Whether you're growing a rose bush or an oak tree, there are lot of factors to take care of, when growing a plant. Here, learn how to grow a bay leaf tree.
The bay laurel or sweet bay is a plant whose leaves are popularly used as a culinary and medicinal ingredient. There are many health benefits associated with the bay leaf plant. It is also a treasured cooking spice for European and Asian dishes.
Adding a few bay leaves while cooking, gives a dish a tangy and enticing aroma along with a pungent taste.
While the leaves can be dried and stored, there's nothing like adding fresh leaves to a delicious recipe, or when you have a headache and need a pungent bay leaf tea.
So how about growing and using bay leaves from your own tree, rather than store-bought leaves? The bay leaf plant can be grown as a short and stout bush in a pot or container. It can also be planted in a garden or backyard and will flourish well in both types of planting locations.
If potted, it makes a valuable culinary yet ornamental plant to have indoors or for decorating a patio or veranda. Growing this plant from a seed is very difficult and time-consuming. To grow a bay leaf plant, it is recommended you start from a sapling or seedling. You can get a small or medium-sized sapling from your local nursery or greenhouse.
Growing a Bay Leaf Plant Indoors and Outdoors
Outdoors ✦The bay leaf plant needs plenty of sunlight throughout the year, whether grown indoors or outdoors.
✦Plant it in a sunny, well-lit area, with suitable shelter against strong winds.
Indoors ✦The bay leaf plant should be kept near windows for sunlight.
✦If natural sunlight is not enough, use growing lights to supplement the amount of light needed.
✦The bay leaf cannot tolerate harsh winters and extreme temperatures, as it comes from a Mediterranean climate. So if you live in such a climate, it is better to grow the bay leaf in a container.
✦You can protect your tree during the cold by wrapping the head of the tree. Also wrap the stem of the plant with fleece or pipe insulating material.
✦If the tree is young and small in size, transplant it into a pot and store it in a greenhouse for the winter.
✦Do not place bay leaf plants near vents, AC ducts, doors, i.e. any place which can be drafty or excessively hot.
✦In summertime, keep the potted plant outdoors as much as possible, for it to thrive.
✦In spring, you can move your bay leaf plant outdoors but let the plant adjust gradually to the change in temperature. Keep it outside for some time, then bring it back indoors. With each day, increase the number of hours outside.
✦At the first sign of a decrease in temperature, during late fall, bring your bay leaf plant indoors.
✦During winter, if there is less sunlight coming through the windows, use growing light bulbs to keep the plant healthy.
✦Immediately after planting, water the tree well. Supplement the soil with animal compost or organic manure prior to planting.
✦To encourage the soil to retain water, you can apply a layer of mulch or garden compost.
✦Water the bay leaf tree every other day. The soil should be moist, not wet.
✦Young growing trees will require more water, so water them everyday.
✦Cut back on watering during winter. During hot summer months, make sure the soil doesn't dry out.
✦Remember to water the plant, such that its soil remains moist.
✦Supplement its growth from time to time, with fertilizer pellets or compost.
✦Water the bay leaf plant more during the summer, as the soil can dry.
✦Reduce the amount of water and the duration of watering during the winter.
✦Do not apply any fertilizer in the winter season. Fertilize the plant during spring and summer.
✦The bay leaf tree needs a well-drained but moist type of soil.
✦The soil shouldn't be too wet but must never dry out and harden.
✦The bay leaf likes to spread its roots out, so plant your sapling away from other plants, with a decent distance between plants, for it to grow comfortably.
Indoors ✦Use good quality potting soil that has water-retentive properties.
✦Plant the herb in a pot with plenty of drainage holes, so water can leave the soil but it remains moist. The soil should not be loose in the pot but gently pressed, so that the plant can easily sink its roots into the soil.
✦The diameter of the pot restricts the growth of the plant, so a twelve-inch pot will yield a tree that stands 5 feet tall.
✦Ceramic pots are best for keepiing the soil moist and damp. Avoid using terracotta pots.
✦As the roots of the plant grow, you may need to re-pot the plant to a bigger container, once in 5 years.
Pruning and Care
✦ A bay leaf tree can reach a maximum height of 40 feet. But if pruned and trimmed, you can restrict its growth, both horizontally and vertically.
✦ As such, it is not necessary to regularly prune an outdoor bay leaf tree. Prune once a year.
✦ Weeding should be done to keep the tree healthy. Weed by hand, as using a spade to weed could damage the delicate and shallow root system of the tree.
✦Potted indoor bay leaf plants require little trimming. Pruning is done only to give shape to the plant.
✦An ideal potted bay leaf plant should not be too tall or spindly but should have a dense and lush foliage.
✦Trim the plant such that there is just one main stem. Trim side shoots such that the plant grows thick and bushy in profile.
The bay leaf is a slow grower, it takes time for the vulnerable root system to immerse itself in the soil as well as for the plant to develop height. This plant needs some tending to and a patient gardening hand. However care and effort is worth it, as the bay leaf tree is a very fruitful and long-living floral addition to any indoor or outdoor garden.