Friday, January 30, 2015

Bay Laurel

A gardener friend gave me a bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) tree for Christmas.  I finally got around to potting it in a larger container today.

The evergreen bay trees are native of the dry, rocky slopes of Greece, which make it the perfect for xeriscape gardens in Texas, or other locations in Zones 8-11.  They also perform well as long-lived houseplants.  I stuck with keeping it in a container for now, since I'm not sure that I want to plant this tree, which can grow up to 60 feet high, on my property.  It will stay smaller in the container, and I'll have the option to bring it indoors as a houseplant, if I feel so inclined.

The leaves of the bay tree are the same ones that are used in soup recipes, which means this plant gets added to my growing herb collection!  In cooking, bay leaves are always used dried, since there are several bitter compounds that are lost when dried.  The leaves can be harvested at any time of year, but if kept as a houseplant, the bay leaves are most flavorful in the summer.  Tried bay leaves will keep for up to 1 year.

Bay leaves also repel flour weevils:  add several leaves in a muslin bag to a flour canister and change to fresh leaves every six months.

Bay trees are very slow growing, but once it is old enough (10-30 years), it will flower in the spring and produce small berries that birds love.  I will be very interested to see if I still have the bay tree 10-30 years from now!


  1. Bay! Gosh I love how the leaves smell. I believe you'll love having a bay tree - I'm betting it will be around a long long time. I nearly killed mine while it was in a pot several times by forgetting to water it often enough so I put it into the ground. I trim it down to keep less than 4 feet tall and it seems fine with that so far. Sometimes I rush the drying process and I'm glad to know about the benefits of waiting - it will help me be more patient and perhaps I'll get better about planning ahead to keep a steady supply of leaves on hand. Dried bay leaves are excellent added to soups and stocks as you mentioned, I also use them when poaching poultry or fish. I usually add a leaf to shrimp or crab boils, and bay is great when prepping tomato sauce. The more you use them the more uses you'll discover.

    1. We'll see how the bay likes the container, and I may eventually move it into the ground if I find a place that seems right. Thanks for all the extra ideas on how to use the leaves!