Sunday, December 15, 2019

Growing Culinary Trees: Bay Laurel - Curry Leaf - Kaffir Lime

Wow! My blog just turned 10!

I still have my garden but it's not as big as it once was.
These days I have to devote more time to working due to the high cost of living on Maui.
 However, I wouldn't trade Maui for anywhere else in the world!

Curry Leaf, Bay Laurel, Kaffir Lime and Allspice

The leaves of culinary trees add dimension and flavor to many dishes.

Bay Laurel

Bay leaves are the most common culinary leaf that's used in America. Bay Laurels actually grow into a large tree but can be grown successfully in a 15 gallon or larger container. Their roots seem to be comfortable in a confined space and it doesn't affect the quality of the leaves like it does with citrus.

Lots of New Bright Green Leaves
1 month after pruning

My bay laurel has been growing in a 15 gallon container for over six years. If I don't prune it for a few months the branches will grow well over 6 ft. I keep it trimmed so it produces new fresh leaves. It's been low maintenance and heat and drought tolerant. I fertilize the container once a month and this tree is very forgiving if I forget to water it.

Bay laurels are grown from cuttings. I purchased my seedling plant from
Kula Hardware and Nursery.

Curry Leaf

18 Months From Germination

Curry leaf trees can be planted in the ground as well as a large container. I've found they outgrow a 15 gallon container in about two years and begin to produce poor quality leaves. They produce a lot of seeds in the summer and fall so it's easy to start a replacement tree.

Flowering in May

Curry leaf trees are native to southern India and they're very compatible with the Kihei climate. The trees can be grown from seed when they are very fresh. It can take them several weeks or more to germinate and they grow slowly during the first few months. They're heat tolerant but not very drought tolerant and need a lot of water during our hottest months as the tree will wilt without adequate water.

Maturing Seed Heads in July

If you don't have access to fresh seeds, it's easier to grow a Curry Leaf tree from a seedling plant. They're available on Amazon and ebay.

Seedling Plants

If you live on Maui I usually have several seedling plants that I can share if you would like to grow one. My email is in the "About My Blog" on the upper right side.

Some of Ottoleghi's popular cookbooks have recipes that include curry leaves.

Kaffir Lime

Lots of Growth
16 months from germination

Kaffir lime trees are grown for their unique leaves which are used predominately in Thai cuisine. These trees are smaller than other citrus and can be grown in a container for several years before their roots become too stressed. They aren't as heat tolerant as other citrus and struggle during our hottest months with tip burn and curled leaves.

Kaffir Lime Seedling
5 months from germination

It takes a  l o n g  time to grow a kaffir lime tree from a seed. The seeds have very low and slow germination and seedling plants grow very slowly during their first year.

I purchased a kaffir lime tree from Ki-Hana Nursery and planted it in a 30 gallon container. It produced limes during the second year. After three years the tree became too stressed to produce good quality leaves or fruit due to it being confined to a container. This seedling plant was the result of seeds I planted from one of the limes.

Kaffir lime trees need adequate water but they are more drought tolerant than a curry leaf tree.


  1. Congratulations on your 10th year of the blog! I'm now going to look for a bay leaf plant.

  2. Howzit? I’m on the Hilo (rainy side) of the Big Island. I was looking for some ideas why my tomatoes aren’t ripening when I found your blog. The temperature usually only gets up to the low 80s here. For example, it’s noon here and only 79 degrees F*. But my tomatoes are all very green and I thought they would be ripe by now. Our weather is probably different from yours because of all the rain and a little lower temps. I don’t know what kind of tomatoes I have as they are all volunteers from the composting that I do. But I have plenty of healthy plants, buds, and fruit. Just unripe fruit. I enjoyed reading your blog. I hope you’re staying safe and well as we go through this pandemic.

    1. Tomatoes take at least 4 months from the time they sprout until the first ripe tomato. Some varieties take 5 months. 80 degrees is a good temperature. They do need sun but they will still grow as long as it isn't cloudy all of the time.

  3. Aloha from Molokai, south facing coast.
    Thank you so much for your information and insight on planting in Hawaii. I am a new struggling gardener and just pulled all my pepper plants out due to frustration with ants and being "stung".
    Now my green beans are exceptional 😋
    I again thank you and will continue to look into your blog for support.
    Happy gardening Mahalo!

    1. Mahalo for your appreciation of my blog! If your climate is similar to Kihei most of the pepper varieties I grow struggle due to the heat and intense sun in the summer. If you're growing them from seeds the best time to start seeds is in late November through December. The peppers will begin to ripen in May and the plants will usually have minimal problems.

  4. Aloha I'm a fellow Kihei gardener. I was excited to hear that you were successful in growing Bay Laurel in a container. I purchased seed from a seed nursery on the mainland however none broke dormancy. Would it be possible to obtain a cutting from you? I would very much like to grow bay. Mahalo Lori

    1. I can give you some cuttings. Email me at and I'll get back with you.