How to prune a bay leaf tree

Written by heather vecchioni
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How to prune a bay leaf tree
Use pruned bay leaf trimmings to flavour stock and soups. (anna1311/iStock/Getty Images)

Growing bay leaf trees involves a bit of work, including keeping them pruned. Pruning not only allows you to transform your tree into the shape you desire, but it is also essential for promoting new growth on the plant. Moreover, the tree will grow quite tall -- about 12 metres (40 feet) -- and will use any nutrients in the surrounding soil for itself if it is not pruned regularly. Pruning a bay leaf tree is a simple task that has a rewarding outcome -- pungent leaves to use in soups and sauces.

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Things you need

  • Pruning shears

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  1. 1

    Use a small pair of pruning shears to cut back any untidy growth during the pruning session. Untidy growth could be leaves or stems that extend past the point you want your tree to grow.

  2. 2

    Cut the foliage into whatever shape you desire with your clippers. Bay trees are suitable for shaping into topiary forms. For instance, if you want the tree to look like a pyramid, leave the bottom wide and taper in the sides until you come to a point at the top of the tree. To cut a ball -- a common shape for bay trees -- you will need to create a long, bare stem by removing its leaves until you are about two-thirds of the way up the stem. You will then trim the remaining foliage into the shape of a ball.

  3. 3

    Trim any new shoots that appear from your bay tree by cutting them off with the pruning shears. Pruning the tree encourages new growth to occur, therefore, you will need to regularly prune your tree to keep it in the shape you desire.

Tips and warnings

  • Bay trees enter a dormancy period at the end of the year in which they stop growing. Prune your bay before August, or it will not have time to regrow new growth before dormancy sets in.
  • Use your pruned bay leaves to season sauces, meats and other dishes.
  • Only prune bay leaf trees that are older than two years.

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