Bay laurel, a vigorous aromatic shrub

Sprigs of bay laurel against a hazy green background

Bay laurel reminds one of the Mediterranean Coast with its very fragrant foliage.

Basic Bay Laurel facts

NameLaurus nobilis
Family – Lauraceae
Type – shrub, bay

Height – 10 to 24 feet (3 to 7 meters)
Exposure – full sun
Foliage – evergreen

Flowering – Spring
Harvest – all year round

Planting, care and pruning, here is the advice that will make your bay laurel thrive.

Planting bay laurel

Favor planting bay laurel in fall or in spring, avoiding freezing temperatures.

Planting your bay laurel well will ensure proper regrowth and good development.

  • Bay laurel needs sun, but tolerates growing in part sun.
  • Mix your garden soil with soil mix and regularly water in the spring that follows planting.
  • Its natural shape is a cone, and it grows rather fast, so provide a space for it that is large enough upon planting.
  • Follow our guidelines on planting trees here at Nature-and-Garden.

Propagating bay laurel

Making cuttings is the simplest and fastest manner of propagating your bay laurel.

Cuttings is well-suited and usually successful with bay laurel, select softwood stems for the cuttings.

  • The right time to prepare bay laurel cuttings is the end of summer.
  • Collect stems that are 6 inches (15 cm) long.
  • Remove lower pairs of leaves, keeping only the topmost one or two pairs.
  • It is possible to dip the cuttings in powdered rooting agent to accelerate root growth.
  • Plant the cuttings in nursery pots and water.
  • Keep the cuttings over winter in a cool, well-lit room, but where it doesn’t freeze.
  • Transplant in the following spring.

Pruning and caring for bay laurel

Bay laurel with berries, well cared for.Bay laurel is a shrub that is very easy to care for and only requires very little care, both for pruning and for watering.

Pruning bay laurel

It isn’t really necessary to prune, if only to balance the tree if needed after the blooming.

However, if you wish to prohibit your laurel from self-seeding, prune drastically before flowering.

  • The more bay laurel is pruned, the more vigorous it gets.

It is also possible to prune your bay laurel into a shape, like a sphere, a cone, or other topiary shapes. For that, prune off spring and fall growth.

Caring for bay laurel

Bay laurel, once properly settled in, requires absolutely no care, unless it is grown in a pot.

Potted bay laurel needs watering whenever the soil has dried up.

Bay laurel must be protected in winter in regions where it often freezes in the cold season, with horticultural fleece.

Harvesting bay laurel leaves

Bay laurel is favored in gardens for its aromatic leaves that are extremely fragrant.

It is possible to harvest them from March until the first frost spells.

Leaves can be harvested when needed, or they can be collected and dried for keeping.

  • The darker and older the leaves, the stronger their scent.
  • It is thus better to harvest older leaves first because younger leaves aren’t as fragrant.

Finally, remember that bay laurel leaves are great spices both fresh and dried. For the dried ones, use them either whole or powdered.

Fresh laurel leaves tend to be a bit more bitter and more fragrant.

Learn more about bay laurel

Bay laurel is part of the evergreen shrubs group.

It produces very fragrant leaves that are useful all year long in cooking.

You can use them freshly-picked and also dried several months after their harvest, since their taste keeps well.

  • Fresh leaves have a richer scent than the dried ones.
  • Ideal is to only collect leaves when you need them.
  • A single leaf is often enough to instill its fragrance to an entire dish. Two or more and you’ll risk overdoing it!

Finally, take note that bay laurel leaves are excellent for digestion, all you need to do is infuse 3 bay laurel leaves in one mug boiling water and drink when the water has cooled.

Bay laurel trivia

Bay laurel twigs and leaves were intertwined to prepare crown wreaths bestowed upon Roman generals who came back victorious from war in the times of the Roman empire. The same was used in Ancient Greece in for winners of Olympic competitions.

Bay laurel and bouquet garni

Since bay laurel is one of the herbs that make up bouquet garni, it won’t be difficult for you to prepare your own bouquet garni by adding just a few more herbs to the garden.

To keep savors as long as possible, collect bay laurel leaves preferably when they are in their growth phase.

Dry them for a few days in a dry and ventilated shed before storing them in a jar that seals moisture out.

Aside from bay laurel, bouquet garni most often includes:

See also: how to prepare bouquet garni with plants from your garden

Smart tip about bay laurel

To avoid weed growth and retain water needed for its development, spread mulch at the base of the tree in spring and repeat this every year.