BayLeaf Tree Pruning
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Ruth
Posted on: May 7, 2001

I have a bayleaf tree that reaches the ceiling of my room and has a rather large trunk diameter. Can I successfully prune it and when should this been done? I have always been afraid to do this for fear of killing it. It is probably 10 years old. Also, how do I take cuttings from it for friends?

Bays are easily pruned and as long as you do not prune off more than one third of its length per growth period it should be OK. Repotting should also be done at a time when you prune, as this reduces the root mass and brings top and bottom of the plant more in balance. If you wish to keep the plant small you will have to reduce the size in stages and to reduce the new growth, you would have to repot and trim the roots by one third as well, before replanting into fresh good potting soil. You will in effect treat it somewhat like a bonsai.

Growth usually takes place twice a year, with one spurt in spring and sometimes with a second spurt in summer.

Cuttings of bay are a bit difficult to root. Take 5 to 10 centimeter (2 to 4 inches) semi-ripe branches and tear or cut them off at the base so that there is a bit of a heel on the base of the cutting. Leave only the two top leaves and if these are very large, cut off half of each leaf. Dip the end with the heel into water, then into a rooting hormone and then stick it about one centimeter (half an inch) into a pot of sterilized sandy soil. Water, let drain and then enclose in a new clear plastic bag and put it into a bright spot, out of direct sunlight. Then wait for new growth before gradually removing the bag.

If you have a misting system, you can dispense with the plastic bag and put the mister onto a timer to mist the cuttings for 15 minutes every 2 to 4 hours-depending on the humidity of your growing area. You can work out other timings, but the aim is to not let the cuttings dry out and to not have them soggy wet, while humidity is greatly increased.

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