How to Grow and Care for Bay Laurel Trees

Laurus nobilis

Bay laurel is an aromatic evergreen tree in the flowering Lauraceae family. It features shiny, dark green oval-shaped leaves with a leathery texture that are popularly used as a kitchen seasoning.

Native to the Mediterranean region, it’s considered to be one of the oldest of cultivated trees. Other common names include sweet, true, and Grecian laurel.

Planted in the garden, it can reach a mature height of 25-55 feet, although most are kept at 2-8 feet with persistent trimming.

Small clumps of yellow flowers form in spring, followed by small purple drupes that contain a single seed.

A bay laurel shrub growing next to a stone wall.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

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Highly prized as an ornamental, L. nobilis is often trimmed into topiary shapes, and the trunks can be trained into braids and spirals.

They also do very well in containers, making a handsome specimen for the patio, or simply to keep nearby as a kitchen herb.

A tall narrow stem of bay leaves growing on a shrub.
L. nobilis grows several inches each year. Photo by Lorna Kring.

And their beautiful glossy leaves make a handsome, long-lasting addition to bouquets of cut flowers and seasonal arrangements like Christmas wreaths and swags.

Here’s what we’re looking at in this article:

The Crown of Victory

Steeped in history and myth, wreaths of L. nobilis have been used to symbolize victory, personal achievement, and social status since antiquity.

As far back as 776 BC, ancient Greeks used the leaves to crown the victors of athletic competitions, the precursors of the modern Olympic games.

A green bay laurel tree with more growing in the distance, against a white sky.

This idea carried into the Roman era, when emperors wore a wreath like a crown to denote their divine lineage.

And during the Renaissance, after doctors completed their final examinations, they were adorned with berries and branches of bay – from which we get the word “baccalaureate.”

Care and Cultivation

Sweet bay is hardy to Zone 8, enjoys a full-sun location, and should be planted in spring while still semi-dormant.

Use a soil richly amended with organic compost or well-rotted manure, adding extra grit to improve drainage and plant stability. Use a ratio of one part sand or extra-fine crushed gravel to six parts enriched soil.

Closeup of yellow-green and dark green bay leaves growing on a woody shrub.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

For container growth, ensure plenty of drainage material is laid down before planting. Water moderately and avoid soggy roots, which can cause permanent damage.

Repot every 2-3 years, gently trimming away approximately one-third of the roots and removing the top two inches of soil. Replant in a fresh mix of amended soil and replace the top layer with mature compost.

Healthy green growth on a bay laurel shrub.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

If your region has regular freeze cycles, protect the roots by wrapping the container with bubble wrap until spring.

Fertilize containers every two weeks from spring until August using an all-purpose fertilizer, or monthly for in-ground plants.

For large specimens, provide protection from high winds, which can cause weak limbs to break.

And in areas with harsh winters, plant in containers and bring indoors to a bright, cool room or tuck into a sheltered spot, covering with burlap to protect from prolonged freezing temperatures.

Pruning and Training

Pruning requirements depend on whether your bay has been trained as a topiary, grown as a shrub, or allowed to mature into a full-sized tree.

For all sizes, prune out any dead and damaged leaves or branches in the spring. Mature, full-grown trees can be pruned hard, but re-growth is slow – carry out hard pruning over two or three years to maintain some greenery while the new growth forms.

A recently pruned bay laurel bush, with green leaves and clipped stems, in bright sunshine.
Shape by trimming above leaf nodes. Photo by Lorna Kring.

For those you’d like to maintain as more manageable shrubs, cut back to lower leaves or buds as desired, and trim away any low-trunk branches and suckers.

Topiary-trained specimens are trimmed in the summer to promote dense growth. Prune the current year’s growth back to leaf nodes that face in the direction of desired growth, maintaining balance and a harmonious shape.

With regular clipping and training when the tree is young, the dark green foliage and stems can be sculpted into a variety of formal shapes to make an excellent patio or garden accent.


Bay can be propagated in a few ways:

In fall, collect the seed-bearing drupes and remove the fleshy outer cases. Sow into small containers of light, loamy soil and place in a sheltered location or a cold frame until the second spring, when they can be planted out.

Read more about growing bay trees from seed here.

Closeup of the branches and leaves of a bay laurel tree.

Softwood cuttings can be taken in late spring or early summer, as can semi-ripe cuttings in late summer. Sow and shelter as for seeds, planting out in their second year. Read more about propagation via cuttings.

Bay laurels can also be easily transplanted should you wish to start your plants in a container or move them.

Plant Facts

  • Protects nearby plants from moths and unfriendly insects.
  • Dried leaves can be placed in canisters of rice or other grains to repel bugs.
  • Leaves can be used to produce a light green dye.
  • Wood can be added to grills and smokers for a sweet, smoky flavor.

In the Kitchen

An essential ingredient in a traditional bouquet garni herb mixture, bay leaves are a well-known kitchen ingredient. Leaves can be used dried, fresh, or frozen to season fish, meat, poultry, sauces, soups, stews, grains, and roasted vegetables.

Green bay leaves arranged in rows on paper towels.
A kitchen must have. Photo by Lorna Kring.

Dried, they’re best suited for use in slow-cooked dishes. Fresh or frozen, they can be used to add subtle flavor to cretons, fish, pates, poaching liquids, risottos, and sausages.

Leaves can be harvested at any time throughout the year, but the flavor will be best in summer – and large, mature leaves have more flavor and fragrance than tender new growth.

Where to Buy

For the home garden, there are only a few true bay cultivars to choose from:

L. nobilis is the most popular, commonly cultivated for culinary and ornamental purposes.

L. nobilis ‘Aurea’ has a golden-yellow foliage. And L. nobilis f. angustifolia is known as willow-leaved laurel for its thin leaves.

Image shot from an oblique angle of two bay laurel seedlings growing in potting soil in small orange plastic containers, isolated on a white background.

L. Nobilis 2-Pack

You can pick up L. nobilis at your favorite garden center, or purchase a two-pack of four-inch pots online, available from 9GreenBox via Walmart.

Single-stem saplings are also available from Nature Hills Nursery.

Pests and Problems

Hardy and easy to care for, bay laurel is largely disease and pest-free, with only a few easily remedied problems.

Leaf spot is most often caused by overwatering and allowing the roots to sit in water.

Ensure containers have a thick layer of drainage material at the bottom of the pot, and enough drainage holes for excess water to easily flow through.

Closeup of a diseased bay leaf in the garden, shriveled and yellow with a white growth.

In the ground, improve drainage by amending the soil with sand or extra-fine crushed rock.

If spots persist despite good drainage, chances are the soil has become depleted of nutrients. Repot in the spring using plenty of rich, organic compost.

Yellow leaves occur in small numbers each year as new growth occurs, and are shed naturally.

Yellowing can also occur in containers,and the problem is usually caused by a nutrient deficiency, root damage caused by soggy soil, or cold weather damage.

Apply a general-purpose fertilizer to containers every two weeks until August to improve nutrient content of the soil, always ensure they have adequate drainage, and prune damaged wood in spring.

Attractive and Practical

Attractive in garden beds or containers, bay laurel is a wonderfully versatile tree that adds visual interest to the landscape all year long – and it will make a delicious addition to your cooking!

Train plants while they’re young for topiary specimens, or simply prune to maintain a manageable shape. For cooking, harvest leaves at any time, but keep in mind that they’re most flavorful in summer.

A flower arrangement with fresh bay leaves and rosemary, pink, purple, and white flowers.
Use sprigs in floral arrangements. Photo by Lorna Kring.

And remember, for years of healthy growth, good drainage is a must, and container specimens need to be repotted every 2-3 years. Aside from that, they’re pretty much self-reliant!

If you have any questions about L. nobilis, drop us a line in the comments below. And if you’d like more ideas about cooking with bay, check out this article on our sister site, Foodal – it has all the info you need.

Photos by Lorna Kring © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photo via 9GreenBox. Top uncredited photo by Lorna Kring. Other uncredited photos via Shutterstock.

About Lorna Kring

A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

73 thoughts on “How to Grow and Care for Bay Laurel Trees”

    • This isn’t something that we’ve tried, but John Cox at Edible Monterey Bay says he likes to pickle California bay blossoms (Umbellularia californica) with champagne vinegar and sea salt, and claims they have “a flavor and texture reminiscent of capers.” Sweet bay (Laurus nobilis) is a different species, so we aren’t able to provide a definitive answer as of yet – we’re going to dig a little deeper, and we’ll get back to you with a more clear answer as soon as possible!

      • We were able to track down some information claiming the flowers are used to flavor wine in China, via Jack Stephens, reference librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library. But this may actually pertain more to sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans, or guì flower) rather than sweet bay. It seems they are not poisonous, but use of the flowers on their own/as is without some kind of pickling/preservation in vinegar or alcohol remains largely a mystery. We’ll let you know if we’re able to find out anything else!

  1. Question:
    I have a 6 week old seedling that I germinated, it has a 2 inch stem with 8 leaves towards the top each no longer than 1cm. Is slow growth like this normal as I’ve never grown one before?

  2. Hi Paul, starting bay from seed is a slow process.

    If growth seems to have stalled, give your seedling a very diluted sip of all-purpose, 10-10-10 fertilizer. Very diluted being about one-eighth the regular strength… that should start a growth spurt. Thanks for asking!

  3. I have a small plant I just bought intending to summer it outside in a pot, then back inside in fall (zone 5). My question is when should I start taking leaves off, is it smart to take the older ones on top off to encourage new growth? Thank you!

    • Hi Meg, to harvest leaves for the kitchen, choose mature ones – unlike most herbs, older bay leaves are more flavorful than tender new growth. Snip off as many as required, preferably in the late afternoon on a sunny day, anytime from spring through fall.

      Snipping leaves won’t really encourage new growth, the stems need to be cut for that, which can be done from spring through to mid-summer. Thanks for asking!

  4. Someone gave me a three foot bay laurel. I watered it every three or so days and it was outside in the sun in a well-drained pot. The leaves began to fall a few at a time over a couple of weeks, then all of them fell off. Is it dead? Will it come back if I bring it inside?

    • It may not be dead just yet Carol. I suspect your extreme leaf drop is due to insufficient nutrients – a common problem with container plants.

      Give your plant a half-strength feeding of all-purpose, water soluble fertilizer such as 24-8-16. Tuck it into a sheltered spot for winter or bring it indoors to a cool, bright room.

      Reduce watering, but ensure the soil doesn’t dry out completely.

      If left outdoors, trim back by 1/4 to 1/3 when dormant in mid-winter. Or trim in a similar manner before bringing indoors.

      Don’t fertilize again until new leaves have formed in spring. With a bit of luck, it should come back!

      Thanks for your questions!

  5. I just acquired two bay laurel trees about 60” tall with the objective to sculpt them into single trunk topiaries. What percentage can I trim away without shocking it? They both have 2-3 large suckers. One sucker is as tall as the main trunk. Thank you for your help!

    • For single trunk topiaries, all the major pruning should be done in one season Emiley.

      Remove all the lower branches and suckers, leaving the main stem with approximately one-third of the top growth in place. Over the next few seasons, trim the tops of branches to encourage spreading and shape as desired.

      Hope this helps, and thanks for asking!

  6. Hello, I am in zone 6 and would like to try growing bay leaf in order to cut enough stems to make a wreath in the fall. I have sourced some that sell plugs that I can pot up this spring. My two questions are, how much growth can I expect in the first season? And, two, since I must overwinter, I will have to plant in a container. What size container should I be using that would be sufficient for say a 3 or 4 foot shrub size that I can cut from and overwinter for several years?

    • Hi Kathy, you can expect plants to grow 12 to 24 inches each year in optimal growing conditions.

      As for pot size, plugs should be planted in smallish containers (10 inches high with a 10-inch diameter) to start. For the next few springs, transplant into progressively larger pots. Increase pot size by 4 to 6 inches yearly, until your plants are in pots around 24 inches high with a 20 to 24 inch diameter – which will do nicely for 3 to 4 foot shrubs.

      Thanks for asking, and have fun with your wreaths!

  7. My bay laurel plant has many new leaves growing. The leaves are soft, not leathery like the ones that were on the plant when I first bought it. Is there something I should be doing? Also, my plant has fungus gnats on it. How can I get rid of these?

    • Hi Josephine – When new leaves emerge, they’re soft, pliable, and often bright green. But they toughen in texture and turn a deeper green after a couple of months growth.

      For the fungus gnats, a mosquito dunk works by killing off the larvae of flying insects, including fungus gnats. A dunk is a pellet that contains beneficial bacterial. After hydrating the dunk, the water (with bacteria) is used to soak the soil.

      Or, dust the soil surface evenly with abrasive Diatomaceous earth (DE) powder. The powder sticks to their bodies, immobilizing and dehydrating them. Read more about DE’s pest control powers in this article. (

      And a thick layer of garden sand laid on the soil surface will prevent the gnats from laying eggs. The sand has to be even and consistent, so gentle watering is required.

      If it’s a container plant, bottom watering helps to keep the soil surface dry – which also deters egg-laying.

      Hope this helps, and thanks for asking!

      • Hi Lorna,
        Thank you so much for your very helpful suggestions – I appreciate it so much. Should I pick the tender leaves and can I use them in cooking soups, sauces, etc.? Just to make sure I understand, I will need to wait for another set of leaves before they are the leathery ones? For controlling the gnats can I try the sand and watering from the bottom first, or should I try one of the two other methods first? Also, do I purchase the sand and other products from garden Centers?
        Thank you Lorna,

        • Hi Josephine, you can pick the leaves at any time of the year, but picking them in summer ensures they’ll be full of flavor and essential oils – and mature ones have a fuller, more intense flavor than new ones.

          No, you don’t have to wait for another set of leaves. The new leaves that are tender now will become leathery as they age – in just a few months.

          For the gnats, I would try the sand and bottom watering first (it’s easiest!) and see if that takes care of them… and yes, pick up horticultural sand at building or landscape centers.

          Thanks for your questions, we’re happy to help!

  8. My leaves on my tree are turning brown, falling off. Yet I have new leaves growing. My tree is about 5 or 6 years old. What am I doing wrong?

    • Hi Sharon, there could be a few reasons for your brown leaves.

      Cold and wind can cause damage as they’re only hardy to USDA Zone 8 (Zone 7 in protected spots). If this applies to you, locate plants close to your home and out of harsh winds.

      Over watering can also cause problems. If this is a container plant, remove the tray and allow the soil to dry, then water only when the top one inch of soil is dry. And ensure the soil is well-draining.

      Under watering is also problematic, particularly for container plants. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy.

      Or perhaps it’s in need of nutrients. Replace the top couple of inches of soil with fresh compost and feed with a fertilizer such as fish emulsion or kelp.

      Thanks for your question, hope this helps!

    • Hi Anna, no leaves or new growth doesn’t necessarily mean your plant is dead.

      Snip of a small stem close to the trunk – if the cut shows green, it still has life. If the cut is all beige, brown, or grey, it’s probably gone.

      If your plant is in a container, move it to a sunny location, ensure the soil is moist but not wet, and feed lightly (half strength) with fish emulsion.

      If it’s in the ground, water and fertilizer the same as for a container plant.

      Thanks for asking, hope it revives!

  9. I just acquired a very healthy laurus nobilis. It’s in a 1-gallon container placed in full sun. It has 4 main spikes which are 15 to 20 inches long, and new leaves on the nodes. I plan to keep it in my patio in a container. I would like to maintain it in a bush form eventually to 3 to 4 feet. When and how do I start pruning to maintain its shape and size?

    • Hey Jennifer, the best time for pruning and shaping is from mid spring until mid summer.

      L. nobilis is very tolerant of light pruning and fills in quickly, but they can take 3 to 4 years to recover from hard pruning – so it’s best to use a light touch and prune small amounts on a regular basis to keep growth in check.

      Remove any dead or damaged leaves and lightly cut stems back to a healthy bud facing in the direction you want it to grow.

      It may also help to rotate your container every month or so during the growing season. A 90-degree turn helps to keep growth evenly distributed around the entire plant.

      Thanks for asking!

  10. Hi, I have a Bay tree planted in the garden which has grown into a single trunk tree and the leaves are hard to get at. Would it survive and sprout branches if I cut the trunk off?

    • Yes, it will Kim survive a hard prune.

      They take light pruning well, but they can even have the main trunk cut without suffering permanent damage.

      But, you can expect it to take 2 to 3 years to bounce back.

      Cut back in late spring during a dry spell, and water regularly but lightly throughout the summer. And add an organic compost for nutrients and to help retain moisture.

      Thanks for asking!

  11. I got a 3-foot-tall bay laurel from my friend 3 years ago. First year was inside the house during the winter time, and I found some sticky substance near the pot. This year I found the same. I moved it outside to the balcony last weekend, again a few leaves have this sticky substance, like it is sweating. I included the picture – plant looks healthy – but I am concerned with those leaves. Thanks very much for your advice!

    • Hey Maria, your sticky leaves are probably caused by aphids or psyllids. Both are tiny, sap-sucking insects that leave a trail of “honeydew” behind them.

      Spraying your plant with neem oil will take care of the insects. Do this on a sunny day and spray the top and underside of leaves as well as the stems. This will kill the insects and wash off the sticky residue.

      After the infestation has cleared, be sure to rinse the leaves well with clean water before harvesting.

      And time spent on the balcony is beneficial as well. It gives beneficial predatory insects time to come in and get rid of the pests for you! Also, prune out any crossing branches to improve air circulation.

      Thanks for your question, and let us know how it works out for you.

      • I read all your answers – all great and now I am asking another question: about those shoots that come up near the base of the bush/tree, can I remove/extract them and create new plants? And since I have branches like 6 feet tall, I need some recommendations to cut some and not kill the whole tall bush. Thanks again.

        • Hey Maria, glad to hear!

          Yes, you can definitely start new plants from the shoots (or suckers) at the base.

          Now until mid-autumn is a good time to dig them up, but they must have a healthy section of root attached. Start new plants in containers that can be overwintered in a cold frame or sheltered in a frost-free spot, then plant them out in the spring.

          For long branches, now until mid-autumn is a good time to cut them back by about one-third of the overall length you want removed. But to prevent winter damage, don’t remove all of it now. Wait until spring to remove another third, then in early summer do a final trim and shape as desired.

          Hope that helps!

  12. I just received these three rooted cuttings that are about 6-8 inches tall in two inch pots. I’m in zone 10.

    At what point should I repot these? Where would they best be located as they begin their journey? We were planning on starting them in an east facing garden window. Do you think they would prefer different conditions?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi John, if you have roots coming out of the bottom, I’d say they’re ready to be replanted now. And they prefer bright, but indirect light if you’re keeping them indoors.

      But they can also go outside in their new pots, if your provide them with dappled sunlight or only direct sunlight in the morning with afternoon shade.

      Once they’ve hardened off, move them into full sun.

      Thanks for asking!

  13. Hi, I just purchased a Laurel Bay Leaf Tree seedling. I live in the Central Valley of California. Our winters usually maintain at about 50°F but get to the low 30°F overnight in the winter and spring months. The summer and Fall months range from 80°F to 112°F.

    is it best to plant in a pot and move around from the cold months indoors to the summer months outside?

    • Hi Darlene, planting in a container to overwinter indoors shouldn’t be necessary with those temperatures – L. nobilis is hardy to Zone 8.

      I’m in Zone 9B and my bays survive regular dips into the mid-20sF, and even spells of 10 to 14 day of freezing temperatures.

      But, they’re kept to a height of around 5 feet and are located in protected spots – both help with cold protection. And you can provide a thick (2 to 4 inches), insulating mulch for winter protection, spreading it out as far as the drip line.

      Also, I’d be concerned with your topside temperatures in summer and suggest a spot that receives afternoon shade to beat the heat.

      Thanks for asking!

  14. Just moved into a house with 2 bay trees in the garden + loads of suckers. How far down do you have to cut them and what is the trick to stopping them from appearing?

    • Hi Rosy, your tree suckers (thanks for clarifying!) should be removed below the soil surface – this removes the growth nodes on the roots as well as the suckers, limiting future sprouts.

      Use a trowel to loosen the soil around the suckers, then use a billhook or similar tool to pull and cut the sucker roots, removing as much of the root as possible.

      Suckers are often a reaction to injury, stress, or simply old age. To prevent their growth, keep your trees on a regular maintenance program – give them an annual feeding of organic compost, prune in spring, and provide consistent watering throughout the growing season.

      Thanks for your question.

  15. Hi, here is our massive Bay tree. It’s about 12 meters I think. Look at the huge trunks! We are in Brittany, NW France. Our house is at least 450 years old and incredible history (being a prison, farm, town hall, school, Nazi HQ, police station etc etc) as it’s the original one in this ancient Breton village so I was curious as to how old this tree could be? Any ideas? Regards, Gary at maisondesmaquisards dot com

    • Wow Gary, your tree’s a beauty!

      L. nobilis have a productive lifespan of 50 to 150 years… so your lovely specimen could have been planted just as the Third Republic started. It certainly fits in with the fascinating history.

      Thanks for asking!

  16. Greetings,
    I have a nice Bay Laurel bush I bring out into my garden every year from the house (over winter zone 5b) which is about 5 years old and stands approx 4 feet tall. My question deals with harvesting the leaves to dry and use for cooking & sharing with friends/family as a dried herb. Do I simply pick off the mature leaves and allow the 2-ft long “stalk” to remain bare, or do I prune it off entirely and harvest the leaves? If I simply pick off the leaves, will new growth appear along the stalk? Or is it necessary to prune the branches? If I just pick the leaves off, will the remaining bare branch eventually die off or remain alive? If possible, I’d like to keep the overall 4 foot height if new growth will appear on the bare branches. Thank You.

    • Hey Jim, to harvest leaves for drying, do so when your tree gets its annual pruning.

      Stripped stems will regrow some leaves – but the process is slow and you’ll have unsightly bare branches that are prone to die back.

      A better method for leaf collection, and to maintain a four-foot height, is to cut back the stems. This promotes branching and a much fuller leaf canopy.

      Late spring to midsummer is the best time for pruning, and the leaves are also most flavorful at this time.

      Use the “debris” from pruning to collect leaves for drying.

      And at the same time, you can selectively remove a few longer stems for more leaves if desired. Make three or four deeper cuts at equal distances around the plant and you’ll have lots of leaves. Plus, the plant will fill in beautifully!

      Enjoy your harvest!

    • Hi Sohier, they have fair to good salinity tolerance and make a good choice for coastal locations.

      Mine are seaside and the salt spray doesn’t bother them at all!

      Thanks for asking.

    • No it isn’t Edith.

      You might be thinking of Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), which is a host for the Eastern Tiger, Palamedes, and Spicebush Swallowtails.

      Thanks for asking!

      • I have another question if you are so kind; I had a cactus for 16 years and a few weeks back gave me flowers and I thing from some I got some “seeds” I send you the pictures . If they are seed what I need to do next – plant them? Thanks in advance –

        • Hi Maria, your cactus is beautiful – how lucky to get some blooms and seeds!

          I’m guessing the orange fruit contains seeds. The fruit should be dried, then remove and clean the seeds.

          Fill a small container with a moist, gritty starter mix and sprinkle seeds lightly on top.

          Cover lightly with vermiculite or landscape sand then place the container in a plastic bag and seal lightly to retain moisture.

          Place in a warm windowsill.

          In two to three weeks, sprouts should appear. Remove the plastic bag and water lightly, misting the surface when it dries out.

          Allow the seedlings to grow over winter, then transplant to individual containers next spring.

          Hope that helps and good luck with your cactus!

          • Great idea – I much appreciate – I will try and I will send the pictures in a few weeks !! Thanks a million!!

          • Hi Lorna: remember I said I lost one of the seeds – well it looks it went to the ground of the mother cactus and today I have a new great healthy shoot/branch – I am sending you the pictures – BTW I still have the other two seeds !! Sorry I cannot attache the pictures

          • That’s great Maria! Your cactus obviously loves its environment… try uploading later if you think of it, would love to see a photo. Thanks!

          • I will repot it – I think is better – waiting for better weather to do all that outside. thanks for your helps

  17. I bought a bay leaf small tree (two leaves) last year. It has grown to be a foot, maybe a little more, but it’s growing straight up. I have pinched off the top growing part but it just came back later. How can I get it to bush out? Also, does it like to be root bound or do I need to repot? Thanks for your help and knowledge. If you answer me back please do it by email below…thanks! Lynn

    • Hey Lynn, I’m replying here for our other readers as well as emailing you…

      Creating a bushy top for your L. nobilis is going to take a few seasons, and you can start this spring.

      The first step is to cut the main stems in spring just above a leaf node to force branching – pinching out the top growth won’t cause new branches to form.

      Once summer arrives, continue to selectively and lightly cut the stems of new growth, creating the overall shape you desire.

      It’s also advisable to remove growth suckers in the summer to concentrate energy into the main trunk(s).

      Don’t prune in winter, as this can cause damage from cold exposure.

      Repeat the process the following year, with a hard pruning in spring, followed by lighter shaping over summer. Continue until you have the desired shape and bushiness, then maintain it with an annual light pruning in spring or summer.

      And they’re not really happy about being root bound, so I’d suggest repotting this spring if needed.

      Thanks for asking!

  18. Hello, We moved here 2 years ago and love our bay leaf bush (even though we didn’t know what it was for about a year!). But we were hit hard in February with temperatures as low as 9degrees F and under 32 for over 6 days. We are in zone 8 normally, but San Antonio was punished by Mother Nature this year! And actually we didn’t have power or water for a while either. We had covered it, but it is hurting. What can we do? How far do we prune? I’ve attached 2 photos of the bush which at times looks like a group of them. We appreciate any help. Thank you.

    • Ouch, your poor tree – sounds like you were hit hard!

      L. nobilis can take some frosty temperatures in a sheltered spot, like against a wall, but not so much in open areas.

      However, I wouldn’t give up yet Kelly – you may have some healthy roots left. In mid-spring, cut back the height of your shrub by one third. At the same time, reduce the width by about one quarter, cutting back the outer edge of stems to the ground.

      Watch for new growth to appear after pruning. If your shrub survived, you may have to repeat the procedure next spring to tidy up the overall shape. At that time, any stems that didn’t produce new growth this year can also be removed (cut to the ground).

      Thanks for asking, good luck!

  19. Hello, I live in Las Vegas near the wet lands. My soil is damp except in the summer. Will my Laurel Bay trees be okay if I plant them in the ground?

    • Hey Sandra, L. nobilis struggles when it’s roots are in damp soil over the winter. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be planted near wetlands…

      I suggest building a raised bed about 12 to 18 inches high and amend the soil well with landscape sand or pea gravel. Add the sand or gravel at a ratio of up to one-third with one-third garden soil and one-third aged compost or manure.

      This will ensure the soil is well draining and that water flows freely away from the roots – which should keep them healthy and viable over winter.

      Thanks for asking!

    • Hi Margaret, glad one tree is doing well, but it’s hard to say with the second… a bit more info or a couple of photos would help.

      Are they both the same cultivars? Does the second appear to be healthy? Do they get the same amount of sun? Does it need fresh soil?

      Send in some details and we’ll see if we can figure it out – thanks!

  20. My 4-foot Bay was transplanted over a year ago into a windy Oregon coastal location and has not grown much, though it did flower. Winds buffet it and some leaf tips blackened after a few cold winter nights. Should I transplant it into a less windy, warmer spot? Thank you.

    • Hi Louann, it could be that your tree is just taking a while to settle in after transplanting.

      Growth can often be slow the first year and in your area, cold and wind damage is usually restricted to new growth, which can be trimmed out in spring.

      Most of the growth occurs after flowering, so I suggest you wait it out over the summer to see how it performs this year.

      If the growth is good this year, leave it place. If not, move it to a more sheltered site in late summer or early fall.

      Also, larger specimens can suffer wind damage in broken limbs. If you want it to grow full size, then a less windy spot might be wise.

      I’m north of you on the BC coast, and my 5-6 foot trees are exposed to winter wind and cold as well, which occasionally results in a bit of damage to the extremities, but nothing serious.

      However, they’re located in front of a rock wall – which seems to provide enough protection from the worst of the elements.

      Hope that helps, and thanks for asking!

      • Thank you SO much, Lorna, for your quick response!
        My only other concern with blackened leaves was whether I had over-fertilized the tree back in the winter.
        Thanks much for your website!


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