Famed for its pungent leaves which are used to flavour a wide range of dishes, bay also boasts attractive ornamental good looks. Plants can used to punctuate borders or grown in containers; used as the centrepiece for a group of herbs or placed as elegant sentries either side of a front door.
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Keep plants well watered, especially during dry periods over summer, and feed monthly.
Prune clipped forms of bay with shears in summer.
Suckers may appear on standards; cut or pull these unwanted growths as soon as you spot them to keep stems clear.
Bay in pots can suffer in cold, wet weather, so move to a light, frost free place if possible and protect with horticultural fleece. Raise onto pot feet to allow excess water to drain away.
Young bay plants are best planted in the spring after all danger of frost has past, giving plants time to establish before summer. Choose a sheltered spot protected from strong winds in full sun. If your soil isn’t well drained, consider growing plants in 30cm (12in) pots filled with soil-based or multipurpose, (including peat free) compost.
Bay is evergreen and its leaves can be harvested throughout the year, whenever required.
They are best used fresh, although they can be dried easily.
To dry for storage, place sprigs or individual leaves in an airing cupboard or similarly warm place. Once fully dry, store the leaves in an airtight bag or container and use within a year, before they start to lose their flavour.
Small yellow hemispherical scales appear on the leaf underside and along the midrib. They suck sap and secrete honeydew which encourages sooty mould.
Use biological controls in the greenhouse.
Small sap-sucking insects cause discoloration and leaf distortion.
A small, greyish-white, sap-sucking insect that attacks the foliage in summer. If left it can spoil the appearance of a bay tree by causing discoloration and distortion of leaves at the shoot tips.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.