Bay Laurel

Illinois Extension photo: Herb Gardening | Bay Laurel

Laurus nobilis

Bay laurel is an evergreen shrub or tree in zones 8 and above. In colder zones, it is very frost sensitive and is best grown in a container and moved indoors prior to frost.  Leaves are glossy green and thick. It makes an attractive specimen plant for containers. Bay imparts subtle and unusual flavors when used with other herbs.

Growing: Tender Perennial

Bay is best grown in a container. Bay can be grown from seed, but it germinates poorly and slowly. Cuttings can also be taken but they are difficult to root. It is best to obtain established plants from a greenhouse. 


  • Use a pot with drainage holes in the bottom and fill it with a prepared potting mix. 
  • The mix should be well-drained yet retain enough moisture for good growth. 
  • When placed outdoors, place the plant in a full sun location and water when the soil starts to become dry. 
  • Do not keep the soil too moist as that invites root rots and Bay prefers to grow in soil kept on the dry side. 
  • Apply a general purpose liquid fertilizer about every 2 weeks during the growing season. 

Move Inside

  • Before frost, move the plant indoors. Place the plant in as bright a location as possible. 
  • Water as needed but do not overwater. 
  • Fertilizing will be much reduced as bay tends not to grow very much during the winter months. 
  • When spring arrives, plants can be moved back outdoors and a regular fertilizer schedule can be resumed. 
  • Occasional pruning will maintain a desirable shape.


Leaves can be harvested throughout the season as needed. The larger, older leaves tend to have the strongest and best flavor. Dry leaves before storing in sealed containers.


Use in meat, fish and poultry dishes, soups and stews. Bay is also one of the ingredients of “bouquet garni.”


Illinois Extension photo: Herb Gardening | Bay Laurel