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How to grow bay laurel at home

In ancient Rome, the Laurel symbolizes victory – it’s the source of the word “baccalaureate” and laurel wreaths crowned the Olympic winners.

Timing

Sprouts in 1-6 months. Harvest from Year 2+ on.

Full sun

Equivalent of 6+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 18+ mol/m²/day].

Care

Beginner-friendly & generally low maintenance.

Best Bay Laurel varieties to grow inside.

Bay Laurel plants should be labeled Laurus nobilis if you plan to use the leaves for cooking and eating. There are also a few ornamental cultivars of this species. Here are some of the best edible ones for growing indoors:

Willow-leaf laurel

Also known as willow-leaf laurel, the narrow leaves of this cultivar are prized for their attractive texture when the tree is pruned.

Yellow-leaved bay tree

This variety exhibits new leaves that are bright yellow and aromatic

Laurus nobilis ‘Undulata’

With this cultivar, the leaf edges are rippled or wavy, making it a particularly ornamental tree.

Laurus nobilis ‘Saratoga’

The leaves are more rounded and lighter in color. It makes a good variety for food seasoning leaves.

Best Setup for Bay Laurel Plants

You’ll need:

Planter: 

Ceramic Self Watering Planter (preferred) or pot that is at least 8″ / 1 gal.

Soil: 

Free-Draining Mix

Plant Food:

At the start: Balanced Blend. This should be equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (with NPK numbers like 10-10-10). 

Ongoing: Herb Blend. This should be high in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 10-5-5).

Grow Light:

A strong grow light that can give the equivalent of 6+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 18+ mol/m²/day].

Jump to: Our product recommendations

Preparing your Planter & Watering Schedule for Bay Laurel

Bay Laurel plants don’t do well in moist soil conditions. The roots are not accustomed to being too wet and will rot in boggy conditions. On the other hand, if the soil dries out completely the roots will die back and the plant won’t recover. This can catch you off guard because the plant’s not very expressive (its leaves don’t wilt) so it will look fine right up until it dies. 

A Ceramic Self Watering Planter filled with a free-draining potting mix self-regulates to keep the soil on the drier side, but with a little consistent moisture (and means no watering guesswork for you). Careful of wick-based self-watering planters with Bay Laurel – as they tend to be too wet.

To set one up:

preparing your planter
  1. Fill up the planter with dry soil from the bag, gently tamping down the top.
  2. Dump the soil into a large mixing bowl and add water until the soil is moist, but not sopping wet (about ½ Cup)
  3. Mix in 1 tablespoon of the Balanced Blend Plant Food.

If you are using a regular pot instead, it should be a little bit bigger (at least 8″ / 1 gal and will need drainage holes to prevent it from being over watered. Let the top of the soil dry out between watering.

Starting your Bay Laurel: Seed vs Propagate vs Nursery Plant

Bay Laurel is usually started with a live plant or cutting. It’s possible to grow it from seed, but it takes a long time and many of the best varieties can only be grown from cuttings.

How to Plant Bay Laurel seeds

how to plant bay laurel seeds

Bay Laurel is a bit slow to start from seed – but is totally doable. Plant 1 site in an 8″ / 1 gal container. In larger containers, space sites 24″ apart. For each site plant 3 seeds 1/4 inches deep. Keep the soil warm ( 60-75°F, ideally 70°F). Sprouts typically appear in 4 weeks but can be as quick as 10 days or as long as 6 months depending on your conditions. To speed things up, you can soak them in water for 24 hours before planting.

To speed things up, you can soak them in water for 24 hours before planting.

Propagating Bay Laurel: How to Clone from a Stem Cutting

how to clone bay laurel

If you’ve already got a Bay Laurel plant you love (or a friend does!) you can easily “clone” it with just sharp scissors and a clean glass of water. First, cut a couple 6” shoots of new growth (avoid anything woody). Next, remove the lower leaves, so the bottom half is just the stem. Place in a glass of 3” of water, making sure the cut leaf spots are underwater. Place the glass on a bright windowsill and change the water every few days. In a couple of weeks, roots should emerge and you can transplant them into your container. While using additional rooting hormones won’t hurt, it’s not necessary with Bay Laurel plants. 

  1. Cut 6” section of new growth
  2. Remove leaves halfway and place them in the water on a sunny window sill 
  3. Wait 12 – 18 days for a few ½ inch roots to form and carefully transplant into its final container

How to Transplant Bay Laurel

How to transplant bay laurel

Live starter plants give you a big jump start on your first harvest. When you’re in a garden center – pick the bushiest plant available (tall and lanky ones will be weak growers) and give it a good inspection for pests. Leaves should be dark green without holes, spots, or curled edges. A best practice is to actually “quarantine” your plant for about a week after bringing it home to make sure it’s free and clear of ride-on pests. 

Ensuring it’s pest and disease-free it’s time to transplant your seedling into its final home.

  1. Remove some soil from its final planter – leaving enough space for the bottom of the seedling to be just higher than the soil surface.
  2. Hold on to the base of the stem with one hand, and turn the pot over while gently pulling the seedling. Giving the pot a few squeezes can help dislodge it.  
  3. Place in its final container and fill around it with soil so that it’s tight, but not compacted.  

Where to grow your Bay Laurel plants

While you should take advantage of the sun (it’s free and perfect for plants) there are limited circumstances where indoor natural light is enough for Bay Laurel plants to grow well. A very bright window can cut your grow light needs in half, but if you want to grow lots of Bay Laurel, you’ll still need one. For an introduction to grow lights, head over to our post on grow lights for indoor gardeners. We’ve also got a buying guide for screw in types, but to keep things simple in this guide, we’ll just provide directions for the 24W Screw in Bulb by Sansi, which we think is a good middle-of-the-road option.

Where to grow your bay laurel

How bright should your grow light be? 

Bay Laurel plants need the equivalent of 6+ hours of direct sunlight [DLI of 18+ mol/m²/day] to grow their best. In order to provide an equivalent amount with a grow light, it needs to be pretty bright! The 24W Sansi bulb should be placed 6 inches away from the top of the plant. This will give your PPFD (the standard measure of brightness) of 500 μmol/m²/s.

How many hours per day do your Bay Laurel plants need under a grow light?

Bay Laurel plants are what’s known as “day-neutral” so can grow under a range of daylight lengths. In order for them to get enough light, we recommend setting up a timer to leave it on for 12+ hours per day.

Bay Laurel Plants Grow Faster in Warmer Temps

Bay Laurel plants are called “warm-weather crops” and will speed up their metabolism when temperatures are warmer. On the other hand, if things get too hot they’ll wilt and become prone to disease. Ideal temperatures are around 70°F but anything between 60 and 80°F grows well.

Month 1-6: Check for Sprouts

You could see seedlings in as little as 10 days (though 4 weeks is more typical). If it’s been 6 months and you still don’t have any sprouts, it’s likely that your setup is too cold.

Month 2: Thin Your Seedlings

how to thin bay laurel

Thin your planter to only have 1 seedling per site –  leaving the largest plant. If you are using the recommended planter (at least 8″ / 1 gal) this will mean you’ve got 1 plant after thinning.  By getting rid of the smaller seedlings, you’re allowing the biggest and strongest one to flourish by reducing its competition for water, food, and space. 

If your seedlings are under 1 inch, stretching out, or folding over, it’s likely that they don’t have quite enough light.”

Month 6: How to Prune Bay Laurel Plants

how to prune bay laurel plants

Once your Bay Laurel plant has 3 sets of mature leaves you’re ready for your prune. Cut off the top set of mature leaves, leaving the bottom two (it’s best to cut right above the pair of leaves you’re keeping on the plant). Once these branches grow out (and each has a few sets of their own leaves) you can cut the tip – just as you did with the main stem. At this point your plant will be fairly well shaped, so hone your inner Bonzi master and use your thinning and heading cuts to harvest and shape your herbs as you go.  

Year 2+: How to Harvest Bay Laurel

As your bay laurel continues to grow, keep harvesting to encourage growth. If you only want a couple of leaves, pick leaves where new ones are emerging at the base. For a bigger harvest, cut one of the stems directly harvest, cut off the stems directly. You shouldn’t harvest more than 1⁄3 of the plant at a time.

Year 10+: End of Life

Bay Laurel grows like a tree that can keep giving you herbs for decades. We recommend heavy pruning and not increasing the container in order to keep the plant a manageable size. 

Shop This Blog

The right supplies can take the guesswork out of caring for your plants – and turn care from a daily to weekly routine. Through our grow tests, we’ve found these products to produce the best indoor Bay Laurel (and also have simple maintenance).  Plants are adaptable and can grow in many different conditions, so they are by no means necessary if you already have other supplies.

Best Containers for Bay Laurel: Ceramic Self Watering Planters

Plants thrive on consistent moisture but can suffer if they’re waterlogged. A semi-porous ceramic self regulates ideal conditions. Our favorite is the COSWIP planter. Runner up is XS Self Watering Planter by Wet Pot.

Best Soil for Bay Laurel: Free Draining Mix

Bay Laurel needs a drier environment – so you are better off using a free-draining cactus potting mix – we like this Organic Mix by Espoma

Best Nutrients for Bay Laurel: Balanced Blend followed by Herb & Lettuce Blend

Bay Laurel likes to start with nutrients that are equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (with NPK numbers like 10-10-10). For this Balanced Blend we recommend: Dr Earth All Purpose

Once they are growing, it’s better to use plant food that is high in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 10-5-5). For this Herb Blend we recommend: Joyful Dirt All Purpose

Best Light for Bay Laurel: DIY or Soltech

There is a very small chance that you have the bright windows needed to grow these without a grow light. If you are looking for a higher-end option – we love the Aspect Light by Soltech. For a more affordable option, a DIY setup using a 24W Screw-in Bulb by Sansi with a Clamp Light and Mechanical Timer works well too.  Check out our complete guide on a DIY setup for less than $40 or our buying guide for screw in bulbs.

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