How to Grow Bay: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide

Bay (Laurus nobilis). Bay, also known as sweet bay, is a slow growing evergreen perennial native to the Mediterranean region, whose fresh or dried leaves are used in soups or stews. Bay is not hardy in Ontario and is therefore best grown in a container that can be placed outdoors in full sun in warmer weather, then moved indoors to a sunny location before the first frost.

Cultivation: Use a well-draining potting soil. Bay is susceptible to root rot so be careful not to overwater and do not allow the pot to sit in water. However, it must never be allowed to dry out completely. Fertilize with a general-purpose fertilizer every two weeks in the growing season – late spring through summer – and not at all in the winter when growth ceases. Bay lends itself to being shaped into a standard or other form of topiary.

Propagation by both seed and cuttings is slow, so store bought plants are often preferred.

Bay is prone to infestations of scale and mealy bugs.  Leaf spot may be a sign of overwatering or the need to repot.

Disclaimer: Toronto Master Gardeners does not advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. Any information in the recommended resources should be regarded as being for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.

For more information:

RHS ‘Bay Tree’ https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=251

RHS ‘Herbs-Growing’ https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=679

University of Illinois Extension https://web.extension.illinois.edu/herbs/bay-laurel.cfm

Herb Society of America (HSA) Quick Facts (Bay)https://herbsocietyorg.presencehost.net/file_download/inline/4dbd2651-6faa-483b-8d8e-72a7714b0da8

Herb Society of America (HAS) Essential Herb Guide: (Bay) https://www.herbsociety.org/file_download/inline/1cd1802d-70ea-4fb8-a14b-4f4bb72e2435

University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension  https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/sweet-bay-laurus-nobilis/

ASK Extension https://ask.extension.org/search/all?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=bay+laurel+pests

Date revised: December 2021

Prepared by the Toronto Master Gardeners, these Gardening Guides provide introductory information on a variety of gardening topics.  Toronto Master Gardeners are part of a large, international volunteer community committed to providing the public with horticultural information, education and inspiration.  Our goal is to help Toronto residents use safe, effective, proven and sustainable horticultural practices to create gardens, landscapes and communities that are both vibrant and healthy.

Statement on Invasive Plants: When choosing plants, avoid invasive plants, which can spread quickly and dominate gardens.  Invasive plants are sold by nurseries, big box stores or even at community plant sales.  Invasives may already be present in your garden.  They can invade gardens by spreading from under a neighbour’s fence or may be transported by wildlife.  For beautiful, sustainable options to invasive plants, see the Ontario Invasive Plant Council’s “Grow Me Instead – Beautiful Non-Invasive Plants for your Garden” at https://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/resources/grow-me-instead/ before purchasing or accepting “gifts” of plants.

Statement on Home Remedies: The Toronto Master Gardeners do not recommend home remedies, as these have not been proven effective through scientific investigation, and may even damage other living organisms in the soil or plants in your garden.  There are other garden friendly options you can use.

If you have further gardening questions, reach us at our gardening advice line 416 397 1345 or by posting your question here in the Ask a Master Gardener section.  To book Toronto Master Gardener volunteers for talks, demonstrations, advice clinics, or other services, please contact us at 416 397 1345  or bookamg@torontomastergardeners.ca