Laurus nobilis is commonly called the bay laurel and is the source of the culinary leaves used to flavour and scent soups and stews. It is a small tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean. The plant grows naturally into a pyramid habit but responds well to pruning and can be kept almost any height and shape. Laurus nobilis grows best in partial shade. Commercial propagation of the plant is most often done by cuttings or air layering and the results require vigilant care. The female plants produce small yellow flowers that become tiny black berries from which the seed of the plant can be found.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Plastic bag
- Peat moss
- Laurus nobilis seeds
- Potting soil
- Seed flat with drainage holes and lid
- Fine sand
- Plant mister
- Seed-warming mat
Moisten peat moss and place it in a plastic bag. The peat needs to be completely wet but not sodden. Place the seeds into the bag and envelop the seeds in the dampened peat. Close the bag and put it in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for 60 days.
Remove the bag when the time has elapsed and separate out the seeds. Use a piece of sandpaper to scuff the seeds until you can see the white interior in several places. Laurus nobilis is notoriously hard to germinate and stratification and scarification are two methods to break dormancy.
Mix half portions of potting soil and compost and line the seed flat. Press the seed into the medium with 1 inch between them. Sift fine sand over the top of the seed and press down to make certain each one has contact with the medium.
Mist the seed flat until the planting medium is evenly moist 2 to 3 inches down. Place the lid on the flat to make a mini greenhouse. Put the flat on the seed warmer set to at least 18.3 degrees Celsius.
Check the soil every three to four days to see if it is moist. If the lid fits properly, the seed should not need to be misted. Remove the lid once a week to allow the flat to dry so the seed doesn't rot. This is the most common problem with the seed.
Look at the flat closely in Weeks 3 and 4 as this is the shortest expected germination time. The seeds can also take up to six months. Continue to apply the heat and occasional moisture and wait. When the plants have emerged and carry their second set of true leaves, they need to be repotted and grown on.
Tips and warnings
- The moisture level is an issue with Laurus nobilis seeds. They need to be wet but often rot due to too much moisture. The mister will allow you to just dampen the surface of the soil when it is getting dry. It is best to err on the side of a drier flat than one that is too moist.
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