Bay leaf tree, or Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) is a well known garden plant. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that provides leaves commonly used in cooking to add flavour as a pot herb that is added during cooking and then removed before the dish is eaten. It can also be a useful landscaping plant, and is commonly used in hedgerow or border planting.
Bay can be relatively easy and straightforward to grow. But there are certain problems that can crop up. To help you grow your bay successfully, we’ve come up with this list of common bay leaf tree problems and how to solve them:
First of all, some of the problems that are common when growing bay laurel involve environmental issues. For example, you might see:
Leaf spots – if you see leaf spots then the most common reason for this is that the conditions are too wet. This can be caused by waterlogged roots or abnormally wet weather. It can be a good idea to improve drainage in the growing area by adding plenty of organic matter, and perhaps adding some grit in very poorly draining areas.
Yellow leaves – this is also a problem commonly caused by excess water or poor drainage. Nutrient deficiency can also be the issue – though this is more commonly seen with plants grown in pots or containers. Though note that it is natural for older leaves to shed in small numbers.
Brown leaves – often caused by drought or uncommonly dry weather.
Blackening of leaves along veins – often waterlogging is the cause, especially in areas with heavy soils. But this may also be a disease/ infection problem, such as with Phytophthora (see below).
Cracked or peeling bark – usually, this is an issue caused by winter cold. Other environmental factors, like fluctuating moisture levels and other stress factors are also likely to be involved. Often, this is not a fatal problem, and the bay should recover by midsummer with no intervention necessary. But if growth above the damaged area is dead, cut back to green living wood to allow regeneration to occur.
Nutrient Deficiencies – as mentioned above, yellow leaves can sometimes be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. Take care to provide a healthy soil or growing medium for your bay leaf tree. But do not over-fertilize. If you have ruled out moisture level problems/ waterlogging then consider undertaking a soil test to determine which nutrients are low.
Disease Problems in Bay Leaf Tree
If environmental conditions have not been ideal for your bay leaf tree, then disease is more likely to take hold. In order to decrease the chances of a pathogenic problem, make sure that you keep your plants ‘happy’ and as free from stress as possible.
Bay leaf trees are generally not troubled by disease all that often. But Phytophthora root rot is one thing that can affect these plants. This fungus-like organism can infect your bay tree and cause weakness and slow collapse. As with most diseases, prevention is better than cure. Make sure you eliminate problems with weak drainage and that you have placed you bay in a suitable spot.
If this disease has already taken hold, you may be able to save your tree by removing the soil from all around the tree, cutting away any dark or oozing bark, and leaving the root system exposed to dry, which can slow the spread of this infection.
Pest Problems in Bay Leaf Tree
Bay trees can also be plagued by certain pest problems, such as:
Bay sucker – sap sucking bugs that cause discolouration and distortion of the leaves. Control is not usually necessary as damage is usually only cosmetic and restricted.
Soft scale/ chestnut scale – scale insects (also sap sucking) which can be seen on the foliage and create areas of sooty mould.
Sap sucking insects will not usually kill a bay tree, but can make it less vigorous and healthy. The best way to control these insects and other similar pests in your garden is to attract plenty of predatory insects such as ladybirds and ground beetles that will eat these and help keep their numbers down. Be sure to plant and provide habitats to encourage wide biodiversity in your garden. As this is one of the best strategies for organic pest control.
Which problems have you encountered on bay leaf tree in your garden? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.