Laurel Tree (Sweet Bay): Leaves, Flowers, Fruit (Pictures) – Identification Guide

The laurel tree has aromatic, dark-green lance-shaped leaves, clusters of pale-yellow flowers, and tiny black berries. It is an evergreen shrub-like tree. The bushy plant, which grows as a tiny tree, potted shrub, or evergreen hedge in warm regions, is also called sweet bay. This bushy plant is ideal for use in a garden environment or in a pot environment and thrives in either case.

Everything you need to know about growing the versatile laurel tree is covered in this article. You’ll also learn how to identify the Laurel nobilis (laurel) tree. Additionally, by looking at pictures of its leaves, fruit, and flowers, you may determine whether or not this plant is suited for your garden.

About the Laurel Tree (Bay Laurel)

The laurel tree (Laurus nobilis) is a flowering evergreen plant in the Lauraceae family. The Mediterranean has a small tree or big multi-stemmed shrub. A laurel tree has a pyramidal form and grows 23–60 feet (7–18 meters) tall in full sun or partial shade. The laurel tree is characterized by dense, leathery foliage. Lanceolate or narrowly ovate leaves are mentioned. The leaves are what make the laurel tree so well-known.

A laurel tree is suited for cultivation in USDA zones 8 through 10 because of its Mediterranean origins. The aromatic shrub, on the other hand, thrives as a container plant in temperate zones. This permits you to keep it safe from frost by bringing it indoors.

Many soups, stews, and sauces use Laurel leaves, also known as bay leaves. With minty overtones, aromatic leaves impart a distinctive herbal and slightly floral flavor to food. Dried bay leaves, on the other hand, are never consumed in their entirety because they are hard and pointy and may cause suffocation.

Laurus nobilis develops a rounded or pyramidal shape when dried bay leaves are used. The glossy olive green, sleek leaves of the shrub-like tree produce a deep leafy plant that grows fast. The laurel tree can be trimmed easily to limit its height, make a formal hedge, or topiary, thanks to its durability.

Bay laurel, sweet bay, and Grecian laurel are some of the common names for Laurus nobilis. True laurel is another name for the tree. Because of the common name laurel, which refers to English laurel or cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), and skip laurel, a number of unrelated plants and shrubs share the same name.

The power and triumph of the laurel tree have long been associated. Wreaths of laurel leaves were given to the victors in ancient Greece and Rome. A crown made out of laurel leaves was also common among Caesars and emperors. Surprisingly, the term baccalaureate, or bachelor’s degree, is derived from the Latin word for laurel berry, baccalaureus. In addition, encouraging laurel wreath winners not to get complacent is the origin of the phrase “rest on your laurels.”

Laurel Leaves

A leathery, aromatic, smooth dark blue-green blade with a lustrous finish is characterized as a laurel leaf. 2″ to 5″ (2.5 to 12 cm) long and up to 1.6″ (4 cm) broad, the pointed lanceolate laurel leaves The border of a laurel leaf is smooth, but it may be wavy.

Simple, ovate-shaped leaves with a short petiole (stem) are known as laurel leaves. The yellow veins are also visible on the smooth green glossy leaves. On stems, the evergreen leaves alternate. Drying laurel leaves makes them brittle and prone to shattering.

Laurel Flowers

Laurel blooms are tiny pale, yellowish-green blossoms that appear in thick clusters at the tips of branches and beside leaves. In the spring, when the masses of golden-yellow flowers contrast with the glossy dark-green leaves, laurel trees bloom. These tiny yellow clumps are 0.4″ (1 cm) in diameter.

Laurel Fruit

A glossy purple-black drupe that resembles a berry, the fruit of a laurel tree is shiny. The glossy black laurel berries are about 0.4 to 0.5 inches (1 to 1.2 cm) in diameter. While they are not poisonous, Laurus nobilis fruits are seldom used for cooking. It’s worth noting that other plants with the moniker “laurel” produce deadly berries. Toxic leaves and berries, for example, from cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), should never be consumed.

How to Identify Laurel Tree

The glossy, smooth, dark-green lanceolate leaves of a bay laurel tree are the easiest way to identify it. The laurel tree has a distinguishing pyramidal crown and develops thick leaves. In the spring, clusters of tiny yellow blooms adorn the bushy plant, followed by dark purple-black berries.

Bay Laurel Hedge

Bay laurel is a shrub-like plant that makes an excellent hedge, privacy screen, or living fence. The dense foliage of the bushy multi-trunked shrub stays green all year. To enhance privacy and protection in your yard, planting laurel shrubs in a row creates a stunning hedge.

Bay laurel is a slow-growing hedge that grows to be 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 1 meter) tall each year with minimal trimming. During the winter months, this low-maintenance hedge requires little care. When dead stems appear, simply cut them back.

The canopy of a typical Bay laurel tree spreads 12 to 15 feet (3.6 to 4.5 meters) wide. Space the plant 12 feet (3.6 meters) apart to produce a thick laurel hedge. You may leave 6 ft. (1.8 m) between planted laurel shrubs to get your hedge to fill out quicker. Cut out every second plant as soon as the foliage touches.

How to Care for Bay Leaf Tree

Grow the bay leaf plant in full sun to partial shade to care for a bay laurel tree. To keep the soilmoisture but not soggy, water the bay tree on a regular basis throughout the summer. Almost any soil type can support a laurel tree. Every spring, add some organic compost to the root zone.

Growing Bay Laurel Tree in Pots

Select a clay pot 12 inches (30 cm) wide and place the bay leaf tree in a combination of potting soil, compost, and perlite to cultivate a potted bay leaf tree. Pour enough water until it drains from the pot’s drainage holes whenever the top 2″ (5 cm) of soil is dry. For cultivating in containers, bay leaf trees are the best. Little upkeep is required for the tiny leafy tree. Bay laurel plants in pots only need enough sunlight and moisture to thrive.

Harvesting Sweet Bay Leaves

Pick bay laurel leaves any time of year, but summer is the preferred season. Harvest leaves from a sweet bay tree when it’s at least two years old to ensure complete flavor. Fresh or dried leaves may be utilized. The flavor is intensified and savory when dried bay leaves are added.

How to Dry Bay Leaves

Rinse the harvested leaves under cold water and then pat dry before drying bay leaves. Place the aromatic leaves in a warm, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and spread them out on a layer of parchment paper. In two weeks, dried bay leaves should be ready to use. Food dehydrators or warm ovens may be used to speed up the drying process. In an oven at 200°F (100°C), for example, dried bay leaves should take two hours to dry.

Using Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis) in Cooking

In Mediterranean cuisine, using bay leaf as an aromatic herb is common. In stews, soups, braises, and sauces, a whole bay leaf is usually added. During the entire cooking process, the leaf should remain in the pot. Now, before eating, take off the leaf. If you chew on dried bay leaves, they’ll sting your tongue and make your teeth ache. Bay leaves have a strong, unpleasant flavor, which makes them unpleasant to consume. When cooking food, adding a bay leaf produces a floral fragrance similar to thyme and oregano.

Laurel Tree (Sweet Bay) Care Guide

Let’s take a closer look at how to grow a laurel tree in your own yard or pot.

Where to Plant Laurel Tree

A laurel tree thrives in full sun and well-draining soil, but it can stand partial shade as well. At least six hours of sunlight per day is required for sweet bay laurels to thrive. The evergreen plant, on the other hand, thrives in partial shade just as well. In colder weather, the laurel tree requires shelter from harsh winds.

Good levels of organic matter, such as peat moss, composted manure, leaf mold, and humus, are necessary for bay laurels to thrive. Bay laurel, on the other hand, grows in a variety of soils. When planting a bay laurel tree, however, well-draining soil is the most important factor.

How to Plant Bay Laurel Tree 

To plant a bay laurel tree outdoors,Pick a sunny spot that is free of the wind, with structures at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) away. Then dig a hole twice as big as the root ball, at the same depth. Next, using organically rich soil and water thoroughly, place the tree in the hole and fill it with soil.

How to Water Bay Leaf Tree 

Without becoming waterlogged, water a bay laurel tree enough to keep the soil moist. During the growing season, bay laurels prefer to be watered once a week. You should, however, water it more often during hot weather. The laurel tree only needs a little watering during the winter dormancy.

The shallow roots of a bay laurel tree are a distinctive feature. As a result, the shrub-like tree requires frequent watering. You should also be careful when weeding near the plant not to damage the roots. Bay laurel trees may benefit from having a layer of mulch added.

Sweet Bay Tree — Temperature and Humidity Requirements

The Mediterranean climate is the natural habitat of Bay laurel trees. As a result, warm weather favours the bushy shrub. The heat-loving laurel plant cannot tolerate temperatures below 20°F (-7°C) because it is hardy to zone 8. You should overwinter a bay laurel shrub indoors if you live in zone 7 or below. The ideal room temperature for healthy growth is between 70 and 80 degrees. A potted laurel plant, on the other hand, may suffer from humidity issues due to dryer household air.

Place the pot on a pebble tray half-filled with water to increase indoor humidity for a sweet bay plant. Instead, you may want to use a humidity generator to protect the leaves from falling and boost air moisture. Should you touch the bay laurel leaves? Leaf cleaning can be aided by misting and wiping them with a clean cloth. Yet, when growing a bay laurel indoors, it will do little to address humidity concerns.

Bay Laurel Tree Growth Rate

The growth of bay laurel is moderate, reaching an height of 4–8 inches (10–20 cm) per year. The quickest development will be achieved by growing the plant in full sunlight and providing it enough water. As a result, it takes many years for a bay laurel to reach full maturity.

How to Fertilize Laurel Tree

During the growing season, bay laurel trees benefit from regular fertilizer. As a result, throughout the growing season, it’s suggested to apply a generic fertilizer twice monthly. You may, however, employ a tree fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 24-8-16 to encourage robust leaf development. instead, every spring put slow-release granules in the root zone of compost.

Potted bay laurel trees usually require fertilizing every two weeks. It’s best to apply half a teaspoon of a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for every gallon (3.7 l) of water. As with all potted plants, hold off fertilizing during dormancy.

Pruning Bay Laurel Tree

In the spring, prune a bay laurel tree to encourage healthy development. It’s normally best to trim your tree down to one-third of its original size. Bay laurel trees, on the other hand, are tolerant of severe pruning. You may cut back to just below the damaged stem if the laurel plant has been frosted.

Repotting Bay Leaf Tree 

When the roots of a potted bay leaf tree are somewhat restricted, it thrives. Nevertheless, every two or three years, the plant may need to be repot. Make sure that the new container has enough space for the roots of your bay leaf tree to develop if you want to repot it. Always use a pot with drain holes.

Bay Leaf Plant Propagation

Seed or cuttings may be used to grow laurel trees. Cuttings from mature plants’ stems are the best way to propagate them. You can also sprout the seeds in a light soil mixture after collecting them from the berries.

Take stem cuttings from a bay laurel plant in the summer and plant them. Remove all the lower leaves from a 6″ (15 cm) portion of stem, leaving just a few at the top. Put the cuttings of bay laurel in a moist potting soil. Place in a safe location with indirect light. Unfortunately, this technique isn’t always effective in propagating.

Collect the seeds from female laurel tree berries to establish a bay laurel from seed. Then, straight into the earth, sow the seeds. alternatively, you may dry the seeds before planting them. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing them, then put them in a moist potting medium and keep them warm. Bay laurel seeds take between six and twelve months to sprout.

Pest and Diseases Affecting Bay Laurel Plants

Bay laurel trees are seldom infested by plant pests. Typical garden bugs, mites, and harmful insects are often deterred by aromatic leaves and a high concentration of essential oils. Additionally, many sap-sucking insects find it difficult to destroy leaves with their leathery surface.

When growing bay laurel shrubs indoors, scale insects may occasionally create issues. On the stems or leaves, you may see bumpy bugs. Scale insects may be killed on contact using rubbing alcohol, so if you discover any, check them out. As a preventative measure or to kill existing bugs, you can also apply a neem oil spray once a week.

Indoor and outdoor overwatering of bay laurel plants may lead to severe root rot. Moreover, fungus infections such as phytophthora target the roots and destroy them. This might cause bay leaves to become brown and limp, as well as streaks in the bark. Only watering the laurel plant when the soil is somewhat dry is the finest way to prevent root rot.

Why Are Laurel Bay Leaves Turning Yellow?

Overwatering is usually indicated by yellowing leaves on a bay laurel tree. When growing in damp soil, bay laurels have shallow roots that are susceptible to root rot. It’s a good idea to hold off watering until the ground has dried if you notice yellow bay leaves on your plant.

Why Are Laurel Bay Tree Leaves Dropping?

Evergreen bay leaves may fall without notice for a variety of reasons. Overwatering, frost damage, and a lack of nutrients are the three most common reasons for bay leaf falling. Yet, even healthy herbaceous evergreen plants will experience some leaf drop.

It’s more difficult to grow a bay laurel tree in a pot than outdoors. You may then need to boost nutrient levels by adding a balanced fertilizer with an NPK rating of 5-5-5. Just add water when the soil has mostly dried out to prevent overwatering a potted bay tree.

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