How to Grow Your Own Bay Leaf Laurel

If you enjoy growing fresh herbs, growing your own bay leaf laurel plant will add an exotic flair to your indoor or outdoor garden.

Bay leaves have been used for cooking and medicine for thousands of years. The bay leaf laurel plant (Laurus nobilis) is native to the Mediterranean. It usually grows as a shrub, but it can reach up to 60 feet (18 meters) tall. Bay laurel will also adapt well to smaller spaces and makes a great container plant.

Letís take a closer look at growing bay plants, harvesting and storing the leaves, and some recipe ideas for your fresh crop.

Related: 9 Uses for Bay Laurel

Potted bay plant

HOW TO GROW BAY LEAF LAUREL: WHERE TO START

The easiest way to start a bay plant is to buy one from your local garden center if they have them in stock. You can also buy a package of bay laurel seeds online, or take a cutting of a bay plant if they grow in your local area.

As a word of caution, make sure whatever plant or seed you start with is labelled Laurus nobilis. Some plants called similar names, like bay or sweet bay, may be different species that are not edible. And if youíre not sure a cutting is from a true bay laurel plant, get a professional identification before eating it.

If youíre starting your bay laurel from seeds, plant the seeds about 1/8-inch deep (3 millimeters) in a well-draining potting mix in a small pot. Keep it around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) and water regularly. Germination can be irregular, taking anywhere from 10 days to 6 months.

If youíre starting your bay from cuttings, check out the San Francisco Chronicleís detailed instructions on how to root a bay leaf cutting.

CULTIVATION OF YOUR BAY PLANT

Bay plants are hardy to USDA zone 8 and canít tolerate frost. If you live in a colder region, your bay tree will have to come inside for winter.

When planting a bay tree outside, choose a location with full sun to partial shade. They do best in soil thatís rich in organic matter. Water your plant as needed, usually only after 7 to 10 days if youíve had no rain. Mulch the surface of the soil to retain water and provide winter protection for the roots as bay trees tend to have shallow root systems.

Bay trees are slow-growing, so minimal pruning is needed. You can prune to shape them as they grow, or they can be made into hedges or topiaries.

For indoor or potted bay laurels, keep in mind that the size of the pot will dictate the size of the plant. A smaller pot will naturally keep the growth in check. Whereas, a large pot will allow your bay to grow more. Bay plants will do fine growing in a 6-inch (15 centimeter) pot on your window sill, or as larger specimens in pots 24 inches (61 centimeters) and up.

Keep your containers in a sunny or bright location and use a well-draining potting mix. Allow the surface of the soil to dry out in between watering. Your bay will benefit from added fertilizer or compost periodically.

Harvesting bay leaves

HOW TO HARVEST YOUR BAY LEAVES

As bay laurel plants are slow-growing, wait until your new plant is well established before harvesting any leaves from it. The leaves can be harvested at any time, but the mature leaves have the best flavor.

Depending on how big your plant is, you can pick off single leaves as needed and use them fresh. Or you can harvest many leaves at once and dry them by laying them out in a single layer in a warm, well-ventilated area for about 2 weeks.

Make sure your leaves are completely dry before putting them into air-tight containers. They should maintain their flavor for up to a year in storage.

Whether fresh or dry, bay leaves are always quite tough and leathery. Itís best to crush or grind them into a powder before use, or remove whole bay leaves from a dish after cooking.

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR BAY LEAVES

Need some ideas for cooking with your new crop? Try some of these delicious recipes that use bay leaves.

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124 comments

Pearl W
Pearl Wyesterday

It's no joke - Eat the weeds - Many edible weeds are just not fashionable at a particular time - Like the humble dandelion - Every continent has it's own local variety and every single part of it is very useful - There are many more - smiles

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Pearl W
Pearl Wyesterday

Hi All - Have a wonder-filled week - Some plants grow well for one person and fail for another - Yet weeds will grow well for everyone - smiles

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Pearl W
Pearl Wyesterday

Thanks Zoe - I'll give it one more go before I give up - I think I should have transplanted to a bigger pot - A friend has one growing on a screen - It looks amazing - And has encouraged me to try again - smiles

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H1 days ago

thanks

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Isabel A
Isabel A6 days ago

Thanks for posting

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Lara A
Lara A11 days ago

thank you

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Lesa D
Lesa D15 days ago

thank you Zoe...

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Pearl W
Pearl W19 days ago

OOps - Sorry hit the wrong button - I'm good at that! - more smiles

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Pearl W
Pearl W19 days ago

Hi All - It's so great having Green Stars back and functioning correctly - It's a scary thought that Past Member can anonymously hack into C2 - Some people are devious on the internut and feeling secure is important - Thanks Zoe, Eric and all C2 - smiles

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Pearl W
Pearl W19 days ago

Hi All - I've only killed two potted plants so far - I hope third time's a charm - Although I did have it in a sunny spot - I think perhaps the Aus sun may have been a bit too hot for the little baby plant - Thanks Zoe - Hopefully I'll obey your advice and have success this time round - smiles

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