial Blight: This usually only occurs on young trees in warm weather. Small oozing cankers appear on the branches and buds. Cankers may continue to completely encircle infected branches, eventually killing them. Burpee Recommends: Practice good garden hygiene at the end of the season and discard, do not compost, possibly diseased plants and plant parts. Space plants to allow for adequate air circulation. Prune all infected branches below cankers. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Sooty Mold: This is caused by a mold that grows on the honeydew excreted by aphids and other sucking insects. Burpee Recommends: Control taller plants for aphids or scale. Wash off the surface of the leaves with soapy water. The damage is cosmetic only.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Peeling Bark: Following a harsh winter the barks cracks and peels. Burpee Recommends: If the rest of the plant is growing normally or recovering from winter damage, no action is needed. If the damage is severe the tree may die. Bay laurel is not hardy in zones colder than zone 8. If you know very cold weather is coming, protect the bark with a cloth until the danger has passed.
Scale: Small bugs look like brown, black, gray to white bumps on the stems of plants. Scale may not have any apparent legs and may not move. Scales have a sucking mouth part. Scale may produce honeydew so leaves and stems may be sticky. Scale can weaken the plant causing it to grow very slowly and it may wilt at the middle of the day. Burpee Recommends: Completely spray the stems with insecticidal soap. For a severe infestation contact your local County Extension Service for recommendations for your area.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Bay Laurel FAQs
Can I plant bay laurel in a container? Yes bay laurel is ideal for indoor growing and container growing. Choose a pot that is at least 20-24 inches deep and wide and use a commercial potting mix rather than garden soil. Bay can be grown as a houseplant.
Can I grow bay laurel in zone 6? You can grow it only if you bring it indoors for the winter. Bay laurel cannot thrive in temperatures lower than 23 degrees F. Stop all fertilizing while the plant is inside for the winter.
Will my bay laurel flower? Although bay laurel has a flower if you are growing it in a container most likely it will never flower.
What is the scientific name of bay laurel? Laurus nobilis is the scientific name of bay laurel. Another common name is sweet bay.