Don’t Give Up on a Plant: Reviving my Bay Laurel

When I first started gardening, I would prune my plant too much or rip it out of the ground or pot and start over. I gave up on my plants very quickly, not understanding that a little patience and care could save a plant. Now, if a disease has made it too deep into your crop or an insect infestation has overtaken your hard work, sometimes you have no choice but to destroy a plant and start over.

This season, I was determined to revive my bay laurel tree, which I had bought some years ago. The tree was beautiful and bountiful with fragrant evergreen leaves. For the first year that I had the plant, it was my culinary savior and a vital source of flavor when cooking anything from rice to stews to curries.

Distressed Bay Laurel

Two years later, the plant underwent a lot of distress. We had a very wet and cold fall and winter here in Southern Virginia, resulting in either leaf spot or water logging. To add insult to injury, there were also quite a few aphids and mites. The leaves began to yellow and turn brown all over. Then, all of the new growth also developed those horrible black spots.

The poor tree was a hot mess and I was upset that I would have to destroy yet another bay laurel tree after my first one died of something similar. These bad boys are expensive! Not wanting to spend another $35.00, I decided to try something new. I decided I would try to fix my tree.


18″ Ceramic Pot

Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix

Neptune Harvest Fish Fertilizer

Master Nursery Bumper Crop Organic Soil Builder

Bonide Neem Oil

Shears or Scissors


I got to work in March of 2022. After removing legitimately dead flora, I ended up with some extra large pots. I washed one of them out with some clean water from the yard hose, and proceeded to fill up the pot with a mixer of 2/3 Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix and 1/3 Bumper Crop. I prefer to use “organic” methods of gardening, so I chose these cleaner varieties of soil and soil improvers.

I removed the bay laurel from its previous pot and flushed away all of the dirt and insects caked onto its wiry roots. I then replanted the lay laurel into its new home.


I am obsessed with Neptune Harvest Fish Fertilizer. This stuff does cost a pretty penny, but I have revived some plants from the dead as though I gave it a Final Fantasy Phoenix Down! (Too nerdy? Okay—sorry!) Long story short, this stuff gives my plants the second chance they need when I’ve been more than a little neglectful. My plants do the best if I use this stuff bi-weekly or tri-weekly on a nice watering day.

On the bottle I bought, it wasn’t clear how much of the stuff to use. The website claims to use 1/4 cup for every gallon of water. Since this stuff is liquid gold, I use 1/8 cup for every gallon of water. It seems to work just fine! Just beware: this stuff smells.


I took the plunge and cut off all of the damaged leaves. I was careful not to remove any new growth despite there being some black spots left. I also removed dried out stems and buds.


In addition to the fertilizer, I watered the plant with 1/16 cup of neem oil and 1/2 gallon of water. Neem is an incredible three-in-one natural fungicide, bactericide, and insecticide. I used this to drown out aphids in my garden bed this year and the soil is healthier than ever.


Improvement in tree from March to June 2022

Three months later (It is June 2022 as I write this), and my bay laurel tree looks fantastic! It’s not as full as it was in the past, but the fullness is recovering. Based on the video above, you can see the transformation from a distressed plant to a thriving plant. For the first time in months, I was able to actually harvest some leaves to make a rice and beans dish.

Colombian beans with chorizo and plantain using my bay leaves


Don’t give up on a plant! It might just need some food, fresh soil, some pruning, and some neem oil. I continue to keep an eye on my bay laurel for issues, but so far it continues to thrive.

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