The Q&A Archives: Pruning A Bay Leaf Tree That Has Been A Houseplant.

Question: I have a bay tree that I have been nurturing for the past 15 years. The tree is 5 feet tall and 36 diameter. I need to trin the tree, but question how. I have been cutting the roots back for the past three years but wonder if I am doing this correctly. I also noticed that the leaf tips turn brown and some are a little yellow. What does this tree need to survive?

Answer: Bay is often difficult to grow, so if you've had a tree for 15 years, you are doing great! As for the brown leaf tips, it might be salt burn, especially if the bay hasn't been repotted recently. Salts in the water and in fertilizer build up over time. Browning usually occurs on the old leaves first. This excess salt accumulates in the leaf edges, where it kills the tissue and the leaf dries out and turns brown. It's important to water deeply and slowly. At least once a month, water deeply enough to "leach" or push salts well below the root zone. Frequent, light "sprinklings" allow salts to accumulate in the top layers of soil, where the roots are, which is bad news. Similar symptoms occur when too much fertilizer has been applied. Always water plants thoroughly before and after applying fertilizer to help prevent burn. It wasn't clear why you needed to trim the tree, but bay is sometimes clipped into very formal shapes, so it responds well. Prune out any dead or crossing branches. Then clip back branches to their main source to thin out. Don't prune more than 1/3 of the plant in a season, as more than that can be a shock. Don't "top" the tree by shearing across the top, as that will promote alot of new, weak growth that looks like a crewcut! Hope this info helps.

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