Monthly Archives: January 2013

growing a bay tree: 6 tips

bay tree leaves lewis collard

Of all the herbs and spices I use in my soup, Bay is the one whose absence is most strongly felt if I happen to forget it. And it’s the only one I don’t grow myself (yet). Why? Because it’s a tree. A warmer-climate tree.


I’ve been wishing for a Bay tree, though. One in a pot that I can bring indoors for winter. Since I’ve been reading up on the topic, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far.


1. Bay is slow-growing. Patience is required for germination: it could take up to 6 months, according to one source. (WHAT?!!) Once it’s germinated there’s the waiting for it to grow large enough to actually harvest from (years). On the plus side, it can live in the same pot for 5 years at a time!


2. Bay actually likes living in a pot. This is good news for me, since that’s the only way I’ll actually be able to have my own tree. There are cautions against using terracotta pots, though, which I’m assuming is due to evaporation of water since the next sentence from that source is about using a good water-retentive potting soil.


3. Bay is not picky about soil. Again, great news. I’ll be using organic potting soil with well-rotted manure added. Nice to know I don’t have to do any pH tests on the soil to make sure I’m within a narrow range. Bay can handle a pH of 4.5-8.3. Suggested nutrition includes fish emulsion fertilizer, and kelp. Another source recommends replacing the top layer of potting soil with fresh compost every year.


4. Bay likes to be kept warm during the germination process. There’s disagreement between sources about the right temperature range. If I include them all, the range is 10-21 degrees C!! More research needed here, but my gut says the warmer end will win. 10 degrees? Really? For a warmth-loving plant?


5. Bay needs humidity. Dry air in winter can cause the leaves to drop off. Misting with a spray bottle can help prevent this.


6. Bay used in cooking has the latin name Laurus nobilis. Any other type is not for eating.


Lots to plan for, if my Bay tree is going to grow successfully! I was hoping to grow little Bay seedlings and sell them this spring, but now I think there’s not enough time. And, possibly, I could easily fail in my efforts to actually germinate them. We’ll see how it goes. If I can pull it off, you’ll be the second to know. (Facebook is always first to know the exciting stuff. Join the group. Or like the page.)


Would you buy a Bay sapling next year, if I’m successful? Let me know.


Also: I will be emailing my posts from now on. If you’d like to know what else I’m researching or learning by doing, please sign up to receive the emails. If you know someone else who might like to join the email list, please share it with them. My plan is to post something every week, maybe even up to 3x depending on how the week is going. Lofty goals, I know. Feel free to poke me if I’m inactive.


Join the garden club for more conversation about plants! Everyone is welcome in this group.



More about Bay:


There are plenty more tips on the sites where this information came from.

The Herb Gardener


photo credit: Lewis Collard