Growing Bay Leaf Plant from Cuttings, Seed, Propagation

Introduction to growing Bay leaf plant from cuttings, seed

Bay leaf tree (Laurus nobilis) can be a fantastic addition to your home or garden. The Bay tree leaf is an aromatic leaf used in cooking. It is also called as Bay laurel, sweet Bay and simply laurel. Bay leaf plants are a member of the Lauraceae family. The aromatic flavor of Bay leaves is used to round off soups and gravies, fish, and meat dishes. It is an ingredient that can’t be missed when pickling the likes of cucumbers or onions. Fresh Bay leaves or dried Bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor.

In this article we also discuss below topics;

  • Why are the leaves on Bay tree going brown
  • How long does a Bay leaf tree take to grow
  • Growing a Bay tree from cuttings
  • Bay leaf plant propagation
  • Growing Bay leaf trees from seed
  • Bay leaf tree growing tips

A guide to growing Bay leaf plant from cuttings and seed

Good soil type for growing Bay leaf plant

The Bay leaf plant is very tolerant of a wide variety of soils so long as it drains well. Even rocky soil or sandy soil will yield excellent results. Though eventually a very large tree grown in its native environment, Bay leaf plant easily adapt to being grown in a large container. A blend of half potting soil and the half cactus mix is ideal for potting your Bay tree. If your soil is particularly alkaline, you could find it easier to grow Bay in containers rather than in the ground.

Propagation of Bay leaf plants

The Bay plants take a long time to germinate from seed. Normal Bay plant propagation is from cuttings or air layering. The cuttings need to root in a heated propagator with high humidity and it is quite difficult to propagate.

You can propagate from seed, but it can be quite difficult. You will want to scarify your seeds and plant them in the fall in a container. Cover with coarse, sandy soil and place somewhere with temperatures around 20°C for at least one month. Germination takes 5 to 12 months and you should keep it in a pot for 2 to 3 years before planting outdoors. Sometimes trying to grow Bay leaf trees from seeds does not work and plants do not take root.

You can also propagate from cuttings, but this is challenging. First, take cuttings from new growth in late summer or early fall. It is difficult to propagate Bay leaf trees from cuttings; they do not take root.

Planting depth and spacing of Bay leaf tree

Plant Bay leaf tree in the garden bed or a large container at the same soil depth as it was growing in its container. If planting in the ground, allow several feet around for mature growth unless you plan to form it into topiary. For growing containers, plant in a 5-gallon container or larger to allow for substantial growth. Unlike most other herbs, Bay will grow to make a small tree. It grows slowly but can reach an eventual size of around 39ft x 32ft (12m x 10m), so if you plan to leave it unpruned and unchecked, this is worth bearing in mind when considering it for the garden.

Bay leaf plants are grown in containers

Bay leaf is a tree, but also it can be grown in containers as well. First, choose a pot of at least 12 inches deep and wide. Ensure proper drainage and plant the Bay leaf plant at the same depth as it was in the previous pot, fill the pot with loamy potting soil and compost.

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Bay Leaf trees can successfully be grown in containers for years and years. Mature plants, of course, need a large container which can be a problem if you have to shift the containers into a sheltered place for the winter season. They can be shaped easily into pyramids or ball shapes. And trim them in late summer and of course, use the clippings for drying. Allow young trees to grow and build up strength before you start using the plant leaves or shaping it. Otherwise, the plant will be stunted and grows slowly.

Right temperatures for growing Bay leaf plants

Bay plants can be a good choice for many gardens and situations. But it is very important to make sure that a Bay tree is a right choice for where you live.

They are generally hardy down to -5°C but can withstand somewhat colder temperatures if they are located in a sheltered position. If you live in a particularly cold winter area, then Bay can be more difficult to grow.

Germination process of Bay leaf seeds

Grow Bay leaf trees from seed can sometimes be frustrating as the seeds typically have a long germination period and could begin rotting before germination begins. It is possible to germinate Bay leaf seeds, though it is recommended that you attempt to germinate multiple seeds at once to allow for germination failure and rotting in some of the seeds.

  • Soak the Bay leaf seeds in warm water for 24 hours.
  • Prepare a seed tray with a layer of starting soil and the soil should be moist but not saturated and there should be no standing water present in the tray.
  • Spread the seeds out over the seed tray, pressing them lightly into the moistened soil. The seeds should be approximately 2 inches apart to allow them room to spread out once they begin developing roots and shoots.
  • Then, cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost, mulch, or horticultural sand. Spray the contents of the seed tray lightly with warm water to dampen the seed covering. As with the initial moistening of the soil, you want to dampen the covering and not saturate it.
  • Place the seed tray in an area where it will receive up to 8 hours of sunlight per day and will maintain a temperature of about 21°C.
  • Moisten the seed tray as needed. You want the soil and seed covering to remain moist, though being slightly on the dry side will not harm the seeds. The seeds should germinate in an environment that is slightly moist than one that is saturated since the latter condition encourages rotting.
  • Check the progress of the seeds weekly. It can take as few as 10 days or as long as six months for the Bay leaf seeds to begin germinating. If you notice any seeds that have begun to rot, remove them from the seed tray.
  • Transplant germinated seeds to pots or prepared location outdoors once leaves begin to appear.

Water requirement for growing Bay leaves plant

Regular watering is required when the plant is young if you’re growing Bay leaves plant on the ground. However, you should check the soil once in a while to see if the surface is dry, especially during the spring and summer. From fall and through the winter, reduce watering.

Process of growing a Bay leaf plant from seed

The Bay tree is easy to grow from seed. The seeds don’t need any stratification or special care and should be sown as soon as possible. First, fill a seed tray with a layer of moist soilless seed mix. Then, spread the seeds out over the surface, keeping them about 2 inches apart and press them gently into it. Cover the Bay seeds with a bit more moist soilless mix. Dampen the medium with a spray bottle and make sure to just lightly moisten, not saturate the mix or the seeds will rot. Place the seed tray in a warm area of around 21°C that gets up to 8 hours of sun per day. Keep the Bay seeds moist to slightly on the dry side as they germinate. Keep an eye on the progress of the seeds. It can take from 10 days to up to 6 months for the Bay leaf seeds to germinate. Transplant the seedlings into pots or the garden proper when leaves begin to appear.

Process of growing a Bay leaf plant from cuttings

Choose the right type of stems                                                          

Select stems from the Bay tree that is firm and pliable. The wood must be green and bend with a little resistance. This is known as softwood and good for propagating Bay trees. Make 3 or 4 cuttings that are 8 inches long from several stems of the tree. Remove all but the top 2 or 3 leaves from the cuttings. Then, set the cuttings in a bucket of water until you are ready to stick them.

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Prepare your container

Fill a 6-inch flower pot with coarse sand and water carefully until the water drains out the bottom of the pot. Make 3 or 4 holes in the sand for the cuttings. The holes must be about 4 inches deep. With preformed holes, the rooting hormone stays on the stems instead of rubbing off onto the surface of the coarse sand.

Rooting Hormone

Pour about 3 tablespoons of rooting hormone into a disposable tray. Then, dip the stem into the hormone so the bottom 3 inches of the stem are coated. Stick the cutting into one of the holes you created in the sand and firm the sand around the cutting. Repeat this for all the cuttings.

Provide Light and Heat

Insert wooden sticks around the outside edges of the flower pot and make the spacing uniform. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag and seal the top with a rubber band. Finish making the miniature greenhouse by adding a rubber band just below the lip of the pot. Then, set the pot on a heating mat in a bright location and out of direct sunlight.

Check for Growth

Check the Bay tree cuttings for root growth after about 4 weeks. Pull-on the stems and feel for resistance. If the cuttings seem anchored securely in the sand, and remove the plastic cover. Wait for another week and check again if you feel no resistance.

Transplant the Cuttings

Transplant the new Bay leaf trees into separate pots and grow out until the following spring before putting them in the garden.


Repot your plant every 2 to 3 years; Bay leaf is a plant that does not develop quickly in pots. Repotting must be done in the spring using a good fertile soil that remains loamy as the plant doesn’t like stagnant water and good drainage is important.

Pests and diseases for growing Bay leaf tree

Scale insects can be a real problem particularly if you keep Bay Leaf plant inside. This pest is difficult to treat successfully because you always miss a few of the little buggers and starts all over again. They sit on the underside of the plant leaves, on top, and the branches. Look out for brown little scales that sit near the center rib of the plant leaves and on the stems.

The best method to get rid of them is to spray the whole plant thoroughly from top to bottom with an organic pest spray that contains fatty acids. Then follow up with beneficial insects and they will kill the ones that you have missed. Bay leaf tree is strongly resistant to pests and diseases. The most common problems caused to Bay leaf tree are due to overwatering, lack of sunlight, or excessive cold. Scales, aphids, and mites can also get attracted to the weak plant, which must be treated immediately using an organic pesticide.

Harvest Bay leaves

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Dried Bay Leaves.
Dried Bay Leaves.

Choose the largest leaves when harvesting Bay leaves. Unlike other herbs that are at their peak when young, Bay leaf has a more intense flavor when older. Bay leaves can be harvested during the growing season, but if you wish to harvest a bunch at one time, harvest in the midsummer when the leaves are at their peak in terms of essential oils, hence flavor. Simply handpick large, unblemished Bay leaves for harvest. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and then spread the leaves out.

Drying Bay leaves

Bay leaves are a wonderfully aromatic addition to several types of dishes and crafts as well. For dried Bay leaves, plan to harvest in summer, when the plant leaves are at their most fragrant. Take the largest Bay leaves in the morning, after the dew has lifted. Spread paper towels on a baking sheet and spread the Bay leaves out in a single, flat layer. Then, allow them to lie in a warm, dry location with good air circulation, but out of direct sunlight. After 2 weeks, turn the leaves and let them lie another week. If no dark green patches remain, Bay leaves are ready to be stored in an airtight container, like a glass jar, out of direct light.

Identifying problems when growing a Bay tree

Yellow Leaves – These are usually a sign of waterlogging or cold weather damage though they can also indicate a nutrient deficiency, especially in container-grown Bay trees.

Leaf Spots – This indicates a problem with water logging or wet weather. Bay leaf plants in containers can be more prone to this problem. It is often a sign that the compost has to be refreshed and the plant must be re-potted.

Peeling Bark/ Cracking on Lower Stems – This is caused by harsh winter weather and it looks rather bad, as long as the rest of the plant is growing normally, it should not be fatal and the Bay tree should recover.

Brown Leaves – This is another sign of environmental problems and pay attention to drainage, watering, and shelter and it may not mean the end of your Bay tree.

Curled leaves with pale-yellow or brown edges – If the leaves curl over, looking unsightly and discolored, look under the curled Bay leaf edges for little grey-white insects. You could have a case of Bay sucker. While unsightly, the good news is that the long term health of the Bay plant is not usually affected. Pick off and dispose of affected Bay plant leaves.

Commonly asked questions about growing Bay leaf plant

Questions about Bay Leaf Tree.
Questions about Bay Leaf Tree.
How big do Bay leaf trees grow?

In the garden, Bay trees grow as a large bushy shrub or small tree, reaching a height of about 7.5m (23ft) or more.

Why are you drying the Bay leaves?

Fresh Bay leaves tend to be rather bitter and drying those tempers their bitterness. When dry, store Bay leaves in an airtight jar or sealed plastic bag out of direct sunlight at a temperature between 18 to 21°C for up to a year.

Why are the leaves on my Bay tree going yellow?

A yellow Bay leaf plant can be indicative of a nitrogen deficiency, which is caused by an imbalance in the pH level of the soil. A uniform yellowing of the Bay leaves occurring in older, lower leaves first and moving upward is how a nitrogen deficiency can be diagnosed.

Why is my Bay tree dying?

Browning of the leaves of the Bay tree can be caused by extreme cold conditions, wind scorch, and if you allow the soil to completely dry out when it is actively growing over the summer period. The commonly heard complaint is why Bay tree leaves are turning yellow or brown and dying off.

Will Bay tree grow back?

Bay trees can grow to about 30 feet (9 m.) tall without getting leggy or thin. If this happens to your Bay trees, you’ll want to remove back the damaged branches. You can do this Bay tree pruning in late spring.

Conclusion of growing Bay leaf plant

Well, Bay leaf is one of the best spices and used in many dishes. Growing Bay leaves is commercially viable and profitable. You may also like the Chilli Varieties in India.


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