Bay Laurel Blotches and Basal Shoots
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Andy Wang
Posted on: June 30, 1999

The bay laurel I bought from you several years ago is now two feet tall. Wow! However, since the last time I repotted earlier this summer, many of the leaves have developed brown patches. At first I left them but they grew and spread to other leaves and so I have cut them off. Do you have any suggestions as to what may be causing this? (Is the soil too rich? Should I not feed the laurel? Is there too much/too little water?) I’d appreciate any suggestions you have.

Another customer had the same problem as you and the answer can be found on our web-site: www.richters.com , then click on" Q&A", then on"Search Q&A" and type in "Blotches" or "Bay" and you can peruse the suggestions to see if one of them fits.

In a side issue, the plant has also been sending up side shoots lately. I cut the first one off but two more came up. One of them is nearly as tall as the original plant (which is great considering how long it took the original to get to where it is). What is causing this? How can I prevent it? Can I somehow use these shoots to propagate the plant?

Because your plant is sending up basal shoots, I suspect that the growing tip has been injured, maybe because the roots were injured during the repotting and the plant could not keep up with water loss. A healthy growing tip constantly produces a plant hormone that is pulled by gravity to the lower portions of the plant and this hormone stops dormant buds from sprouting. When the highest shoot is injured then it can’t produce this inhibitor and the result is wild sprouting of all lower formerly inhibited buds, If the whole tree was stressed only the below soil buds may be healthy enough to sprout and the result is basal shoots. If you want a tree rather than a shrub, let the healthiest shoot grow up, and cut off the rest plus the old stem and soon the hormone will stop any lower growth without any help from you. (A shrub will give more harvests of leaves...)

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