How to Prune & Harvest Bay Leaves for a Topiary

Written by kimberly johnson
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Bay trees have the botanical name Laurus nobilis, and go by many different common names as well. The leaves of the tree are edible and are often used to flavour recipes. The bay tree can reach over 50 fee tall in the wild, but it also grows well in a potted topiary form, where it remains much smaller. Topiary bay trees require more frequent trimming to maintain their shape, but harvesting the leaves is the same as for large trees.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Hand pruners
  • Pruning shears

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  1. 1

    Look at the bay tree topiary for any areas that are sparse or lacking foliage. Harvest the leaves from nearby healthy stems in these areas by cutting them back by half with hand pruners. Pull off the leaves from the stems and use or store them as desired. Harvesting leaves from sparse areas encourages additional bushy growth.

  2. 2

    Wait until the early to mid-spring to perform major pruning on the bay tree topiary. First look at the top of the tree to see if it has grown taller than the remainder of the topiary. If so, choose a desired height near the top and cut off the main vertical stem using hand pruners.

  3. 3

    Look at the bay topiary and identify any limbs that do not have any leaves, which means they are dead. Cut them off as close to the main trunk as possible using hand pruners. Then remove any stems that have yellow leaves or very few leaves in the same manner.

  4. 4

    Shape the remaining tree using pruning shears to cut off the outer 1/2 inch of each stem into the desired topiary shape.

  5. 5

    Repeat the shearing as often as needed to maintain the desired shape of the topiary.

Tips and warnings

  • Never consume leaves from any other laurel other than Laurus nobilis, since other forms of laurel are poison to humans and animals.

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