Most people know the Sweet bay by its dried leaves that are valued for culinary purposes. From a gardening perspective, this Mediterranean native is also a handsome foliage plant that is grown as clipped hedges as well as small and medium size garden trees. It is an evergreen plant growing with an upright habit and capable of reaching 15-25 ft. tall, 15-20 ft. wide. Over time, older specimens can eventually grow to 40 ft. in height. Foliage is comprised of leathery dark green leaves, 2-4 in. long, that are attached to stiff branches. Small yellow flowers and round fruits are mostly inconspicuous.
Sweet bay is an easy to grow foliage plant in Inland Empire gardens as a patio tree, clipped hedge and background screen plant. It has a very dense and dark green foliage habit that is appreciated in our summer dry climate. It has proven to be tolerant of many soil and climate conditions. Established plants can become quite self-reliant and require only low amounts of supplemental water. However, it will grow faster and to larger sizes when planted in loam soils and provided with regular moisture. One cultivar, L. n. ‘Saratoga’, has broader leaves and is more robust and tree-like in habit.