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Bay Leaves Q&A

 

I have a bay plant that is approx. 20 years old. Living in CT, I bring it inside every year and then in the spring, back outside it goes. It is approx. 4 ft tall with lots of shoots and stems. Every year, the main plant sends up shoots from the base. I would like to "divide" or "separate" the shoots but do not know the best way or even if this is advised. Any ideas on best way to proceed? thank-you. K
Bay laurel has a reputation for being difficult to propagate, but since yours is volunteering, maybe you will have more luck. You could try digging the shoots along with as much of their roots as possible and planting them. It may take up to a year for it to become a viable plant so be patient.
 
We have heard that some types of laurel leaves are poisonous. How do we tell the difference between those you can use in cooking and those that are poisonous please? We moved into a house with laurel bushes (which local people call bay) but we are not sure whether they are safe to cook with or not. Thank you. AB
You are smart to find out exactly what you have growing. Find photos of plants that are often confused with bay laurel in the article "Nine Ways to Enjoy the Herb of the Year 2009."
 
I live in South Louisiana. Will a bay tree grow down here? CS
I should think it would thrive. Bay laurels can't tolerate the cold but I don't think your climate would pose any problem.
 
I have a bay laurel tree and this year it has purple berries. What can I use them for? Thanks TS
Bay berries are usually pressed for oil to be used as a food additive or in cosmetics. I can't find a single reference for cooking with them so I can't recommend it.
 
I have a new Bay tree in a 6” pot and wonder when is the best time to prune it? I would like a bushy plant rather than a tall tree. It is on a balcony in Victoria, Canada. Thank you DM
You can prune a bay at just about any time of the year. They are fairly slow growers so you might want to wait until it reaches the height you prefer and then snip from the top first. This will encourage more bushy growth.
 
Can I use bay leaves without drying them? Are they weaker or stronger in taste? MG
As long as you are sure they are actually bay leaves (see the article Nine Ways to Use the Herb of the Year 2009) you can certainly use them fresh. Theoretically, they would be weaker in taste but I haven't noticed a marked difference between the two in my kitchen.
 

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We bought a lovely bay tree in memory of our little boy who we lost last summer – we chose a bay as we thought it would be robust and survive the usually mild winters we have in GB. However, due to the severe winter and harsh frosts, the leaves of the bay tree have all turned brown and it looks as though it is dying. The tree is potted and stands about 4 foot high. Can you please give us some tips on how we may be able to revive the tree – any help will be much appreciated. CT
I'm so sorry for your tragic loss. We are having the same problem with our bay tree at the demonstration garden. You can check to see if it is still alive by scratching the bark on one of the limbs close to the trunk. If you see a bit of green or white, the tree will probably be okay. Our tree showed the green so we snipped off all of the brown leaves and are hoping for the best.
 
Is it possible to use the berries of laura nobilis? Thanks, HV
Bay oil is pressed from the berries of laurus nobilis and has been known to alleviate joint pain. They won't hurt you if eaten in small quantities, however, apparently they are extremely bitter.
 
I have dried the leaves of my 10 year old Bay Laurel from time to time, however they never seem to be as fragrant or flavorful as the ones I buy at the grocery store. I'm wondering why? JG
One question pops into my mind for you: are you sure that you have a bay laurel tree? We have photos of commonly confused plants in the article "Nine Ways to Enjoy the Herb of the Year 2009, Bay Leaves." Otherwise, the finest bay leaves come from Turkey and that is most likely what we are buying at the supermarket. Penzey's Spices has a rather lyrical description of why these are the best bay leaves.
 
I was given a small bay tree that was about 2 feet tall. It's growing indoors as we live in a very cold winter climate. After the first year, it had grown about a foot and I repotted it into a larger container. It has really grown quickly since then. It just reached about 6 feet tall, but the only side branches are at the bottom of the tree. Recently, the tall top of the tree started to lean over. I had to support the upper part of the tree with string to keep it from leaning over at nearly a right angle. I would like to prune it in a way that will stimulate the growth of more side branches. Can I cut it off about 2 feet from its top? That's the point at which it is leaning over. Will that cause more side branches to appear? What a pleasure to find this website - thank you for your help! ID
You are right on track. Pruning from the top will cause the tree to branch out. Just keep in mind you don't want to take more than one third of any plant at a time.
 
I am washing and packing to sell 'nice large' bay leaves at a market and was told by a "Miss Know all" that this particular tree is not a 'cooking' bay leaf tree. Is this possible?? Please help me before I pack. HH
This is a common mistake. Find pictures of bay and other plants it is often confused with in the article "Nine Ways to Enjoy the Herb of the Year, 2009: Bay Leaves."
 
Is it possible to root a bay laurel cutting? Can you tell me how? Thank you. BG
Bay laurel is notoriously difficult to propagate. The best way to attempt it is through the process of "layering." Basically, you bend a branch down, nick the bark with a knife and fasten it to the ground under soil. You might also try taking a cutting and using a rooting hormone. Be aware that it may take months for the plant to root using either method.
 
Can bay leaf grow in Washington, DC and can bay leaf be stored in a freezer? Love your site. DW
I'm thinking the temperatures in DC drop well below 20 degrees for extended periods of time in the winter, don't they? If this is the case you would want to grow bay in a container that you could move to a protected area during cold spells. You could certainly store bay leaves in the freezer but they dry so well, I don't see the point.
 
This is not a question, but actually a comment for "C" with the house flies on her bay plant. We have the same problem, and after a bit of sleuthing have determined that the plant actually has a (fairly mild) scales infestation, and the flies are feasting on the honeydew. P
Thanks for giving us another idea to solve the problem.
 
Hello, I am in Norwich, UK. Today, I came home to find that my husband had decided to trim the bayleaf tree outside our door. It was blocking the front window and about to block the satellite dish. Unfortunately, he has never had a garden of any kind at all, and did not check beforehand how much pruning was wise to do. It was about 11 feet high with a trunk about 6 inches thick. It is now two feet shorter, but the worst is that he has nearly cut it back to sticks. I stopped him before he got to the very last part of it so there are a few, a very few, leafy branches left. From a little initial research, it seems he may well have put the tree in serious danger of survival. Is there anything at all we can do to try to save it? DC
You might want to check with a certified arborist but I have a feeling the tree will be okay. It sounds like it was well established so just keep an eye on it, water it a bit if your conditions are dry for long periods and see what happens.
 
If I am without bay leaves what herb would you use next? CJ
You can just skip the bay leaves without disastrous results. There is no good substitute but you might add a sprig of thyme or rosemary instead.
 
Hi. I have a 4ft bay shrub in the garden which I grew from a tiny shoot about 5 years ago. As we changed the patio this spring I unfortunately had to move it in March and although it seemed ok for a while it is now fast developing a white creamy substance over the trunk and onto branches. The leaves especially at the top are turning yellow. It looks quite fungal to me (although I am no expert) and fast moving. I can wipe it off with kitchen paper but the trunk still looks a bit white afterwards. Am also worried our cats might have used the area as a toilet and have affected it. Please help! Thanks! KH
Hmmm, I'm a little stumped here. It could be some sort of cankers although I can't find any that match your description. Could it also be powdery rather than creamy? Powdery mildew is white but usually described as looking sort of like flour or talcum powder. You might want to see if you can get someone to come out and look at it for an accurate diagnosis.
 
How do you make bay leaf oil juice? Do you boil leaves in water? AB
I've never heard of bay leaf oil juice. Essential oils are extracted from herbs through the process of steam distillation which is something we can't accomplish at home. You might find bay leaf oil at your local health food store.

I live just north of Vancouver, BC have had my bay leaf plant in the garden for 16 years. Always very healthy until this spring I noticed the leaves all looked like they had been frozen (we did have an unusually cold winter) looking closer I see inside the tree the leaves are green but are also covered with rust. Can I do anything to save this plant? MH
It is important to determine whether your plant has suffered from winter damage or if it is actually a case of the fungal disease called rust. Chances are good that the plant can recover from the cold winter if you give it some time. You may want to snip an affected branch and take the sample in to your local Master Gardeners for a diagnosis.
 

 
Hi, We had a harsh winter here and my bay tree seems to have gotten frozen. The tree is about 8' high and HAD been very healthy but is now entirely covered in brown leaves? What should I do? I am wondering if I need to cut the plant way back, or is it dead? AM
This is a tree rather than an herb plant so you should consult with a certified arborist to decide on the best approach.
 
Hi, our family just bought a bay leaf plant (very small, maybe 10 inches) a month or so ago. The problem is, it is now spitting the honeydew substance previously mentioned in this column, also there are small white things (sort of cottony, very small, could be bugs??) covering the plant/leaves. It is early spring and we live in Massachusetts so keeping it outside may not be healthy if it happens to snow again. Please help!! G
It isn't the plant that is producing the honeydew, it's some sort of pest. You might want to do research on mealy bugs. Try to find a photograph of the bugs to compare to those on your plant. You can actually eliminate several different pests simply by giving the plant a strong blast of water.
 
To make bay leaf tea can branches be boiled also? PE
I don't think I would want to include the branches. It's the leaves that have the flavor.
 
Hi! I have a 3 year old bay plant in the yard, leaves have brown spots that look like dried spots. Could one still use these for cooking or are these brown spotted leaves health hazards when consumed? Thank you. ZM
Leaf spot can be caused by a variety of fungal or bacterial diseases. It would be best to determine the cause, take a few affected leaves to your local garden center, before using them for cooking. While they are not likely to hurt you, especially since you don't actually eat the leaf, I think I would use the leaves without spots.
 
I purchased a Laurus nobilis this past summer and brought it in the house in the fall. It was doing fine, until this week, when I noticed that the leaves were curling and looking like they could fall off. I also noticed what appears to be new leaves forming just above these curling leaves. The plant is about 16 inches tall, not near any heat vents and I live in Northern Illinois. If the leaves fall off do you think new leaves will form? Please Help. Thank you. NB
Sounds like new leaves are already sprouting so it could be just a normal regeneration process. Continue to give it the same care while it's indoors but keep in mind, most houseplants are killed from too much attention rather than too little.
 
My grandmother left me a jar of home dried bay leaves, which I used up. They were bottled with a variety of other seeds, which gave the bay leaves a wonderful and long lasting aroma/flavor. I would like to find a similar recipe for the bay leaves. ie..which seeds might be bottled with them. Do you have any information on this subject?
Thank you. CH
Since this is a home brew, so to speak, it's hard to say what was included in the mixture unless you have some of the seeds left. If you do, check out the "Spice Photos Page" to see if maybe you can identify them by comparison.
 
I have a bay tree and a laurel tree, what the difference, the bay leaf are about 6inch long, the laurel are about 10 inch long, can you use both in cooking? Please help. VAL
This is where it is important to know botanical names. Laurus nobilis is the culinary bay leaf, although Umbellularia californica bay laurel is considered by some to be similar in taste. Other laurels such as the one known as daphne, or mountain laurel and cherry laurel may be toxic if ingested. Be sure to identify both trees before using their leaves in the kitchen.
 
I have two bay laurel plants in pots that I bring indoors in the winter. One of them is covered in honeydew, and the backs of the older leaves have many 3-4 mm oval things on them. Are these aphids? Or aphid eggs? None of them move-they seem to be stuck in the honeydew. I am wondering if I should discard this plant, to prevent my other plants from becoming infested. MB
I suggest you do an image search on Google to see if aphids look like your pest. If they are aphids, you can probably get rid of them by spraying the affected areas with a strong stream of water. You might want to do this several times before bringing it indoors.
 
For four years my bay leaf plant has been growing in a 6" pot. Lately all the leaves are curling, turning brown and dropping. My plant is a skeleton, yet the branches appear healthy. What are the growing conditions for a bay leave plant? PK
Bay laurel likes a basic potting soil mix with good drainage, quite a lot of sunshine and a yearly feeding. It's easy to overwater but you don't want it to dry out completely either. Your plant might enjoy a new, larger pot with some fresh soil. Six inches is pretty small for a four year old plant.
 
I have a recipe that calls for 10 whole fresh bay leaves. Can I substitute dried bay leaves? How many? BL
You could go with half as many dried bay leaves but I suspect that you are going to thread them onto skewers or some sort of layering that dried leaves end up crumbling.
 
We have moved into a house in the last 6 months that has an 18ft high bay tree. Sadly the leaves are turning yellow then brown and dropping off. Some leaves look as though they have been nibbled. We can find no trace of anything that is eating the leaves. Some leaves are curling at the edges. The trunk of the tree was green and this we have scrubbed off but the leaves continue to drop. The tree has had a flourish of white flowers at the top this year and new growth is evident. Are you able to advise what the problem could be please. TS
An 18 foot tree is a out of my area of expertise. You should really consult an arborist. If there is a problem with pests or disease it is probably not too late to treat it since the tree is showing new and normal growth.
 
Hello, I live in Winnipeg, Canada. I have a small Bay plant that I bring in for the winter. I was told that when harvesting the leaves you should cut them leaving about 1/4 inch of the leaf still on the plant rather than plucking off the entire leaf from its stem. Can you tell me which is the proper way? Thanks JJ
I can't imagine the point of leaving a bit of the leaf on the plant like that. The best way I know is to gently pull down on the leaf to separate it at a natural point from the plant.
 
I just got this Bay Leaf plant last summer. It was growing quite well starting to put out short branches then discovered that half the plant was sticky from scale. I wiped them off with alcohol in February and have not seen any change in terms of growth. Should I do anything special to it? Special type of fertilizer? It has not turned brown. Still green. Is it dormant? Thanks for your help. GS
Dormancy would be a good call. Once you notice that it has begun to grow again you might give it a light fertilizer application. Resist the temptation to overwater it--they don't need much.
 
I live in New Orleans, LA and have a five year old bay leaf plant on my balcony that seems to be suffering from some kind of rust. I have removed the most badly affected leaves but am reluctant to remove any more because almost all of the leaves are affected to a small degree and I don't want to kill the plant. I read somewhere that sulfur could help in treating some kinds of rust. Do you think that could work in this case? If so, how is it applied? I was also thinking that it may need to be repotted. What size of pot should I use for a 14" high plant? Thanks, TJ
Rust is a nasty fungal disease that is notoriously difficult to eliminate. First, I encourage you to take a few leaves, or even a good portion of a branch, to your local university extension office to get a final diagnosis. Sulfur could be the answer but you must use care in applying it as it is moderately toxic to humans and animals. Ask your local nursery for their recommendations on a specific product and exactly how to apply it. As for repotting, just go to a pot that is two or three inches larger all around the the one the plant is in now.
 
Hi there, I have a beautiful standard bay tree about 6.5 ft tall. I noticed last year that a few of the leaves had become mottled with light green. This seems to be spreading, more and more leaves are turning. Other than the mottling, these leaves seem to be perfectly healthy, and the tree itself is in great condition. Can you help? (I live in North Devon and the tree is in a sheltered south-facing position. It was repotted last year.) Hope you can help. Kind regards, LS
It's impossible to diagnose without seeing the plant so you will want to take a sample branch to someone local who can help you. The symptoms may indicate something as simple as a lack nutrients but they could also reflect a serious viral problem.
 
Hello and thank you for a wonderful site!! I have a small 1' bay about 4 years old (affectionately known as "Bay-by" of course) that is an indoor plant here in Wyoming. We have gone through scale, overwatering, harsh sunlight, blights and half of the Bush presidency together. I would love for the tree to grow taller, but it has a branched trunk at about 5" so there is no leader. We are now seeing very tall shoots of new growth (about 12") which are rather awkward on our "bonsai-like" bay. Should I let them grow recklessly, or trim them back? Will they help grow Bay-by taller? We are at 6500 feet in altitude--does that have any effect on the noble Bay? Thank you so much for your input! MS
Since there is no leader to your little tree, it probably won't grow taller in the way you might expect. It will grow, slowly, but it will have a tendency to bush out now. You can trim a bay tree just about any way you please and snipping will lead to a fuller-looking plant.
 
My bay leaf plant has copperish- colored leaves with some black spots on less than 10% of the plant. What is it and how can I save my beautiful plant? AL
It's next to impossible to accurately diagnose a plant problem without seeing it. Your best bet is collect a few affected leaves and take them to show to your local master gardeners or a professional at a nursery/garden center.
 
I moved into a new house a year ago, and have what I believe is a bay tree in my backyard. It smells similar to bay and the leaf appears to be a bay leaf. Are there any look alikes that could be poisonous that I should be careful of? I am only hesitant to try an herb I am not absolutely certain of. AS
You are wise to use caution with plants that you aren't sure about. Your best bet is to trim a small twig and take it to someone who specializes in herbs, perhaps at a garden center or nursery.
 
I bought a bay tree over a year ago. It grew well until we moved to an apartment and went through a long hot Arizona summer. When we watered the tree it gave off a weird odor. We let it dry out and all the leaves fell off. We were left with bare stems. One main stem remained green. We thought the plant was gone but yesterday noted a green shoot with several leaves on it. We moved the plant to a sunny area on the patio. Is this plant a goner or do we have a chance? DP
Sounds like there is hope since you have green shoots. Time will tell.
 
Our Bay Tree is suddenly sweating clear sticky liquid that is actually spritzing our hardwood floor with a fine sticky mist. The leaves look like they have been misted but to touch they are dripping with sap-like liquid. I booted her outside and sprayed her down but we are in MN and winter is just around the corner. She has to come in again but if I have to deal with this mess she has to die. She is over 10 years old. JRG
The sticky liquid is  "honeydew," excrement from some sort of insect. With a bay tree it is likely scale but impossible to say without seeing the plant. Inspect it closely to see if you notice any bugs and be sure to check out the rest of this page for other problems and solutions.
 
I have a bay leaf tree that is infested by small aphid-like bugs that cause the new leaves to curl under on one side, causing the curled portion to turn yellow and brittle, and the bugs leave small white debris on the back-sides of the leaves (lightweight, look like husks or something). The bugs themselves have wings, they're light brown, and are lightning fast launchers when you disturb them. They're really doing a ugly number on the tree (which is one of my favorites) any advice would be welcomed in terms of getting rid of these pests!  Thanks! DL
Hmmm, sounds like thrips. Do a Google image search to double check me. If it is, you can encourage or release beneficial bugs like lacewings, lady beetles or predatory mites. For a quicker fix, you could try insecticidal soap.
 
I have two standard bay trees given to me as a Christmas present this year. They are about 3 ft tall each. The new growth has leaves that have a weird curling pattern, as if they were closing around a caterpillar. There isn't a caterpillar inside the furl, only black speckles. Can you please tell me what this is, and how to prevent this happening in future? Many thanks. AR
Could be leaf rollers. Try doing a Google search on them to see if you can make a match.
 
Hello, I just purchased two small Laurel Bay plants. I have a lot of leaves. Can I freeze the leaves for later use during the winter? If so, exactly how do I freeze them? Is drying better than freezing? Also, how do I maintain my plants over the winter? Do I have to bring them inside my house? TW
You know, with two plants you will probably have all the fresh leaves you'll need so there might not be much point in preserving them. I've never thought about freezing them but you would likely end up with mushy leaves if you did. You could try just laying a few out in a single layer and freezing them to see what happens. Your climate dictates winter care. Don't expose the plants to temperatures much below 20-25 degrees (F).
 
I saw some possible similarities between my problem and others in your bay q&a. I’ve nipped off just about all the new growth because the new leaves were curling (parallel to the centre), and I thought this could be peach leaf curl as it had been very wet and I couldn’t see signs of any insect infestation. Then I noticed some leaves had a sprinkling of small white cubic crystals. The old leaves seem fine. Do you know what this is and is there any way of preventing it in future? JT
I'm stumped on this one although the white crystals seem familiar to me in a way I can't remember! One thing though, could it be salt? Either from watering or some use in the local environment?
 
I have a 4/5 year old potted bay, it has always stood in the same place. Last year it was inundated by the common house fly for most of the summer, they swarmed all over it. Leaving it looking rather sad. I didn't treat it with anything as I didn't know what to try. When the cooler weather arrived they disappeared, and the bay returned to a healthy looking tree. Now this year as the weather warms up they are returning again. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Regards C
First make sure they really are house flies. Tachinid flies look very similar and are a good bug that eats caterpillars. If they are house flies, this is really unusual. I can't find any source that addresses them as a plant pest. I suppose the best thing to do would be to hang some fly paper near your plant but you might want to contact your local extension office to see if they can offer any advice.
 
HI, I have a bay tree in a large pot outside that is about 6 years old. Last year I noticed a few small grey disc like things on the underside of the leaves, this year there are a quite a lot of them, the leaves are not curling or going brown but they are being eaten, I cannot see any sign of any other pests such as caterpillars. Any I deas? J, Sussex, England
Might be scale. Please see the below for a link listed as 'a good online article about scale.'
 
We have an established bay bush growing in a large tub outdoors. Now in its 5th year it has suddenly developed curling leaves at the top – the youngest leaves are almost all affected. The curl is parallel to the centre line, leaving the leaves looking like needles. There’s no obvious sign of infestation. Any advice as to what is causing it and how we can remediate would be welcome. JT
This sounds like a very unusual condition. Peach leaf curl is a fungus disease but your description doesn't meet typical symptoms of that. It might be an indication that your plant has come in contact with an herbicide. Your best bet is to take a sample to your local county extension office for accurate diagnosis.
 
I want to take a cutting from a bay leaf tree that belonged to my grandfather. This tree has sentimental value as he planted it when he came over from Italy. Will it grow from a transplant and if so, where and how much do I cut? Thank you! LFC
Please see the entry that is highlighted 'start a "new" rosemary plant' on the Gardening Q&A Page for a link to help you.
 
Hi, We have two ball bay trees in large pots. Many new shoots have come through this spring/summer. But now I am noticing the leaves on the inside branches have turned yellow and are falling off. What can I do? Many thanks in advance. Kindest regards CM
I'm afraid yellow leaves are symptomatic of a wide variety of problems. Consider overwatering, rootbound in the pot, lack of nutrients, lack of sunlight and just a natural cycle of plant life all as potential problems.
 
Hi I wonder if you could help, I have 8 bay trees soil planted and one has a lot of bare branches and some yellowing leaves. what can I do to help it? I also live in Scotland, could it be damaged by the weather?
The yellowing leaves could indicate a drainage problem but it could really be anything. Since I'm not familiar with your climate, you would probably get more help from a local expert.
 
We have a bay leaf tree about 3-4 feet high - we received this plant almost a year ago and keep it inside in a room that receives good light throughout the day. I give the tree about 4-5 cups of water every week (usually when the soil looks dry). However, it seems that a lot of the leaves are turning brown and falling off; I'd say about 1/2 of the tree looks healthy, while the other half looks "dead". Please advise on what we can do to keep this tree alive. Thanks in advance for your help! STP
I wonder if your plant is close to a heating vent? You might also check the bark for scale and/or the leaves for mealy bugs. Both are common pests on houseplants.
 
My potted bay tree is 2 years old. We live in Canada and have kept the tree indoors - except for the tree's first summer with us. The tree has been sitting in a west-facing window. A few months ago I was thrilled to see new shoots growing at the top of the plant, but then all of a sudden the shoots shrivelled, all the leaves turned brown, curled and almost all of them have fallen off, and I'm now left with twigs in a pot, which is distressing. I have not re-potted since getting the plant or fertilised - was this my problem? Is it too late or can I still revive the plant? Most of the stems are woody, but at least one stem is still relatively green? Any advice much appreciated. -JK
It is hard to say what went wrong with the new growth of your plant although it may have been scale. This insect often attacks indoor plants. Check the bark closely for small, hard, shield-like formations. You might tend to the "twigs" for awhile as if they were a healthy plant and see if it makes a comeback. Don't be tempted to overwater, however.
 
We live in New England and we have received some bay leaf branches from the southern part of Italy. The leaves are still pliable, not dry, have berries, but have no roots at the stems. Is it possible to root them or is our only option to dry them? If so, can you suggest the best method to do so? LR
My motto when wondering about things like this is: can't hurt to try. I would make a new cut to the stem, dip it into a rooting hormone and pop it into some sand to see what happens. You can dry the leaves by placing them in a single layer between some screening. Keep them in a dry airy place out of direct sunlight for a few weeks.
 
Hi, I have a recipe that calls for 6 ground Bay Leaves. I need to know approximately how much 6 ground Bay Leaves equal in teaspoons. Obviously I have ground Bay Leaves. Thks…IM
I ground up six average size bay leaves and ended up with not quite a teaspoon.
 
I have been searching for a bay laurel plant for quite some time now. I often make gumbo & love the added flavor bay leaves add. All the local nursery's I've visited don't carry them. I live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Any suggestions? PJL
You could always order one online (or go to the website and find a number to call). You will find transplants available from Territorial Seed Company and Raintree Nursery.
 
Hi. I just found your site, and read through many of the Q and A's. I bought a bay laurel this past summer, and had it outside until about September (in NJ). Brought it into my kitchen, where it gets bright light all day-- strong sun in the mornings when it was warmer. The plant's leaves are still a deep green, and there are baby shoots on the one stem, but it seems to be the same size, and none of these new leaves are developing! From what I've read, I think I may be watering too much, but is there anything else I can do to encourage growth upward and outward? I've been afraid to fertilize without knowing how much. Thanks. PW
Keep in mind that many plants, even those in pots, may go dormant in the winter. Bay laurels grow slowly to begin with. Wait another month or two and apply a water-soluble fertilizer once as you begin to re-introduce it to the outdoors again. And do watch out for overwatering!
 
Hi. I read all your articles and emails about bay leaves but to my surprise most of the bay leaves tree are small. In my case, I lived in CA, and we have 1.3 acre lot and it surrounded by California bay leaves. We have more than 50 bay leaves trees and their huge. I am even thinking if I can use this resources to start a business. So please let me know, if there's any business opportunities for these. Thank you very much. Sincerely, CJ
It is important to identify the exact species of your tree. The bay that we like to cook with is Laurus nobilis. California bay, Umbellularia californica, is not edible but could be used for crafting projects. As for business opportunities, once you have established the type of tree, perhaps your local Small Business Administration office could give you some pointers.
 
Is there a health danger to eating bay leaves, or is this just an old wives tale? L
Below (near the bottom) you will find several questions that address the "hazards" of eating bay leaves.
 
Hello, I have a 20 year old bay tree doing very well expect this year it seems to have about 40 suckers which have grown very quickly and are very strong. Do I just take to them with the pruning shears or is there some other way to eliminate them. T
Pruning shears will be your best bet. Just nip them close to the base but take care not to harm the main trunk.
 
I have a bay laurel tree that I bought last year. It is in a 12inch container. It has grown about 2 1/2 feet. It is just a tall skinny trunk with leaves from the bottom to the top. Three new plants have come up at the bottom this summer. My question is how do I trim the tree so it will grow wider in the shape of a pyramid like it should be? When should I do this? I live in South Carolina. DC
You will want to remove those new plants, "suckers," from the plant right away. You can harvest leaves from the plant year around but major pruning is best done in the spring beginning after the second year's growing season. Once the plant has reached the height that you want, remove the uppermost leaves and it will begin to take on a more desirable shape.
 
I live in Northern Indiana so I do not think my Bay Tree would thrive in our sometimes sub zero weather. My tree is probably about 15 years old and almost 8 feet tall. The structure of the tree is pretty much free formed and at this time has gotten gangly with leaves on the ends of the branches. The height is starting to be way too tall for my house also. I wondered if I pruned the branches to a more manageable length would new leaves develop there even though there are no leaves there now? If I top the plant would that stop the heightening? I have been keeping it in a building where it gets some afternoon light but not a lot with very cool temperature through the winter...maybe around 40 degrees. This year I brought it in the house where it will get more light but the temperature will be higher...maybe around 65 most of the time. Which environment would be better for the plant to winter in? There are no heat ducts near where it would be in either place. Thanks, I just found your site and like it a lot. CSG
Trimming back the branches of your bay should result in a bushier plant although it may take time. Once you remove the uppermost leaves it will stop growing up and begin to grow out. Pruning is best done in the spring. Although inside the house will probably be fine, my gut tells me that it would prefer the cooler building where there are no artificial environmental controls. In either location, resist the temptation to overwater.
 
Dear Sir: We have a bay tree that is three feet high. We have had the tree for about five years. We keep the tree inside for the winter and outside in the summer. Everything was fine until we brought it in one night and it was all sticky. The wife took it outside and sprayed it and brought it back in. But what we have noticed is that the leafs curl up and drop off. We have not seen any bugs on it. But it still gets sticky and we have to spray it again. The leaf when it falls off goes yellow and has a brown line on the outside of the leaf. Could you tell us what could cause this and how to solve the problem. BOS
It is hard to say without seeing the plant but I could guess that you have a case of "scale." The stickiness is called honeydew and is the excrement of the bug that is sucking plant juices that kill the leaves. University of California at Davis provides a good online article about scale.
 
Hi, I'm from Cambridge, UK. We have just moved into a house where a 15 ft bay tree takes up a large sunny portion of the garden. It seems a real shame to cut the whole thing down as it is so well-established, but space is required for other plants/vegetables. I would like to prune to about 5 or 6 ft, but the trunks are quite thick and I wonder if it would sprout heathly new growth at this size, and whether it could be re-trained. Can you advise me?
A 15 foot tree is beyond my knowledge of growing herbs. I think you should contact a tree expert in your local area.
 
I have a bay tree/bush that is about 5 tall but I want to transplant it. I live in Charlotte North Carolina. Should I transplant in Fall or Spring? DT
Fall is a good time to move plants so that they have a chance to establish their new roots before it gets too hot again.
 
We have a bay leaf tree in Dallas. It grows magnificently every summer. However, we have two distinct leaf shapes/flavours. One leaf is serrated and the other straight edged. We're assuming this is a grafted plant, but don't know which branches to prune? Thanks GL
I think this is one of those questions that you should ask a local expert like a Master Gardener. You can find one in your area by Googling the words Master Gardener along with the name of your county.
 
Hi, I have a 6 ft high believe over 20 year old bay tree, we have kept it in shape by pruning each year but, this year we noticed all the leaves seem to go brown over a couple of days, I then noticed a 8 inch split up the trunk where you can see right into the trunk. There is a white mildew around the trunk and on some of the branches? I am resigned to lose the tree, I just wanted to know if this is a regular occurrence. Can you assist please. Thanks. MR
Here is a link to an article entitled "The Causes of Bark Splitting" from the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
 
Sir: Please help, we have two beautiful bay trees, transplanted from large pots in to the ground around 12 months ago. They are around 3ft 6” each. This was a harsh winter with heavy frost, but they are quite well sheltered from wind as we have a walled garden. One is thriving the other seems at death’s door – it has woolly Aphids, the bark of the trunk is splitting and most of the branches are very brittle, the majority of the leaves have fallen off, wither and drop. I have treated twice with a strong systemic preparation – is there hope of recovery? We are now in a very dry spell but are feeding and watering regularly. Many Thanks for your help. RR
Gee, you have done everything right but it sounds like it might be too late. Since you have used the systemic insecticide with little effect, I'm not sure what else would work. I think, if I were you, I would wage war on them with the garden hose. A strong stream of water aimed directly at the pests on a regular basis can do a world of good.
 
Could you please help me. I have a bay tree that is approx 6 years old and has developed yellow leaves and a white powdery fungus on the stems about 6" up from ground level. What is this and how can I treat it and could it affect my other one that is about 10 feet away? thank you AN
Sounds like powdery mildew which is, as you say, a fungal disease. It often arrives during times of hot days and cool nights or if the plant doesn't have adequate circulation. Once established, it is difficult to control. You might check with your local garden center to see if they can recommend a fungicide that you would be comfortable applying yourself.
 
Hi there. We live about 1000ft above sea level in Wales and have a bay tree which stands about 5 ft high. We purchased it 3 years ago and up until now it has done really well. Recently, the leaves at the tips have started to turn yellow, which I presumed was just shedding but I have noticed that the leaves are starting to turn brown and the tips of each branch are starting to turn black. Does this mean that it is dieing back. I haven`t over watered it, the only thing I have done differently this year is that I have moved it to another area of the garden. I hope you can offer some advice. Regards W
The plant could be suffering transplant shock. I wonder if the new location is very windy. Bays prefer a sheltered location. We have covered the culture of bay laurel quite a bit in the Q&A lately so you might scroll down this page and/or check out the Bay Q&A Page for further information.
 
I have a bay leaf plant that I pruned last year and the new young leaves do not have the same texture of the original plant; in fact they are very tender to the touch and are not hardening. Is this normal? If I place the plant in full sun it just burns the leaves and they just wilt and shrivel. What should I do to get this plant back to producing the dense, thick leaves that it once had? PB
Maybe you should just give the new leaves more time to grow and develop. It is normal for new growth to be tender.
 
Have two lovely bay trees in pots and the leaves have suddenly turned bright yellow in the centre. Am I over - watering? How often should I water them? Thanks for your help. LR
 
Hello, I live in the UK and have 2 bays, one standard about 12 years and one pyramid 3 years, the problem is both are developing yellow leaves but only on old wood, all the new growth is very healthy looking. All the old leaves seem to be turning yellow - help please.
 
hi, we have two bay trees in our garden they were very healthy up until recently when the leaves have begun to turn yellow and we don't know why. We live in Bromsgrove near Birmingham, in England, the climate varies, but it is very hot at the moment. They are very well looked after and have plenty of room to grow in huge pots. We were wondering if they are turning yellow because of the hanging baskets which are above them because these need lots of water, it could drip of them onto the bay trees, this is the only solution we could think of. if you have any idea we would be grateful of an answer to the question. thanks
My goodness, we have yellowing bay leaves all over the world! Chances are, they are getting too much water. Bay is a Mediterranean plant and doesn't like wet feet. Regular watering should be dictated by when the soil has dried out, not by a set schedule. The point about the yellowing developing on the older leaves is an indicator of a nitrogen deficiency. Bay laurel shouldn't be fertilized more than once a year, preferably in the Spring, but that could be a part of the problem too.
 
Is there a tree that looks the same as bay leaf tree? CSR
There are really two bay leaf trees: Laurus nobilis, or Mediterranean bay leaf, the one we like as an herb, and the California bay tree, Umbellularia californica, which is not particularly tasty.
 
When we purchased our home 10 years ago, the bay leaf tree in the yard was 3-4 feet tall; it is now at least 15 feet tall. It is against the house - the trunk about 2 feet away. It is situated on the northeast corner and shaded by two live oak trees from the north to the south with the house protecting it from the west. What should I be doing with my tree -- can money be made from the leaves? We trimmed the top last year when a hurricane was heading our way to protect the shingles, but my husband didn't do anything with the "limbs" until after the storm was over. The yard smelled very nice, but it was clearly a waste. Any ideas? Thank you, JB
You might be able to sell the fresh leaves but I doubt there would be much money in it. Perhaps you could contact someone who sells herbs at your farmer's market or at a nearby farm stand to see if they have any interest.
 
Hi. I live in Ireland and I have 2 bay leaf trees that my Mum is babysitting for me. They are situated outside either side of a porch and are west facing but have been doing quite well until now. This weekend I noticed the new growth was tinged with black & it is quite widespread. We have had some fine weather followed by some wind and rain last week so the climate has been a bit mixed. Any idea what the problem could be? Thanks for any advice. AF
The problem could be leaf blight, caused by a fungal disease. A second indicator will be if the leaves turn yellow as they grow. Keep an eye on the plants and if symptoms continue to develop check with a local expert about how best to address the problem.
 
Help please. I have a bay tree in my garden which is about forty years old. It was indoors in a pot for about four years and was then moved to the garden. It is a beautiful tree about twenty five feet high. This year several small outer branches of about two feet in length have died. The branches and the leaves are all brown. There are spots and small patches of a white powdery substance on many of the main branches. When these first appeared last year I thought it was droppings from the many birds (pigeons and collared doves mainly) which regularly nest there. Can anyone please tell me what is the problem and how can I cure it? BB
This glorious tree sounds like far more than an herb plant! On first impulse I would say the powdery substance is powdery mildew, a fungal disease, but the problem must be identified for certain before beginning any type of treatment. Given the size of your tree and its age, I think you might want to consider consulting with a professional arborist.
 
I have a beautiful bay tree that I planted in my yard about 3 years ago when it was only about 6" high. It is now about 4' tall and very bushy and healthy looking. But today I noticed that some of the leaves are turning yellow in some areas, and one edge of these leaves is tightly curled. I picked all of the curled leaves off, but I'm wondering if
that is good enough or should I do more to protect my tree? SL
I think you have done the right thing by removing the affected growth, at least for now. The damage could have come from aphids, check the new growth carefully for the tiny sucking pests and if you see them, douse the infested areas  with a strong stream of water every couple of days for awhile. Keep a close eye on the plant and continue giving it tender, loving care.
 
Hi I have recently been given a bay tree which was taken from a cutting. I recently looked at it and it looks like it has developed black spot, is this possible or is it just aphid attack. I live in the UK. CG
Black spot is a fungal disease that is difficult to control once it has begun. It is common to roses. Learn more about it by following this link. You can check for aphids by looking closely at the new growth--these tiny pests are white, green or reddish and can usually be knocked off the plant with a good strong stream of water.
 
Hello. I have a bay tree in a pot in my garden. It has a lovely long stem and it is trimmed into a gorgeous ball shape on top. Unfortunately, over the last few months, many of the leaves have small brown spots all over them. I use the leaves in cooking usually, so I have had to take only the leaves that look healthy and they are rapidly running out. Have you any idea what my problem may be? Many thanks. A
It's hard to say exactly what the problem might be without seeing the damage but I wonder if maybe your plant was exposed to low temperatures over the winter. Check the plant carefully for some sort of pest, especially on the underside of the leaves. One suggestion might be to slowly remove the affected leaves, just a few at a time, to encourage new and healthy growth.
 
Hi, I have a bay tree with black soot on the underneath of the leaves. Can you help with what would get rid of it. I have tried washing the leaves which are getting less in number. Thanks, yours KW
Sooty mildew is a fungus that results from the "honeydew" left by pests like aphids, scale and mealybugs. Look closely at the plant to see if you can determine which pest. Aphids cluster on new growth. Scale forms little shield-like growths on the bark and mealy bugs are cottony. Bay laurel is susceptible to scale which is very hard to eradicate. University of California at Davis provides a good online article about scale.
 
Sir, We have a bay tree (bush) how do we dry the leaves so we can use them in cooking. Yours, C&P
Please see below (near the bottom) for ways to dry your leaves.
 
I live in Montana and have a 10 year old Laurus nobilis kept indoors all year. The tree is ~ 5' tall in a pot ~18" H and W. Will the tree continue to grow and be healthy in this size pot? CF
This is about the limit for a bay tree that size but it should be okay for another year or two. The best thing to do is keep an eye on it and if it begins to show signs of stress, transplant to a slightly larger pot or consider root trimming. The Bountiful Container book has good information on this subject.
 
Our Bay Leaf Tree is over 6 years old and just recently for the first time we have noticed that it has berries on it. Can these be eaten or used or discarded? Does this mean the tree is going to die? Many thanks. K in UK.
Your tree is fine. The berries are a natural occurrence that indicate your tree is healthy, happy and well-established. The references I came across mentioned that the seeds have been used medicinally in the past and may be pressed for essential oils even today but I can't recommend eating or using them at home.
 
I always consider daphne and bay leaves are the same. Is that right? K
Thanks to the mythical Apollo and Daphne, the bay laurel tree is sometimes called daphne, especially in Greece. Have you seen the article "All About Bay Leaves?"
 
Another reader responds: This answer doesn't say anything about Daphne Mezereum, which is quite a common plant in gardens, particularly in the American west coast area. It is actually a spurge, and is toxic. See this page, in the Etymology section: http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Laur_nob.html ...where it says: "In modern botanical terminology, Daphne denotes the genus of the toxic plant spurge laurel (Daphne mezereum, Thymelaeaceae/Thymeleanales/Dilleniidae)." Please update the answer to that question, and consider mentioning the confusion on your page about Bay Laurel. At the very least, the spurge kind wouldn't taste right! Love your site, BTW.
 
Where can you purchase the bayleaf bush? Thank you. M
Bay laurel trees are common to nurseries and garden centers. You might call around to your favorites and see if they have them in stock or might be able to order one for you.
 
I have two bay leaf trees in the porch and recently encountered a problem with little green caterpillars I have treated it and it seems to have gone. One of the trees is ok but the others leaves have all gone brown and dry. It has never been repotted and when lifted out of the pot they are clearly visible. Is it dead or can it be saved, the soil was very dry also so it has been watered. If I remove the leaves it will be bare and there is no sign of new leaves, is it a matter of repotting and hoping. What soil is best? HELP! CJ
If the roots that you can see on the plant are a healthy white, the plant should be able to recover. Move it to a pot that is only about 2 inches larger than the one it is in, use a good quality potting soil (one that is made for containers, available at garden centers or superstores), water it well but not too often and wait to see what happens. I think I would just leave the brown leaves as they are for now allowing them to fall off on their own.
 
Hello, I have a bay tree in a pot that I purchased about 5 years ago at a wonderful herb farm in Massachusetts. It was about 10" tall when I purchased it and now it stands almost 4' feet tall so I am very pleased and proud ! The first question I have is how to prune it. Although it has grown alot it seems to be rather scraggly and shapeless. I an also wondering if pruning it will help in it's growth. Too, although I have always kept the tree inside, I now live in the panhandle of Florida and am thinking of putting it outside for the summer. My concern is about pests, etc. I would really hate to put it in jeopardy. Thank You for your help.
Your tree sounds marvelous. You can prune it into shape, if you would like. Make your snips just above a spot where leaves are sprouting from the stem. Once you take off the uppermost leaves, those at the very tip top of the plant, it will stop growing taller and begin to get more bushy. I'm sure the plant would enjoy your climate. Scale is the biggest pest to watch for when you put it outside. This forms in hard patches on the bark. When I lived in Louisiana, I had an occasional problem with caterpillars who liked to roll up in the leaves. I read that you can just squish them and remove that leaf.
First I live in Nevada outside of Las Vegas . The nursery assured me that bay trees thrive in this climate. I have a new to me bay tree which is bushy. I just read on your site that over watering can be a problem. I was innocently over watering because the leaves have become very dry and brittle. The potted tree, as of today, is outside. It was in a south facing window. The window facing leaves are turning orange. My hope is that the tree is going to be okay. Thank you for your help. SD
Now that you have moved it outdoors, I suspect your bay tree's health will improve. Just make sure it doesn't get too much of the harsh afternoon sun as the seasons progress. The leaves can scorch. You should also check the plant carefully for any sort of insects that could be causing the leaf problems. Give your plant another month, watching it carefully and watering moderately. If it hasn't recovered by then I think I would call the nursery and request that they replace it.
I live in Mallorca. My bay tree is in a large container on my terrace (S.E. facing, but with afternoon shade). This summer the leaves have become blackened with some stickiness and there are woolly aphids on the trunk. I have sprayed with an anti-mildew preparation and the stickiness seems to be going, but what can I use for the aphids please. S
Aphids are certainly an annoying pest. The black stickiness is a by-product of them so if you get rid of the critters it will go away too. The first plan of attack is to spray the aphids with a strong blast of water, basically spraying them away. I haven't had much luck with this method, honestly, so you might move on to a careful treatment of insecticidal soap. I say careful because this kills good bugs as well as the aphids. Another idea, for more advanced infestations is a neem product. You might ask for recommendations at your local garden center or nursery.
What can be used in place of bay leaf? I have to make liver sausage that calls for bay leaves. TKS
Bay leaf adds a rather subtle bitter taste that compliments other herbs. You could probably enhance your sausage with thyme, marjoram or savory rather than the bay. I wonder, however, if you are hesitating to use bay because of the reputation for choking since you wouldn't be able to remove it before serving. If this is the case, you might look for ground bay leaves. They would still give you the advantage of the flavor without that hazard.
I have a large well established bay tree planted in the ground. It is losing quite a lot of leaves which turn yellow and drop. It is in well drained soil. Any ideas? AD
Yellowing leaves are often a sign of overwatering, a common mistake in caring for bay trees. If your tree is well established and you are getting regular rainfall, it will probably do fine without additional water.
Dear Bay Tree Advisor: Hoping you can help. I have two well established Bay standards in big containers that are about 5 foot high. They have been thriving well on the patio until recently when I noticed that there seems to be bite marks on the
leaves and some of the leaves have started to shrivel up and turning an orangey colour! In short they don't look well at all.....can you help? KL
My first impulse is to suggest that the problem is some sort of rust, a disease that will create rust-colored splotches on the leaves. I can't find any answers to why this infects a plant but sources do recommend removing and burning affected leaves to prevent spreading. Rust doesn't explain the bite marks, however, so I'm not quite sure. Inspect your plant closely to see if you might have small green webworms.
I have a bay leave tree (for six years) that almost died; I cut off all the dead foliage this spring and replanted in new soil and a larger container. Now the tree has ‘come back’, there is new foliage. It gets morning sun but during the afternoon the ‘very’ newest foliage starts to droop. Is this normal? Additionally, should you cut back the foliage at the top so that the tree will bush? Many Thanks, CB
The drooping may just be from the fact that the young leaves can't support themselves fully yet. I would keep an eye on it and see how they develop. Once you take the uppermost leaves, the plant won't grown any higher but it will bush out better.
Hi, I live in the UK and I have a pair of 6 year old bay trees in containers and around this time of year they get leaf curl. Not all over the plant but at the extremities of each branch. It's not that bad but will it get worse and is there a remedy? A.
I did a bit of research on this and it sounds as if you might have a fungal disease known as peach leaf curl. Common during a moist spring, it can be prevented by early applications of a copper-based fungicide. Unless your trees are losing an inordinate amount of leaves, it won't kill them and should go away as the season progresses. You might want to take a sample of the affected leaves to your local garden center and see if they can help you with a proper diagnosis and treat the problem, if necessary.
I was given a bay tree a few weeks ago. The leaves are turning brown. I have removed it to a spot where it only gets the morning sun. Should I remove all the brown leaves. Are they still usable? It is in a container and has never been repotted. Should I plant it in the ground? Is this an ok time of year to do that? Thanks....love your website. L
I'm not sure why your leaves might be turning brown but I would go ahead, remove them and not eat them. Make sure your tree is getting at least six hours of sunlight each day and don't overwater. You would only want to plant it in the ground if you are sure that your temperatures won't fall below 25 degrees (F). This would be a good time of year to do it.
I just bought a Bay tree and I'm going to pot it, the temp. during the late spring, all summer and early fall is as high as 156 degrees indirect sun and 120 in the shade. My question is how will my tree fare here in southern Nv. L
Hard to tell how it will do in that harsh climate. If it were my plant I would try to keep it in a place where it could soak up some of the morning sun but retreat to the shade for the rest of the day. Keep us posted!
 
Hello, I grew a bay leaf tree in my back yard ,but it stopped growing due to some disease. Just wondering if you could tell me the disease. Its covered with white specks. TB
Bay laurels are most susceptible to scale, sucking creatures that wind up leaving a small shell on the bark while also encouraging the growth of powdery mildew. Scale is nearly impossible to eradicate, especially in advanced cases.
 
Hi, I live in Fort Payne Ala. This is in the Northeast part of the state. Can I grow a bay leaf tree out side or would I need to keep it potted? Do I need 2 plants for pollination? Thank you. WHALA
If your winter temperatures drop below 15-20 degrees (F) you will probably want to keep it in a pot so that you can move it around to protect from extremes. I haven't ever heard of a bay laurel flowering so pollination isn't really an issue.
 
Is it important to remove bay leaves from food before the food is served. If so, why? OS
Aside from being tough and unappetizing to chew on, bay leaves present a choking hazard if left whole in foods.
 
I have a potted Bay Leaf tree that is approximately 10 years old. I recently noticed that the leaves are turning brown. I can find no trace of any kind of insect, including scale on the plant. Can you give me an idea about what the problem could be? Joan G. in NJ
Sounds like a nice bay tree. If just a few of your leaves are turning brown, I'd say this is probably just a natural matter of replacing old leaves with new ones. It could also be that it is getting too much sun. Although they like plenty of light, The Herbfarm book mentions that they can burn in harsh sunlight. Maybe you should also check the drainage, they don't like standing in water but should never dry out completely either. Or it could be time to change the soil in the pot, some fresh soil mix might be just what it needs.
 
I was once told that bay leaves fresh from the tree were poisonous. Is this correct?
You just need to be sure that you are taking leaves from the Bay Laurel plant. Read more at "All About Bay Leaves."
 
I live in Florida and would like to know where I could purchase a Bay Tree. GM
Bay laurel trees are common to nurseries and garden centers in the south. You might call around to your favorites and see if they have them in stock or might be able to order one for you. You could also check on the links in the question below this one, especially if you live anywhere near North Fort Myers.
 
Are bay leaves bad for your heart? DN
Not that I'm aware of, but as I always say, this site is for culinary information and makes absolutely not health claims. I did do a search at the American Heart Association's webpage and they had many, many recipes calling for bay leaves as a seasoning. One danger with bay leaves are as a choking hazard and they should be removed from a dish before serving.
 
I have a laurel bush in my garden. If a recipe asks for bay leaf, is this what I use? H
Bay laurel, botanically known as Laurus nobilis, is the only member of the laurel family that is edible. If you are uncertain that this is what is in your garden, check with a local garden center or agricultural office before adding the leaves to your recipes. See a photograph of one bay laurel in our photo library.
 
Hi, I have just picked some bay leaves from a relatives garden but don't know how you dry them and if they need washed etc. Please can you give me some help!!
You don't really need to wash them, just sort of brush them off.  The leaves will curl up if you let them dry naturally so you might prevent this by placing them under a weighted screen if possible.  The curling really isn't a big deal unless they are very small.  I do encourage you to use as many of them as you can in this fresh state.  They are terrific! 
 
I read your article about bay leaves with great interest. I was born and raised on Cape Hatteras, NC and we have lots of bay which we use extensively in bar-b-ques (Whole pork shoulders). My question is this? My father use to go in the woods and cut off White bay branches to be inserted into the meat. He said not to use red bay as it is bitter. I have been trying to find out the difference in the leaves but have been unable to do so. What do you think?
As I looked up bay laurel in my reference books for you, I noticed that the next entry was always bayberry. I think perhaps there in North Carolina you had both trees around. Bayberry is a fragrant shrub that grows in sandy soils around water. It is unrelated to bay laurel and not used for culinary purposes.
 
I have a bay tree, frequently use the leaves fresh, how would I dry/store them to share as Christmas gift? Love this site! Thanks for your help.
Try drying your bay leaves in thin layers on an old screen in a warm spot that's out of the direct sun. To keep the edges from curling, place a board atop them as a press. Allow to dry for about two weeks, then pack in airtight containers. Your friends are lucky to receive a gift like that!
 
 

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