How To

Learn how to grow a healthy bay tree and the many uses of its fragrant leaves

June 22nd, 2021

Bay leaves are one of the most valuable herbs in cooking.

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Pexels|Karolina Grabowska Source: Pexels|Karolina Grabowska

You can use them to add flavor, but mainly for a kick of aroma in your cooking.

You can buy them in stores, but wouldn’t you love it if you could get them straight from your garden? At anywhere from $8 – $10 and up for a handful of good quality bay leaves in the store, we bet you would!

It’s easy to grow a bay tree in your garden.

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Pixabay Source: Pixabay

Easy, but it takes a lot of consideration before you start planting. Where you plant it is a big part of your bay tree’s survival.

First thing’s first, which bay tree should you plant?

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Pixabay|Bishnu Sarangi Source: Pixabay|Bishnu Sarangi

There are different varieties of bay trees. The Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’ is the ornamental variety that is great for growing bay hedges or trees for topiaries. If you’d like the edible varieties, look for Laurus nobilis ‘Undulata’ or Laurus nobilis f. Angustifolia.

The next thing you should consider is its growing conditions.

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Pixabay|ivabalk Source: Pixabay|ivabalk

A bay tree requires full or partial sunlight. It also thrives in well-drained soil and hardiness zones 5-9. You can add light mulch to your soil to allow proper water drainage and regulate soil moisture and temperature.

Also consider extreme weather conditions, especially during winter.

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PxHere| Source: PxHere|

Check the coldest temperature in your area. It should not go below 23 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re planning to grow a bay tree. If it does and you really want to grow one, make sure to plant it in a sheltered position that protects it from winter winds and frost.

When all those are taken care of, it’s time to plant your bay tree.

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Flickr|meknits Source: Flickr|meknits

Look for a spot to plant your tree.

Dig a deep hole to fit the root ball of your bay sapling and twice as wide. If you’re planning to plant it in a pot, consider that this tree will grow as big as 10 feet, so you will have to pot it up as it grows.

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Pixabay|Hans Braxmeier Source: Pixabay|Hans Braxmeier

If you’re planning to keep them in a container for much longer, prune them up to six feet tall.

Prepare your chosen spot to plant the bay tree.

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Pixabay|Goumbik Source: Pixabay|Goumbik

Incorporate some organic matter like compost or animal manure into the soil. Place the bay sapling upright and in the middle of the area. Fill the hole with soil and tamp around it evenly.

Water around the planted area.

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Pixabay Source: Pixabay

Remember not to put too much water, or the soil will get waterlogged and lead to root rot. Once your bay tree has established a good root system, it’s generally okay to only water once every one to two weeks. Add some light mulch, and you’re good to go.

If you’re planting in a container, go for free-draining ones.

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Pixabay|Francisco Leão Source: Pixabay|Francisco Leão

Add grit in the soil and water moderately to not “drown” your sapling; thus, hindering it from thriving. Tease the ground every once in a while, and replenish the compost. Repot every two years.

It’s best to plant bay trees during spring.

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Pixabay|Lynn Greyling Source: Pixabay|Lynn Greyling

Continue caring for your bay plant until it grows mature and ready for harvesting. It takes two years before your bay tree is ready to become your kitchen staple. Midsummer is the best time for harvesting bay leaves to get more of its flavor.

Pick out the large and smooth leaves and dry them.

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Pixabay Source: Pixabay

You can lay the leaves on a baking sheet and make sure they don’t overlap—sundry them for 72 hours or up to 2 weeks.

By then, they’re ready to be stored in your pantry.

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Pixabay|monicore Source: Pixabay|monicore

Now you have ready-to-use bay leaves for cooking any time.

Some of the best news is that these trees grow pretty readily from cuttings. You can likely find a bay tree in your area to take a cutting from and grow an endless supply of bay leaves for free.

Learn how this gardener grows bay trees from cuttings in USDA zone 8b in the video below!

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Source: The Spruce, Gardening Know How, Easy to Grow Bulbs