How Do You Prune Bay Leaf?

“How do you prune a Bay Leaf plant?” Question from Mark or Warren, Ohio

Answer: Whether potted or grown in-ground in a Mediterranean climate, spring is the best time to prune back a bay laurel. Start by removing branches with unhealthy leaves. Then prune to shape by either shearing stem tips or cutting small or overgrown stems back to the main stem. Shearing stem tips will result in denser growth. Be sure to use clean, sharp bypass pruners for your cuts. (I like Felco pruners.) Leave plenty of healthy foliage on your tree, so it can recover quickly. Here’s a little more information about keeping potted bay laurels happy.

Growing Bay Laurel

Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) is a broadleaf evergreen tree from North Africa and Asia that is hardy between USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10. Thankfully, it is very easy to grow indoors, if you have a sunny spot that remains relatively cool through the winter.

Bay laurels require less water in fall and winter. During the summer months, bay pots grow better outdoors and require more water. Upgrade your bay when it outgrows its pot.

Fast-growing bays should be planted in pots twice the size of the root ball–be sure to leave at least 2 inches of top space for watering. We recommend planting bay in a rich, well-drained mix for edible growing, like Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix, which is approved for organic gardening.

Fresh bay leaves can be harvested all season long, just be sure to leave enough leaves on the plant for good growth and plant health.

Happy bay laurel growing!

Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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