5 Steps to Revive Brown Leaves on a Bay Tree

Bay trees, with their glossy green leaves and aromatic fragrance, are a beloved staple in many UK gardens. However, even the most experienced gardeners can sometimes face the challenge of bay leaves turning brown. If you’re wondering how to revive a bay tree with brown leaves, you’re not alone. This blog will guide you through the best steps to address bay tree problems with brown leaves, ensuring your tree remains healthy and vibrant.

Understanding the Problem: Why Are Bay Leaves Turning Brown?

Before diving into the steps to revive your bay tree, it’s crucial to understand why the leaves might be turning brown. Several factors can contribute to this issue:

  1. Water Stress: Both overwatering and underwatering can cause bay tree leaves to turn brown. Bay trees prefer well-drained soil and can suffer if their roots are constantly wet or too dry.
  2. Cold Damage: Bay trees are not entirely frost-hardy. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can lead to leaf discoloration and browning.
  3. Pests and Diseases: Pests like scale insects and diseases such as root rot can cause bay leaves to turn brown.
  4. Nutrient Deficiency: A lack of essential nutrients, particularly nitrogen, can result in poor leaf health.
  5. Environmental Stress: Changes in the environment, such as moving the plant or repotting, can stress the tree, leading to brown leaves.

Step 1: Assess Watering Practices

Watering is a critical factor in the health of your bay tree. Here’s how to get it right:

  • Check Soil Moisture: Use a moisture meter or your finger to check the soil moisture around your bay tree. The soil should be moist but not soggy.
  • Adjust Watering Schedule: If the soil is too dry, increase watering frequency but avoid waterlogging the soil. Conversely, if the soil is too wet, reduce watering and ensure the pot or ground has adequate drainage.

For more tips on proper watering techniques, check out our guide on watering practices for healthy plants.

Step 2: Protect from Cold Weather

Bay trees are sensitive to cold temperatures, especially during harsh UK winters. Protecting your tree from frost can prevent brown leaves:

  • Move Indoors or to a Sheltered Spot: If your bay tree is in a pot, move it indoors or to a sheltered location during winter. Ensure it receives plenty of sunlight.
  • Use Frost Protection: For trees planted in the ground, use horticultural fleece or a frost blanket to cover the tree during cold spells. Mulch around the base to insulate the roots.

Step 3: Inspect for Pests and Diseases

Regularly inspect your bay tree for signs of pests and diseases. Early detection is key to effective treatment:

  • Identify Common Pests: Look for scale insects, which appear as small, brown, shell-like bumps on the leaves and stems. Aphids and spider mites can also be problematic.
  • Treat Infections Promptly: Use horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to treat pest infestations. For fungal diseases, such as root rot, ensure proper drainage and consider using a fungicide if necessary.

Step 4: Provide Proper Nutrients

A nutrient deficiency can weaken your bay tree and cause leaves to turn brown. Ensure your tree receives the necessary nutrients:

  • Fertilize Appropriately: Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer during the growing season. Bay trees benefit from fertilizers high in nitrogen.
  • Check Soil pH: Bay trees prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.0-7.0). Test your soil’s pH and adjust as needed using lime (to raise pH) or sulphur (to lower pH).

For more information on soil health, visit our guide on testing and improving soil quality.

Step 5: Minimise Environmental Stress

Environmental changes can stress your bay tree, leading to brown leaves. Here’s how to minimise stress:

  • Avoid Sudden Changes: Gradually acclimate your tree to new environments. For example, if moving it indoors for winter, do so gradually over a week.
  • Repot with Care: If repotting, choose a pot that is only slightly larger than the current one. Use a well-draining potting mix and handle the roots gently.


Reviving a bay tree with brown leaves requires a combination of proper watering, protection from cold, pest and disease management, adequate nutrition, and minimizing environmental stress. By following these five steps, you can address bay tree problems with brown leaves and restore your tree to its healthy, green glory.

Remember, patience and consistent care are key. For more gardening tips and advice, explore our other blog posts and guides. Happy gardening!

By integrating these practices into your gardening routine, you’ll not only revive your bay tree but also ensure it thrives, adding beauty and fragrance to your garden for years to come.