Bay is a dioecious tree, with male and female flowers on separate plants. Flowers are produced in spring. They are insignificant clusters of slightly fragrant, pale yellow-green flowers, about 1 cm diameter, borne in pairs together beside a leaf. In autumn, on female plants appear green berries that ripen dark purplish black, about 1 cm long, containing a single seed.
Prune to shape each spring. Its natural grow habit is in a pyramid-like shape but it can be trained and clipped as topiary, especially when is grown purely for decorative purposes. Bay tree will benefit from applying a long-lasting fertilizer to the surrounding soil for the first two years, and watering when conditions are dry. If any weeding is required around Bay tree, do this by hand because it has a very shallow root system, which can easily be damaged if digging too near the stem.
Bay tree will grow well in a place with full sun or partial shade, sheltered from harsh wind. It will grow on most soil types as long as is well drained but prefers a rich soil and will benefit from mulching in the spring to ensure it gets some moisture in the summer months.
Bay trees also grow well in containers, making them ideal for patios. They will require an annual trim in the autumn to shape them. Bay laurel likes to be pot bound and can stay in it’s final 30cm container for six years or more. After this, repot into a container, which is about 5 cm wider. The size of the pot will control the size of the Bay tree. Feed container grown trees in mid-spring and regularly during the summer growing period. In early spring, remove the top 2.5 cm of compost and replace it with new compost. If a hard frost threatens, move the tree inside to a cool room. In winter keep them in a cool position that is open to indirect sunlight. Don’t water very much during winter, let the compost almost dry out before adding more water.
There are three methods of propagating Bay tree: sowing seeds, layering and taking cuttings. Sow seeds on the surface of a seed tray and just barely cover them with dry compost. Keep them at a temperature of around 21Celsius degrees (70 F). Germination can take from 10 days – to 6 months or more. Make sure that the compost is not too wet, as the seeds will rot before they germinate. Take cuttings of half-ripe wood, from mid to late summer and of mature side shoots, with a heel, in late autumn to early winter. The cutting will root after 6 month to about one year. Layer in spring. Shoots should appear in six to twelve months.