How To Prune A Bay Tree – Tips For Cutting Back Bay Trees

Bay Trees In Garden
bay pruning
(Image credit: JeanCuomo)

Bay trees are large, attractive trees with dense, shiny foliage. Bay tree pruning is not strictly necessary for the health of the tree, but the trees readily accept light or severe pruning, including pruning bay trees into topiary shapes. If you are thinking of cutting back bay trees, read on for tips.

About Bay Tree Pruning

Bay trees can grow to 30 feet (9 m.) tall without getting leggy or thin. If you want yours this tall, there is no immediate need to learn about pruning bay trees. However, even healthy bay trees can suffer damage from winter weather or wind scorch. Branches can also become diseased or break. If this happens to your bay trees, you’ll want to remove or trim back the damaged branches. You can do this in late spring. You can also start cutting back bay trees in late spring to create the look you are seeking. Bays can be pruned to be a single-trunked tree or a multi-trunk shrub. How to prune a bay in this way? Simply remove the trunks you do not want close to the ground. Late spring is also a good time to prune if you want to start cutting back severely. You can head back excess growth at this time or begin topiary pruning. Sucker development is another reason to cut back bay trees. Suckers grow from the roots and should be pruned out to prevent the formation of clumping.

Topiary Pruning Bay Trees

Wondering how to prune a bay for topiary? Begin in spring and start pruning it into a rough version of the shape you have chosen. When you are pruning bay trees as topiary specimens, you’ll have to trim a second time in the summer. You can do more precise shaping then, as well as control the new growth that has occurred. Try to complete all bay tree pruning by the end of summer. If you do bay tree pruning any later, the tree may go into dormancy without putting out new foliage.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.