Bay Laurel, also known as the Bay Leaf Plant, is native to the Mediterranean. The leaves of the plant, while not eaten, are added to soups, stews, and sauces to add flavor and depth. Bay Laurel is easy to care for and grows well both outdoors and inside.
Bay Laurel Appearance
The Bay Laurel Plant features multiple stems with large, oval leaves. The pointed foliage is deep-green, glossy, and leathery in texture. The leaves’ tough texture lets it stand up to hours of simmering without breaking down. The plant grows to a height of between 4 and 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 meters) when grown indoors. The Bay Leaf Plant is slow-growing, only adding a few inches per year to its size. Small, yellow blooms appear in spring. If the flowers are pollinated those blooms will turn into dark-purple berries on female plants.
Bay Leaf Tree Light Requirements
The Bay Leaf Tree prefers a sunny location, especially in the winter months when sunlight is limited. Adequate sunlight enhances the flavor of the leaves. Your Bay Laurel Plant will benefit from some time outside in the summer.
Watering Your Bay Leaf Plant
Bay Leaf Plants have a shallow root system. Do not plant your Bay Laurel in a deep pot as this encourages overwatering. Water when the top 1 to 2 inches of soil feels dry. Keep the soil moist but don’t overwater or root rot is likely.
Soil and Fertilizer
Provide your Bay Laurel Plant with well-draining soil. The type of soil is not important, as long as it does not hold excess water. Ensure the pot you use has drainage holes to allow excess water to drain into the pot’s saucer. To provide nutrients to your plant, add organic mulch to the soil’s surface or feed with a slow-release fertilizer from spring to fall. Withhold feedings in the winter when growth is slowed.
Temperature and Humidity Levels
Average household temperatures are adequate. Avoid temperatures below 50F (10C), as well as cold drafts and heat vents. Bay Laurel plants prefer high humidity and benefit from either regular misting or having a humidifier in the room. Proper hydration improves the quality of the leaves for culinary uses.
Harvesting Bay Leaves
Leaves from plants that are at least two years old offer the most flavor. Harvest individual leaves during midsummer, when flavor is at its peak. Choose leaves that are dark green and blemish free.
Bay leaves are easily dried. Place clean, dry leaves on a tray and cover with a paper towel. Place the leaves out of direct sun and provide lots of ventilation. Let the leaves sit for seven days, then flip. Allow the leaves to dry for seven more days, then store them in an airtight container. To speed up the drying process, dry the leaves in the oven. Place on a tray and dry at 200 F (93 C), turning every 20 minutes, for 1 to 2 hours. The leaves are ready when they turn brown and stiff.
Propagating Bay Laurel Plants
Bay Laurel is easy to propagate by cuttings. In the summer, snip a 6 inch (15 cm) stem from a green, pliable branch. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone and plant the cutting in a pot filled with coarse, moist sand. Cover the pot loosely with plastic to retain moisture and place it in a warm location. Keep the sand moist. In one to two months roots will establish. Remove the plastic and repot the cutting into a pot with soil.
Common Pests and Diseases
Bay Laurel is not susceptible to most pests or diseases. Though rare, scale may infest Bay Leaf plants. Check for leaves stuck together and the presence of a cottony fluff. Peel away the cottony fluff and any eggs present. Rinse the plant well with water to remove the insects. A cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol also works well to remove scale.
Bay Laurel Plants are easy to grow indoors and produce flavorful leaves to enhance many popular dishes. The plant is ready for harvest in two years, and will continue to produce for years if given proper care.
Bay Laurel FAQ
Yes, Bay Leaves are Considered toxic to cats and dogs.
Bay Laurel Trees grow outdoors in USDA zones 8 to 10.
Repot your Bay Leaf Tree, on average, once every 5 years. A 5 to 6-foot tree should grow in a pot with a diameter of 24 inches.
Use Bay Leaves to flavor stews, soups, tagines, curries, and slow-cooked meats.
Bay leaves are used to impart flavor in a variety of dishes but are not pleasant to consume. Before serving, remove the used leaves from the dish and dispose of them.