How To Grow Bay Laurel in Pots

How To Successfully Grow Bay Laurel in Pots

Understanding Bay Laurel

Species Overview

Bay laurel, also known as Laurus nobilis, is an evergreen shrub or tree native to the Mediterranean area. It is a popular herb in cooking and is known for its fragrant and flavorful leaves. Bay laurel can grow up to 60 feet in height when grown outdoors in its native setting, but it can also be grown in pots and kept pruned to a smaller size.

Bay laurel has large, pointed oval leaves that are deep, glossy green in color with a leathery texture. The leaves are commonly used in soups, stews, and sauces to add flavor and aroma. Bay laurel also produces small yellow flowers in the spring and black berries in the fall.

Ideal Growing Conditions

Bay laurel can be grown in pots of at least 5-gallons filled with well-draining soil. A 24-inch pot is adequate if you want a mature tree that is about five or six feet tall. But you could choose a tiny six-inch bonsai pot instead, and keep your plant pruned to under a foot tall.

Bay laurel requires at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight per day and should be watered only when dry. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it is important to ensure that the soil is well-draining and not waterlogged.

In terms of soil, bay laurel prefers a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH between 6.0-7.5. You can use a high-quality potting mix with added perlite or sand to improve drainage. Fertilize in the springtime when the plant is actively growing. Sea kelp/kelp meal, worm castings, and fish emulsion are good supplements.

Bay laurel can be sensitive to extreme temperatures and may need to be brought indoors during the winter in colder climates. During the winter, it is important to reduce watering and allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.

Choosing the Right Pot

When it comes to growing bay laurel in pots, choosing the right pot is crucial for the success of your plant. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

Material Considerations

Bay laurel plants grow best in clay or unglazed terracotta pots. These materials are porous, allowing for proper drainage and preventing root rot. Avoid using plastic or metal pots as they can retain too much moisture and lead to fungal diseases.

Size and Depth Requirements

The pot you choose should be large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system and allow for growth. A 5-gallon pot is recommended for optimal growth, but you could choose a smaller pot if you plan to keep your plant pruned to a smaller size.

In terms of depth, the pot should be at least 12 inches deep to allow for proper root growth. Keep in mind that bay laurel plants have a taproot, which means they need a deep pot to accommodate their roots.

Overall, choosing the right pot is essential for growing healthy bay laurel plants in pots. Keep these considerations in mind when selecting a pot, and your plant will thrive.

Planting Process

Soil Preparation

Before planting your bay laurel in a pot, you need to prepare the soil. The soil should be well-draining and fertile. You can use a commercial potting mix, or make your own by mixing equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.

It is important to add some organic matter to the soil to improve its fertility. You can add compost, aged manure, or worm castings to the soil. Mix the organic matter with the soil thoroughly.

Planting Steps

  1. Choose a pot that is about 2 inches larger in diameter than the root ball of your bay laurel. The pot should have drainage holes at the bottom to prevent waterlogging.

  2. Fill the pot with the prepared soil, leaving about 2 inches of space at the top.

  3. Gently remove the bay laurel from its current container. If the roots are tightly packed, loosen them gently with your fingers.

  4. Place the bay laurel in the center of the pot, making sure that the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.

  5. Fill the pot with soil, pressing it gently around the root ball to remove any air pockets.

  6. Water the bay laurel thoroughly, until water drains out of the bottom of the pot.

  7. Place the pot in a sunny location, where the bay laurel can get at least 5 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Remember to water your bay laurel regularly, but do not overwater it. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Fertilize the plant every 2-3 months with a balanced fertilizer. Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, and treat them promptly if necessary.

Care and Maintenance

Watering Techniques

Bay laurel plants require consistent moisture to thrive. Water your potted bay laurel regularly, providing one or two inches of water every week and allowing the top two inches of soil to dry between applications. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so be sure not to let the soil remain soggy.

To ensure proper drainage, make sure your pot has a drainage hole in the bottom. If your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, you can add a layer of gravel or sand to the bottom of the pot to help with drainage.

Pruning Tips

Pruning is important to keep your bay laurel plant healthy and to maintain its shape. Prune your bay laurel in the late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Remove any dead or damaged branches, and prune back any branches that have grown too long or are crossing over each other.

When pruning, make sure to use sharp, clean pruning shears to avoid damaging the plant. You can also pinch back the tips of the branches to encourage bushier growth.


Bay laurel plants do not require frequent fertilization. Fertilize your bay laurel once a year in the spring with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer according to the instructions on the package.

Pests and Diseases

Bay laurel plants are generally resistant to pests and diseases. However, they can be susceptible to spider mites and scale insects. If you notice any signs of pest infestation, such as yellowing leaves or webbing, treat the plant with a mild insecticidal soap.

In addition, bay laurel plants can be prone to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and leaf spot. To prevent these diseases, avoid overwatering and make sure the plant has good air circulation. If you notice any signs of fungal disease, treat the plant with a fungicide according to the instructions on the package.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Growing bay laurel in pots is generally easy and low-maintenance, but there are some common issues that you may encounter. Here are some tips on how to troubleshoot these issues:

Pest Problems

Bay laurel is usually not bothered by pests, but sometimes it can attract mealybugs, scale insects, and spider mites. Here are some ways to prevent and treat pest problems:

  • Keep your bay laurel plant healthy by providing it with the right amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients.
  • Inspect your plant regularly for signs of pests, such as sticky residue, yellowing leaves, or webbing.
  • If you notice pests, try wiping them off with a damp cloth or spraying them with a solution of water and dish soap.
  • For severe infestations, you may need to use an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray.

Disease Prevention

Bay laurel is generally resistant to diseases, but it can be susceptible to root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf spot. Here are some ways to prevent and treat disease problems:

  • Make sure your pot has good drainage and that you are not overwatering your plant.
  • Avoid getting water on the leaves when you water your plant.
  • Keep the area around your plant clean and free of debris.
  • If you notice signs of disease, such as yellow or brown spots on the leaves, remove the affected leaves and dispose of them.
  • You may also want to treat your plant with a fungicide to prevent the spread of disease.

By following these tips, you can prevent and treat common issues that may arise when growing bay laurel in pots.