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How to Grow Bay Laurel Indoors!

Amazing fresh growing leaves of the bay laurel tree in the sun

Introducing the Bay Laurel Tree

Laurus nobilis, sometimes known as sweet bay, true laurel, or Grecian laurel, the bay laurel tree is a common growing plant, but a rather uncommon evergreen tree for people to incorporate into their property.

Bay is a spice or herb that people use all the time in their soups, stews, and pasta dishes, but most people will just purchase the dried leaves from the store. But what if you could pluck fresh leaves right from your garden?

We’ll let you know right off the bat; bay laurel trees are slow growing and they are not a plant to attempt to grow if you aren’t serious. They’re big, they grow slow, but once they are well established, they are there to stay.

This article is going to go through all that there is to know about growing bay laurel indoors, whether that be in your sunroom, kitchen (if you happen to have superbly high ceilings) or in a greenhouse.

What do Bay Laurel Trees Look Like?

Close up image of fresh bay laurel leaves and ripening fruit

Not everyone knows this about bay laurel, but its leaves actually grow from a tree or large shrub. They have pretty incredible sizes when left to grow freely, anywhere from 30-60 feet tall, but a potted plant can be controlled to tap out at 4-6 feet tall.

This slow grower grows multiple stems and creates a dense pyramidal canopy. This canopy is comprised of evergreen aromatic leaves, meaning that the leaves will remain green and persist all year long.

Each bay leaf is large and oval shaped with a pointed tip. A bay leaf is deep green, smooth, and has a leathery texture to it. Accompanying these bay laurel leaves are pale yellow flowers that bloom in the early spring and that eventually turn into a small red fruit or drupe in the late summer.

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A bay tree is a perennial plant type, meaning that it will continue to produce those happy yellow flower blossoms year after year as long as the ideal growing conditions of the plant are met and maintained.

Where do Bay Laurel Plants Come From?

The bay tree is originally native to the Mediterranean region and it is said that it is one of the oldest species of trees known to be cultivated by humans. This is apparent by how integral the bay leaf is to certain types of cuisines!

Bay trees prefer more humid climates and will only grow outdoors in USDA growing zones 8 through 10. That being said, mimicking those conditions to grow an indoor plant isn’t too difficult!

How is Bay Laurel Used?

Bottle of bay essential oil next to harvested bay leaves

Culinary – first are foremost, bay laurel is grown as a culinary herb. This is a super popular and important culinary herb that is found in pantries and gardens all around the world.

Bay laurel can be used either for its fresh bay leaves or dry bay leaves and it is incorporated into savory dishes like soups, stews, and pasta sauces. The fresh leaf (or dry leaf) will be taken out of the dish once it is done cooking.

Ornamental – gardeners will also grow a bay plant for ornamental reasons. It has a very attractive growth habit and its evergreen leaves bring ornamental interest to your garden all year round!

Companion Planting – another great aspect about incorporating a bay plant into your landscape is the fact that its fragrant leaves repel certain unwanted pests both large and small.

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Deer, rabbits, and squirrels won’t feast on those smelly leaves, and smaller insects tend to veer away as well. You can basically create a barrier of bay laurel in order to protect more vulnerable plants.

How do you Grow Bay Laurel Indoors?

Potted bay laurel plant sitting in a terracotta pot

Now for the big part: growing bay laurel indoors. This is a task that is not for the impatient gardener. Like we mentioned before, growing bay laurel takes quite a long time and it could be a few years before you reap the reward.

One could attempt to grow bay laurel straight from seed, but this is a really time consuming process and it almost never ends up working out. Seeds are rarely viable and take a while to get going if they are. For this reason, we will go through planting bay laurel by using softwood cuttings.

1. In the summer time, pick a cutting from an existing plant. Choose a stem that is soft and pliable. Take some sharp shears and take a cutting that is 6 inches in length with a couple sets of leaves.

2. Fill small terracotta pots with a mixture of coarse sand and water the sand thoroughly before planting the cutting. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone then place them in the moistened sand.

3. Cover the pots with clear plastic bag and secure them in place with a rubber band. Place the pots in an area that receives bright indirect light and is rather warm. Maintain soil moisture by spraying the inside of the bag regularly.

4. Within a couple of months, the cuttings should start to take root. You’ll be able to tell that they’re ready to be transplanted once you tug slightly at the cutting and feel some resistance.

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5. At this stage, the plastic bags can be removed, and the cuttings can continue their slow growth in those pots until they’re ready to be planted to larger containers once the root ball is large enough and sturdy enough.

What are the Ideal Growing Conditions to Grow Bay Leaf Indoors?

Harvested fresh bay leaves sitting on a wooden table

Soil Type – bay laurel isn’t too picky about the soil type that it exists in as long as it’s well draining. They prefer average fertility, meaning that they’re used to existing in poor soil in the wild. Loamy or sandy soil potting mix is going to be the best option to grow your potted plant in.

Sun Exposure – knowing that it is a Mediterranean herb, it’s not hard to guess that bay laurel is a sun loving creature used to that Sicilian sunshine. They perform best when growing in full sun exposure.

Place your bay laurel pot near a south facing window that receives all day sun. If you don’t have this type of window you may have to place it under a grow light to ensure it gets enough sun exposure.

Watering – bay laurels really love their water. It is important to keep soil moist pretty much at all times to keep them happy. The leaves will actually fall away if the plant isn’t watered enough.

Basically don’t let the soil to ever dry out completely. You should also mist the plant regularly to try to mimic that Mediterranean humidity. Avoid getting full water droplets on the fresh bay leaves as they are susceptible to developing powdery mildew.

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Since they need so much water to be happy, that is why it’s so important that this container plant has really well draining soil. If it isn’t well draining the plant can quickly develop root rot.

Harvesting – the time to harvest bay laurel will vary according to when the plant was planted and when its active growing season occurs. Some say it is best to harvest bay laurel in the mid to late summer because that it when the aromatic leaves are at their peak level of producing oils, hence more flavor.

Pro tip: bay laurel trees honestly really benefit from being brought outdoors during the warm summer months. They will thrive when given the opportunity to grow in the summer sun and humidity, so maybe think about planting them in a rolling container for easy moving!

And there you have it! The growing conditions for bay laurel are super straight forward, all you need is a little bit of patience for the plant to grow! An easy growing herb that will bring you incredible beauty and flavor all year long, it is definitely worth the wait!

Table filled with flat dry bay leaves

FAQs

Are bay laurel trees deer resistant?

An excellent feature of the bay laurel tree is the fact that it is resistant to grazing from larger pests like deer, rabbits, and squirrels. This is because of its aromatic leaves that help deter attention from unwanted species.

What are the damaging agents to bay laurel trees?

It is very important to grow bay laurel in well draining soil and to have mindful watering practices. Over watering a plant in poorly draining soil will quickly lead to powdery mildew and root rot.

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Are bay leaf plants perennials?

Bay leaf plants are actually evergreens trees that are also perennial. An evergreen tree has leaves that will remain green and persist all year long, and it will produce flower blossoms each early spring as long as its ideal growing conditions are met and maintained.

What USDA growing zone can bay laurel trees grow in?

Bay trees prefer more humid climates and will only grow outdoors in USDA growing zones 8 through 10. That being said, mimicking those conditions to grow an indoor plant isn’t too difficult!

How often should a bay leaf plant be watered?

The bay leaf plant really loves its water. It is important to keep soil moist pretty much at all times to keep them happy. The leaves will actually fall away if the plant isn’t watered enough.

Basically don’t let the soil to ever dry out completely. You should also mist the plant regularly to try to mimic that Mediterranean humidity. Avoid getting full water droplets on the fresh bay leaves as they are susceptible to developing powdery mildew.

Since they need so much water to be happy, that is why it’s so important that this container plant has really well draining soil. If it isn’t well draining the plant can quickly develop root rot.

Should a bay laurel tree be pruned?

It is important not to prune a bay laurel tree too hard because it is just so slow growing. However, it is also important to make sure to prune away sick or bent branches that are using up vital energy.

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Does the bay laurel plant prefer full sun or partial shade?

Knowing that it is a Mediterranean herb, it’s not hard to guess that the bay laurel plant is a sun loving creature used to that Sicilian sunshine. They perform best when growing in full sun exposure.

Place your bay laurel pot near a south facing window that receives all day sun. If you don’t have this type of window you may have to place it under a grow light to ensure it gets enough sun exposure.

Where can I buy bay laurel seeds to grow bay leaf?

It is so many gardeners and cooks dream to be able to grow bay leaf in their very own garden. You can obtain seeds at the nursery or garden centre or even order them online.

What is the ideal soil type for a bay leaf tree?

The bay leaf tree isn’t too picky about the soil type that it exists in as long as it’s well draining. They prefer average fertility, meaning that they’re used to existing in poor soil in the wild. Loamy or sandy soil potting mix is going to be the best option to grow your potted plant in.

What is the easiest way to propagate a bay laurel tree?

The best, easiest, and fastest way to propagate a bay laurel tree is by taking healthy stem cuttings and planting them. This is a surefire way to make sure the plant will grow, as seeds aren’t always viable.

How tall do bay plants get?

Not everyone knows this about bay plants, but its leaves actually grow from a tree or large shrub. They have pretty incredible sizes when left to grow freely, anywhere from 30-60 feet tall, but a potted plant can be controlled to tap out at 4-6 feet tall.

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