The bay tree (Laurus nobilis) is a large, evergreen tree. It is slow growing and can be grown in a suitably large container for many years. When it reaches its full height, it can grow to around 12 metres.

Description[edit | edit source]

The bay leaf has narrow dark green leaves which are glossy on one side. The leaves reach a length around 4 to 5cm. New season's growth is brighter green in colour than the older leaves.

The bay tree has small flowers of a yellow colour in mid spring.

Bay tree in flower

Growing a bay tree[edit | edit source]

Choose a sheltered position; in particular, do not expose the bay tree to cold winds. It prefers full sun and well draining, good soil.

Bay leaf seed is hard to obtain. If you do have seed, it requires stratification, namely the outer skin must be weakened by rubbing to enable germination to occur. The area beneath the seed must be warm, to encourage germination. Plant in a seed raising tray about 2.5cm or 1 inch deep.

It is easier to either purchase bay tree seedlings or to take cuttings in the late spring to early autumn period. If taking cuttings, take them from the lower half of the bay tree, as these seem to take best. Choose woody stem cuttings for growing new roots from. Dip in some rooting hormone and grow with bottom heat, covered in a warm area. The formation of the roots takes a long time.

Seedlings can be planted in a container or in the garden, or started in a container first and transferred to the garden when the tree has grown larger.

Problems[edit | edit source]

If you notice the leaves have a whitish burned look to their edges, this is an indication that the plant is suffering from either frost or cold wind damage. Frost can also scorch branches of the bay tree.

Protect the young bay tree as best you can. If grown in containers, bring the container into a sheltered area or inside when young, to protect it from frost. If it is already planted in the garden, cover it in some manner to keep frost off the young tree. Young trees are far more susceptible to frost than older bay trees.

Uses for bay leaves[edit | edit source]

The leaves are aromatic both fresh and dried, and have numerous culinary uses, such as bouquet garni. Bay leaves are also used as a flavouring in soups, stews and some puddings. The leaf is used whole or crushed but is usually removed prior to serving.

See also Bay leaf for suggested uses.

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