The Q&A Archives: Bay Tree

Question: I have a bay tree about twelve inches tall; it is in a round pot about 8" x 8". I had not intended to put it in such a large pot, but when I took it out of its smaller pot, it had a tremendously large root system. It is potted in a mixture of about 1/2 to 2/3 potting soil and 1/3 to 1/2 sand. I water only when the soil is dry to about an inch down, but the soil stays damp for quite a while after watering. Shortly after watering, the current growth dies off, but new leaves start growing. Do I need to add more sand so that the soil dries out more quickly?

Answer: Sweet Bay requires very little water, and as you've discovered, too much water results in wilting and dying of new growth. Sounds like you've amended the soil to the proper proportions for fast drainage, so I suspect you're just watering too frequently. Try thoroughly soaking the soil by immersing the pot in a large container of water. Then refrain from watering until the soil is dry and the pot is light when you pick it up. Then immerse the pot again, keeping it there until air bubbles stop rising to the surface and the soil is thoroughly saturated. Don't water again until the pot is light when you pick it up.

You may only have to water your bay tree once during the winter months, and only once a month during the summer months, depending upon air temperature and rate of growth.

Hope the above guides you through the watering process and results in a happy, healthy bay tree!

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