Bay tree

Laurus nobilis- Bay tree

Laurus nobilis-Bay tree

Laurus nobilis- Bay tree is a evergreen tree. It has leathery glossy green leaves. The leaves are highly aromatic. In spring it produces clusters of small star shaped yellow flowers. These are then followed by black berries that house the seeds.

Bay tree is a great hedging or screen plant. It can also be kept in large pots. A must have for any herb garden. The dried leaves are used in casseroles, stews and soups.

Best grown in moist well draining soil. Performs best in a sunny position. Responds excellent to pruning. Can be kept at any size.

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Cultural notes

Botanical name: Laurus nobilis

Common name: Bay Tree

Family: Lauraceae

Native to: Mediterranean

Flowers: Spring

Position: Full sun

Height: 12m

Width: 10m

How big do bay trees grow?

If a bay tree is left untrimmed it can become a very large tree. A fully mature old bay tree will eventually reach a height of 12 metres with a wide canopy stretching out to 10 metres.

You can easily keep them small as the love a good pruning. Another popular way of keeping bay trees is as standards.

Turning a bay tree into a standard is very easy.

  • First select one with a nice straight stem, then strip all the lower leaves off.
  • If you remove the buds the branches won't grow back.
  • Allow the main stem to grow, to the desired height.
  • Once it's at the desired height stop striping the branches and allow it to bush out.
  • Tipping the main leader stems will encourage it to bush out.
  • Now you can trim the top into a nice round ball.

Do bay trees need full sun?

They do best when planted in full sun and well draining soil. Bays are a very robust tree once established and can withstand periods of dryness.

Will a bay tree grow quickly?

Bays can grow very fast provided they have adequate nutrients. Adding some slow release fertiliser in late winter will allow for a great burst of new growth in spring. During spring is when the biggest growth-spurt occurs. Feed again in summer for the second spurt in autumn.

How far apart should i space bay trees to create a hedge or screen?

For a hedge or screen 2 meters high and 1 metre wide, plant the bay trees 80cm-1m apart. A bay  tree in a small 14cm pot should give you a full sized hedge in 3 years. Remember to feed them in winter and summer for quickest growth.

Are the roots of a bay tree invasive?

They can be. If your going to allow the bay tree to grow into its full size, don't plant it near a septic system, any houses or pools and ponds. Keeping the bay tree trimmed will greatly limit the extent of the root system.

A hedge 2 metres high and 1 metre wide shouldn't grow and invasive root system. If your truly worried but still want to grow a bay tree for its culinary qualities, plant one or two in some large containers.

Bay trees are said to bring peace and prosperity when planted near a door.

Are the leaves of a bay tree edible?

You don't eat the leaves. The leaves are added during cooking. The flavour of the bay leaf is infused into the dish. Before serving you should remove the leaves. It's not that they are toxic its just they are stiff and sharp.

Can i transplant a bay tree?

Yeap. The best time to transplant a bay tree is during winter. Try and dig out as much of the root system as possible.

Cut back half of the foliage, this will greatly reduce the shock to the plant. If you leave too much foliage and the roots cant support it, you may lose the tree.

Once its in its new location water really well. We find watering transplanted trees with seasol greatly reduces the shock and leads to a quick recovery of healthy roots.

Pests and diseases.

The most common problem we have encountered is scale on our bays. It hasn't been a problem in the nursery where the plants are young. We notice it is on our bay hedge. If scale is a problem on your bays try using- Natures way citrus and ornamental spray. It's organic and safe for food crops.

How do you propagate bay trees?

We propagate our bay trees using cuttings, take the cuttings in winter. We place the cuttings in a mix of perlite and peat moss. We leave the cuttings in the mix for up to 6 months to allow roots to develop.