Bay Leaf Plant (Laurus nobilis) is an herbaceous shrub from the Mediterranean. The leaves can be found in culinary dishes, in a relaxing bath and even as a craft item. As diverse as the bay leaf plant is there is only one variety that is edible and that is the Laurus nobilis. When purchasing this plant for culinary purposes make sure the variety is correct and that it is organically grown.
The bay leaf plant can be grown outdoors year round in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8-11. In other areas, the plant can be taken outdoors after the frost-free date and brought back indoor before a killing frost.
Bay leaf plants like a well-drained soil that has a pH of 4.5 to 8.3. The plant also likes to be in full sun to partial shade.
Another factor that needs to be considered when planning the location for your bay leaf plant is the fact that it will need to be sheltered in the winter. This can consist of planting the plant near a building that blocks the winter winds or placing in an area where straw can be placed down to protect the plant.
When planting the bay leaf plant out in the garden, first dig the hole. The plant should not be planted any deeper than the container that it is in. After the hole has been dug, it is time to remove the plant from the container. Bay leaf plants have shallow roots so take care not to damage the roots in this process.
Plants can be removed from plastic containers in two ways. The first way is to turn the container upside down and gently tapping the bottom of the container to loosen the plant. If done correctly, the plant should gently come loose from the container and fall into your hand. If this approach does not work or you do not want to try this approach, simply slice the sides of the container with a knife and remove the plant.
Once the plant has been removed from its container, it is time to place it in the hole. Before placing in the ground, you will need to tease the roots. This is done by loosening the soil around the roots with the fingers. This process allows the roots to grow out into the soil.
After the roots have been teased, place the bay leaf plant in the hole and fill in. Water the plant in until bubbles stop coming to the surface. Add additional soil as needed to the hole.
Planting in a Container
If you live in an environment where cold winters are the norm, you can still have a bay leaf plant but indoors. Bay leaf plants are slow growers so do not get in a hurry to transplant the plant. A bay leaf plant that is three feet or less in height only needs a 12-inch container.
Before transplanting this plant make sure to premix the soil. The bay leaf plant likes a well-drained soil. This soil can easily be made from three parts compost and one part sand.
Once transplanted, the bay leaf plant does well on the windowsill in the kitchen or underneath grow lights.
The bay leaf plant does benefit from a fertilization program but only do this in the spring through fall. If your bay leaf plant is in a container, only fertilize every three to four months and only use an organic, all-purpose fertilizer.
Since this plant has shallow roots, it needs to be watered deeply but allow to dry out in between waterings.
One of the important chores required when one has a bay leaf plant is pruning. This plant can easily top 30 feet without pruning.
Pruning in the winter can occur when the leaves are harvested and should not be any more than a couple of inches. This type of pruning should be completed in March.