As an evergreen container plant, laurel unfolds Mediterranean flair and brings the Mediterranean sun into the cooking pot. In order to survive a Central European winter safely, the southern classic cannot rely on a home advantage. This guide explains the winter hardiness of laurel north of the Alps. Read this guide to learn how to overwinter laurel properly.

Hardy with reservations

Bay laurel gives strength and fullness to hot dishes with its tart, spicy leaves. For generations, the evergreen deciduous tree has reserved a regular place in the well-assorted potted herb ensemble. Cultivated in a decorative terracotta pot, noble laurel inspires with its shiny green foliage as a representative welcoming committee in the front garden, on the terrace and balcony. The evergreen icon from the Mediterranean complements a wide range of uses with undemanding care. The only downside for home gardeners north of the Alps is limited winter hardiness.

Bay laurel is certified as frost hardy from -6 to -12 degrees Celsius, which corresponds to winter hardiness zone Z8. This circumstance implies that spice laurel can overwinter outside in regions with mild winters. In wine-growing regions, on the Lower Rhine or in wind-protected locations along the North Sea and Baltic Sea, conditions in winter are comparable to those in the habitats of laurel. This does not mean that you can leave the plant unprotected in the bucket to winter hardships. Important precautions must be taken to protect the root ball and the evergreen leaves. If the location is beyond the Z8 winter hardiness zone, Laurus nobilis can only survive the cold season safely behind glass. Both versions for the best overwintering of spice laurel are examined in this guide.

Note: Please do not confuse laurel (Laurus nobilis) with cherry laurel, which found its way to us from Asia Minor. Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is one of the stone fruit plants from the rose family and is completely hardy. The laurel cherry is very popular as an evergreen hedge plant and is useful as an opaque, pruning-friendly enclosure.

Hibernation outside – instructions

So that laurel as a container plant is armed for frosty temperatures, protective measures are also required in regions with mild winters. The following instructions explain step by step how to overwinter laurel outdoors properly.

Material requirements for a plant

  • Block of wood or styrofoam board at least 10 cm high
  • Material for the winter coat: bubble wrap, winter fleece, jute, coconut fiber or reed mat
  • Shading net or breathable and translucent hood
  • Fastening material such as thick rope, sisal cord or jute ribbons
  • fall leaves, straw or bark mulch

If real laurel stays in a clearly visible position in winter, upgrade the winter protection with decorative accessories. A braided rope or colorful jute ribbons create painterly effects. Colourful, weatherproof balls and tags give fleece, bubble wrap or coconut mats a special touch. During the Advent and Christmas season, integrated chains of lights create an atmospheric colour.


At the end of November or at the latest before the first frost, bay laurel receives its winter protection. Initially, it is advisable to change location to a wind and rain-protected place in front of a wall or in a niche. To prevent frost from making its way into the root ball from below, slide a block of wood or a polystyrene board under the bucket. Cover the substrate with a thick layer of leaves, straw or bark mulch.

Now wrap the planter with foil or fleece. Comparable to the onion skin principle of our winter clothing, cover the pot with a coconut fiber or reed mat as an outer protective layer. Please tie the mat firmly with rope or string. It is important to note that the mat protrudes the edge of the pot by a few centimeters as additional wind protection.

Winter sun protection makes sense in a sunny to semi-shady location. Under the influence of the blazing winter sun, drought stress is inevitable if the roots have stopped working due to frost. Bay laurel is actually hardy enough to withstand temporary freezing of the root ball. In combination with direct sunlight, the leaves evaporate copious amounts of moisture without the frozen roots being able to provide replenishment. A shading net or a breathable fleece hood prevent this dilemma. Furthermore, you should regularly check whether there is a need for watering. If the substrate surface dries noticeably on the spice laurel, water on mild days.

Tip: fresh leaf sprouting in autumn significantly affects the frost hardiness of bay laurel. Stop giving fertilizer by mid-September at the latest so that the shoots mature and are prepared for the winter cold.

Properly wintering the spice laurel

In most regions of Germany, bay laurel has little to counter winter conditions. Severe frost below -6 to -12 degrees Celsius makes it necessary to hibernate the plant for a few months. The ideal winter quarters are light and cool with temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius. A dark location is also an option for overwintering, provided the conditions are frost-free below 10 degrees Celsius. This is how you properly overwinter bay leaves behind glass:

  • Period: mid/end of November to beginning/mid of April
  • recommended rooms: unheated conservatory, greenhouse, bright stairwell, cool bedroom
  • unsuitable winter quarters: well-heated living room, cozy warm kitchen
  • ideally with an artificial light source for 8 to 10 hours a day
  • water more sparingly and do not fertilize

If only a dark, cool basement room is available as winter quarters, laurel usually sheds its leaves. This is no cause for concern. Rather, it is a natural reaction to the lack of light. From the beginning or mid-April, when the temperatures outside no longer fall below freezing point, clear out the plant. Now is the best time to cut the laurel bush and repot it in fresh substrate. Within a few weeks, fresh, flavorful leaves will sprout and eventually make up for the wintertime foliage loss.

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