Laurus nobilis (Bay)

Laurus nobilis

A popular leafy shrub and garden herb, often grown in containers as a half-standard. An essential plant for the kitchen garden.

Family: Lauraceae
Botanical Name: Laurus nobilis
Common Names: Bay tree, bay laurel

Foliage: Evergreen, aromatic, ovate, leathery leaves. Used as a herb in cooking.

Flowers: Tiny yellow flowers, followed by black berries (on female plants).

Flowering Period: Spring.

Soil: Well-drained gritty soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions
: Best in full sun. Grow in any aspect (north, west, east, south), in a sheltered location. Will tollerate some shade.

Habit: Bushy, slow growing.

Type: Large shrub.

Origin: Southern Europe

Hardiness: Hardy in most of the UK (down to -10°C).

Planting and Growing Laurus nobilis

Grow in a sunny sheltered spot or in partial shade. Ensure the plant has good drainage.

Does well in containers if a loam based compost is used (e.g. John Innes No 1). Container grown plants will also be constrained by the size of the pot, which is especially useful if you want to keep a specimen near the kitchen, to easily pick the tender young growth for use in cooking. However, when grown in the ground, Laurus can easily reach a mature height of up to 20ft.

Taking Care of Laurus nobilis

Top dress annually. Repot container grown plants in spring. Move container grown plants into a sheltered spot in winter to prevent leaf scorch, caused by cold winds.

Pruning Laurus nobilis

Clip container grown plants two or three times a year to keep shape and restrict growth. Remove any dead or damaged leaves.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by bay sucker, scale insects and woolly aphid. Can also be affected by Powdery mildews, leaf spot and leaf curl.

Propagating Laurus nobilis

Strike semi-ripe cuttings in late summer. Root these in an open gritty compost in a cold frame. Overwinter and plant out the following spring.

Popular Varieties of Laurus nobilis Grown in the UK

L. nobilis is available in both male and female forms. Tiny yellow flowers appear in spring. Female plants produce black berries in the autumn.

L. n. 'Aurea' (golden bay) with gold leaves.

L. n. angustifolia (willow leaf bay) with narrow twisted leaves.