Bay Leaf Tree

Gardener's Secret Tips on How to Grow and Care for Bay Leaf Tree

Bay leaves bring a unique flavor to a recipe and it is easy to grow bay leaf tree at home with some simple instructions. Keep reading to know how to grow this tree and use the leaves for culinary purposes.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Jul 20, 2018
Image of large standard bay tree specimen plant
Growing bay tree from seeds is a painstaking task, which calls for a lot of patience. So to cut down the years of waiting for the seed to develop into plants and finally into trees, one can directly start container gardening of the bay plant.
General Information
This tree comes from lauraceae family. There are two types of bay leaves used for cooking - the Turkish bay leaf and the California bay leaf. The Turkish bay leaf's scientific name is laurus nobilis and its alternative names are Grecian bay, Mediterranean bay, or true bay. The California bay leaf goes by the scientific name umbellularia californica.
These two types of trees have leaves that look similar, but give a different flavor, so often you will notice specific mention of the Turkish or California bay leaf in a recipe.
Bay leaf
The leaves of this tree can be 12 cm long and 6 cm wide. This tree size can be up to 40 feet with yellow flowers and purple berries.
How to Grow the Tree?
  • In containers you can control the growth of the tree, reduce the amount of pruning, and move the tree inside the house.
  • Choose a pot which is around 12 inches in diameter as this will let the tree to grow till a height of 5 feet and you can keep this plant in your patio.
Bay trees in male hands
  • Growing it from seeds will be quite a task and you will need a lot of patience. Instead, buy the bay leaf plant from nursery or look online for suppliers.
  • This container gardening method will keep the tree's roots in place and you won't have to repot it for 5 years.
  • Make sure the pot has good drainage holes and well-drained soil. You can add stones at the base for drainage.
  • Use compost on the top layer of the soil and make sure that the soil line is till the brim of the pot and that this soil is pressed firmly and gently in the pot.
  • Water the top area of the soil containing compost.  
How to Care for the Tree?
  • During frost season, you can move the pot inside your home to protect the bay leaf plant. Make sure you place the plant in an area where it gets plenty of light.
  • If during the frost the leaves on the tree become brown and wither away, then remove these leaves during the spring and provide the tree with a good quality feed.
  • Every fortnight during the summer season, feed the bay tree with fertilizer (organic seaweed). Replace 2 cm of the compost layer from the top of the soil base.
  • When growing this tree in pots, don't over water it during winters. Wait till the compost layer dries out and then provide the tree with water.
Pruning of bay leaf
  • For bay leaf tree cutting or pruning, you can trim the leaves of the tree into any desired shape with a pair of sharp shears.
Tree Problems
The problems related to the bay leaf plant occur due to improper watering, so follow the watering care instructions for the tree properly.
Another problem associated with this tree is the bay sucker, which is a kind of lice. The early signs of this lice affecting the plant is the curling of the leaves at the margin. To treat this problem, just spray under the affected leaves with a diluted liquid washing soap or you can use a pesticide called thiacloprid.
Raw Organic Dry Bay Leaves
To store the leaves for cooking purpose, pick out the leaves from the tree early in the day. Dry them out of sunlight, under some weight to prevent the curling of these leaves.
Store these leaves inside air tight jars. These leaves have a shelf life of 1 year. So, use the aromatic leaves of this herb in your cooking and enjoy your bay-leaf flavored soups and stews!