Bay Laurel

cjohansenSeptember 7, 2013

I picked up a bay laurel on sale today, and I have a couple of questions.

1) I'm in Norway, where we're going into fall (temperatures of ~40F during nights now, frost in a few weeks). I guess I can keep the plant outside for some time, but when it gets close to frost the tag on the plant suggested to overwinter it at ~5C/41F and water every 6th week. Problem is, I don't have anywhere that is ~5C and receives daylight. Can I overwinter on the windowsill in room temperature? What's the watering scheme in this case? Feeding? Pot size?

2) Can I just start picking the leaves and using them fresh in cooking? That's kinda what I got it for.

This post was edited by cjohansen on Sat, Sep 7, 13 at 20:02

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My two bay laurels come into the house when the temperatures start to get into the upper 30's F.

They spend the winter in my bedroom and the temperature is about 60-65 degrees F. Western exposure so they get bright light but not a lot of direct sun. But that's the only place I have where they will fit.

I water them about once every 7 to 10 days, but they are in large 16" pots, so they don't dry out as quickly as a smaller pot might.

Yes, you can use the fresh leaves. Try to pick the older, more leathery ones - they have more flavor. Also when you take a leaf, most of the time, the plant will send out a branch at that point. Helps to keep them bushy. I try to pick a leaf where I want a branch to start. They don't mind being trimmed. This spring, I took about 1/3 of the top off my leggy one and it put out a lot of nice, new bushy growth.

Unless it's very potbound, I wouldn't repot it until spring.

Hope that helps. Enjoy your bay - it's a nice looking plant.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 6:50AM
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balloonflower(5b Denver CO, HZ 5-6, Sunset 2b)

Yes, you can use fresh bay leaves. They do have a slightly different flavor, but have fun learning the differences. They also have some great uses infused in custards and desserts when used fresh. As Malna stated, the older leaves will have a much stronger flavor than the newer brighter green ones. Picking the older ones to dry is a good way to encourage the bushing.

Bay is a perennial tree. Be very careful with your watering, waiting until the soil is dry. Bay, like rosemary, is very susceptible to root rot in a pot setting, and has to have good draining soil. If you notice the edges of your leaves starting to brown, it's a sign of rotting--back way off on water. You'll probably need a bigger pot than that one, though I agree it can wait until spring. Mine is in a 12" pot, though not as leafy or large as your pic. It really is a pretty plant--good find!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 3:16PM
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It isn't necessary to take bay indoors when the temp is in the upper 30s f. It can take temps below freezing for a while. Bay winters outside here, but the temperature is rarely under -5c. If I lived in a colder climate I'd probably bring it in when it was below freezing for more than 2 - 3 days consecutively.

This is a picture I posted a few years back of my neighbour's bay tree. It's bigger now.....

Here is a link that might be useful: Bay

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 9:31AM
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That's true that I don't HAVE to bring them in. But we get some crazy temperature fluctuations in early fall (might drop suddenly to 27 degrees in the middle of the night with heavy wet snow and it's 75 degrees 6 hours later).

I like to give my plants a little time to adjust to my less-than-ideal indoor conditions, and they seem to overwinter better since I've been doing that. My bay trees are about 10 years old now, but I sure wish I could have one as stunning as your neighbor's.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 5:56PM
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balloonflower(5b Denver CO, HZ 5-6, Sunset 2b)

However, Cjohansen's is just a baby and hasn't really been acclimated too much to chillier temps yet if he just got it, so I wouldn't recommend leaving it outside at this time of year.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 11:33PM
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Hi Malna - clearly your method works well in your conditions.

However, I'm pretty sure this plant will be fine outside at this time of year in Norway even if it is a new plant. In N Europe we don't get those great differences between night and day temps. Although it is new to the OP, the bay in the picture looks to be around two or three years old and pretty robust. It will almost certainly have been outdoors at the nursery all this summer. The ideal, imo, is to keep it outside as long as possible to reduce the time it has to spend in less than ideal conditions. I'd leave it outside until the first few frosts of Autumn have gone by. That will help the growth harden off whereas bringing it into a warmer place will just encourage sappy growth. During the winter I'd put it outside as often as possible on milder days and keep it in the coolest, lightest room in the house. Another possibility is to protect it outdoors with fleece until it gets below -5 on a regular basis.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Thanks! So this plant will stay indoors until spring. The pot looks really small - will it not get horribly root bound in it?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 8:33AM
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cjohansen - did you read what I put just above? It can stay outside for a while yet unless you live in the North and are already getting freezing temperatures.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 1:02PM
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florauk - yes, I read it. And I do live in the north - Norway. It's not freezing yet, but we are seeing ~40 at nights, and as I just got the plant, I figured it could just stay inside 'til next spring. I do keep it at the window though.

Still, won't it get pretty root bound in that pot?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 5:34PM
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It won't get root bound before next year. And anyway, Bay trees can be grow in quite small containers providing they are regularly fed and have their soil replenished. They are well suited to pot culture.

My point about keeping your Bay outside as long as possible is that it is much harder to keep them healthy once they are indoors. So even another month outside would help yours survive the winter. The temperature is now in single digits here at night too and Bay is fine with that. I realise that it will get much colder in N Norway but seriously, I wouldn't take it in until it is regularly 2 - 3 c. But of course, it's up to you if you want to be on the safe side. What I'm trying to emphasise is that Bay is not a tropical. It won't turn to mush at 0 c.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 3:06AM
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Ok, thanks, I'll move it out. I'll take it in when my peppers start dying :)

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 6:15PM
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Well, if you have peppers outside bay will be absolutely fine.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 1:57PM
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