How - When - to Prune Bay Trees - Laurus nobilis
Bay trees are grown in all manner of situations. As a
large shrub - given enough room - they will not need basic pruning. As
an ornamental - topiary - Bay Leaf Tree, they will need regular pruning
to keep them in a tidy shape.
Winter damage is often a problem of bay trees,
with browning of much of the foliage - also wind scorch damage.
Both problems can be addressed by pruning as required to remove
the unsightly branches. they soon grow back.
For topiary specimens of Bay Leaf Trees, it will be
necessary to prune then twice in the summer months. April and then again
in August are good times. If you prune your bay any later than August,
it will be too late for the plant to re-grow new growth before dormancy
sets in, so a final cut in August, will leave you with nice fresh
foliage for the autumn and winter months.
first pruning session in April, can be as severe as you wish - if
you want to head back untidy growth. This is also the time to start with
a bay if you are going to prune it to a particular shape. Just prune to
the rough shape that you want - ie pyramid, ball or any other shape, and
the Bay tree will soon shoot out into new growth.
Further pruning can
then take place by way of a light trim to bring the tree to the required
This is typical of the shapes that are
popular with Bay Leaf Trees (Laurus nobilis). The long stem can
be grown to this height over a couple of years. If doing this
from an early stage with a small Bay tree, then allow the
foliage to grow from the main stem in the earlier stages, as
this will strengthen the stem. (It will also speed up the
process of getting a long stem).
the stem is to the desired height, you can prune to top and then
start the process of clipping it to shape over a couple of
years. Make sure that the central stem is supported with a good
cane until strong enough to support itself.
Important Point As the plant will be top heavy, make sure that the container is
large enough to support it, and be aware of problems with it
blowing over in high winds.
Cutting a Bay Tree Back Hard.
Mature Bay leaf trees can be cut back as hard as
required early in the growing season. They will soon start to re-grow,
and can then be restrained to a suitable size by regular clipping or
pruning. Prune after the re-growth starts as describes above. In older
gardens, very often small (?) kitchen bays were planted without any
thought as to how large they can grow if left untended. I have
personally cut back over ten such Bays - the larges being 10 metres tall
and with a spread of around 8 metres!
Also see Bay Leaf Tree as Herb
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By David Hughes -