When To Sow Bay Seeds: Tips For Growing Bay Tree Seeds

When To Sow Bay Seeds: Tips For Growing Bay Tree Seeds

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By: Amy Grant

Sweet bay is a medium sized Laurel that hails from the Mediterranean. It is used primarily as a culinary herb, but historically it has been used medicinally. A component of bouquet garni, a French seasoning blend, bay lends itself well to soups, stews, and sauces. Usually, sweet bay is purchased as a seedling from a nursery, but growing bay tree seeds is also possible, provided the grower has some patience since bay seed germination is a slow process. Interested in planting bay seeds? Read on to find out when to sow bay seeds and information on how to grow a bay tree from seed.

About Planting Bay Seeds

Sweet laurel or bay (Laurus nobilis) is hardy to USDA zones 8-10, so those of us growing the plant outside these parameters will need to move the bay indoors when temperatures dip. The good news is that bay makes an excellent container plant.

It can grow to 23 feet (7.5 m.) in height, but its size can be retarded by frequent pruning. It is also quite tolerant of pruning and training into topiary shapes which look gorgeous with the tree’s glossy green foliage.

As mentioned, while not the usual method of propagation, growing bay tree seeds is possible, if at times frustrating. Why frustrating? Bay seed germination is notoriously long, up to 6 months. With such a lengthy germination period, seeds may rot before germination occurs.

When to Sow Bay Seeds

To hasten guarantee viable germination, never plant seeds that are dried out. Order your seeds from a reputable purveyor and when they arrive, soak them in warm water for 24 hours and then plant them immediately. Also, germinate multiple seeds to allow for germination failure and rotting.

If you plan to harvest seeds from an existing tree, look for a female. Sweet laurels are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. In the spring, inconspicuous pale yellow-green flowers bloom followed by small, purplish-black, oval berries. Each berry has a single seed found on mature female trees.

How to Grow a Bay Tree from Seed

Fill a seed tray with a layer of moist soilless seed mix. Spread the seeds out over the surface, keeping them about 2 inches (5 cm.) apart and press them gently into it.

Cover the seeds with a bit more moist soilless mix. Dampen the medium with a spray bottle. Make sure to just lightly moisten, not saturate the mix or the seeds will rot. Place the seed tray in a warm area of around 70 F. (21 C.) that gets up to 8 hours of sun per day. Keep the seeds moist to slightly on the dry side as they germinate.

Keep an eye on the progress of the seeds and be patient. It can take from 10 days to up to 6 months for the bay seeds to germinate.

Transplant the bay seedlings into pots or into the garden proper when leaves begin to appear.

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Read more about Bay Trees

Growing Bay: The Complete Guide to Plant, Grow and Harvest Bay

Craig Taylor

Craig is a self-sufficiency gardener who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. He has six vegetable gardens, a 7-meter glass house, and 35-tree orchard that provide food for his family. All spray-free. He is a prepper who likes strange plants and experiment with heritage plants to save seeds.

Of all the herbs in the world, bay is one I think should be in every garden. Not just because it’s delicious, but also because the plants make a lovely addition to the garden all year round with their beautiful evergreen leaves. With a little care and attention, growing bay – aka laurel – is easy and plants can last a lifetime with little fuss. As if that wasn’t enough to recommend it, bay has health benefits galore.

Bay provides a characteristic flavor to many hearty dishes and is particularly good with lamb and beef. It’s also one of the key ingredients in a bouquet garni, and as any chef will tell you, no kitchen is complete without that.

While this hardy shrub is best suited to warmer climates, it lends itself nicely to container growing, so don’t give up on your bay dreams if you happen to live in a colder area.


**This is an evergreen tree, so the bay leaves can be picked for fresh use all year round.

**You can use bay leaves either fresh or dried. Fresh leaves are stronger flavored than dried ones, so you might need to experiment with recipes, since most recipes call for the dried bay leaves that you can find at the grocery store.

** Do YOU have a bay leaf tree? If so, is it healthy and easy going? Do you have any difficulties with it? Please feel free to tell me about your plant in the comment section below.

**Also, click here for the rest of my Spice Series!

**Like the beautiful Bay Leaves illustration? The super talented artist Christy Beckwith made this pretty picture and other lovely spice illustrations for my spice series. Here is how you can buy some Spice prints for your kitchen.