How to take cuttings from bay trees

bay leaves image by Alison Bowden from

The bay tree, or Laurus nobilis, is an evergreen tree or shrub that is slow growing. Typically the tree does not grow more than 1 foot per year. The tree can reach about 20 feet high. The bay tree prefers mild climates, and ideal growing zones are U.S. hardiness zones 8 to 10. The large, flat dark green bay leaves are a favourite for cooking and are often used whole. A bay tree can be propogated by taking cuttings and rooting them.

Cut a shoot from the trunk of the bay tree or a larger branch. Choose a shoot that is about 3 to 4 inches long, with three or four leaves on the shoot. Make sure the shoot is healthy, with no mould or insect bites.

Cut about three-quarters of the way around the cutting, but leave a tiny portion uncut. Carefully peel away some of the fibres of the main branch along with the cutting. This is important for healthy growth of the cutting. Take several different cuttings, because the success rate is not very high, and it is best to have several cuttings in case some die.

Place some potting soil into a small pot or other container. The container should be at least 6 inches deep. Make a different container for each cutting that you have. There is no special soil that is necessary to root the bay cutting, but if the pot does not have a drainage hole, then you should place about 1 inch of gravel on the bottom of the pot.

Dip the tail of the bay cutting (the part that was attached to the main branch of the tree) into some water, and then dip the tail into the rooting hormone powder. At this point, if the cutting has more than four leaves, pinch them off until just four leaves remain.

Place the cutting into the soil covering the entire tail and about a half-inch of the cutting itself and water until completely saturated.

Place the pot in a cool environment with high humidity. The container should receive no direct sunlight. An indoor environment is ideal. The cuttings should be ready for transplanting the following year.

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