Growing herbs is a great way to add an edible element to your garden. Rosemary is normally quite easy to control if you keep it in a pot, but if you have it growing freely in the garden, it can easily get woody and shabby looking. This is when these tips for pruning rosemary are helpful.
All garden plants need pruning at some stage, and rosemary is no exception.
Rosemary is a perennial herb that I use all the time in cooking. It is earthy, flavorful and very hardy in the garden.
This herb can be grown in containers (I grow mine on my vegetable garden on a deck) or planted directly in your flower garden, or vegetable garden. It is versatile and adds great flavor to all sorts of recipes.
Generally, rosemary is fairly easy going and won’t need much in the way of care. However, if your plant is really overgrown, hard pruning may be necessary.(removing quite a lot of the old wood.) This technique is best done in the spring since it will send off lots of new growth and the long growing season to follow will help it.
But general pruning of rosemary can be done throughout the growing season and right into early fall. My plants get lightly pruned during the spring and summer, since I cut rosemary for use in recipes all year. By fall, the plant can look pretty unkempt so this is when I set about the task of pruning rosemary in earnest.
- Tips for pruning rosemary
- HOW TO CARE FORTHE HERB ROSEMARY
- ROSEMARY IN CONTAINERS OR OPEN GROUND
- HOW FROST HARDY IS YOUR ROSEMARY HERB
- HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR ROSEMARY HERB
- WHEN AND HOW TO PRUNE ROSEMARY
- RECOMMENDED VARIETIES OF THE HERB ROSEMARY
- PESTS AND DISEASES OF ROSEMARY
- GROWING ROSEMARY FROM CUTTINGS
- COOKING WITH THE HERB ROSEMARY
- How to turn a rosemary bush into a tree
- 1. Interesting facts about rosemary bush
- 2. Tools needed to prune or trim an rosemary bush
- 3. How to prune rosemary
- 4. When to prune rosemary
- 5. Video trimming rosemary
- How To Prune Rosemary
- How To Harvest Your Rosemary
- Growing Rosemary From Cuttings
- How To Take Cuttings From Your Rosemary
- Can You Hard Prune Rosemary: Learn About Rejuvenation Pruning Of Rosemary
- Can You Hard Prune Rosemary?
- Rejuvenating Rosemary Plants
Tips for pruning rosemary
When to prune rosemary
This can be done as early as late winter and then through spring and summer. It’s not necessary to wait for the flowering to finish and, in fact, this is not a good idea. Pruning too late in the year might encourage new growth that will not have hardened before the first frost. In many locations, late July is a good time, and for warmer hardiness zones, you can prune in September. A general rule is to prune no later than about 4-6 weeks before the first frost.
Is pruning necessary each year?
Rosemary is very good at taking care of itself, particularly plants grown in pots. It’s not necessary to prune plants unless they are overgrown, over woody, or unless you are trying to make a hedge or prune into topiary shapes. Also, you may simply want to prune rosemary to reduce the size of the plant or to make your existing plant more productive next year.
My rosemary has quite a bit of older growth on it, so I want to prune it now so that the time I have left will give me some fresher tips to use in Thanksgiving cooking. Rosemary grows for me pretty much all year round, here in zone 7b.
How to prune rosemary plants
Before you start the job of pruning rosemary, be sure that your garden shears are nice and sharp. Dirty shears with blunt tips will mean that your cuts are ragged, which can encourage disease and pest problems. All garden tools need to be tended to this time of the year. Be sure to check out my general tips for winterizing your garden tools, as well.
General Pruning. To prune rosemary, clip off the faded flowers, if any. You can preserve the flowers with Borax for use in dried flower arrangements, craft projects or potpourri. Use a good pair of pruning shears to trim back just below the flower area. If the plant is not flowering, just snip off the top few inches of the stems, being careful not to move too far into the old wood.
If your aim is a bushy plant, just remove about 1 – 2 inches of all of the branches. This encourages each tip to split into two and will give you a nice bushy looking plant before you know it.
Hard Pruning. Since rosemary is a perennial,if it is grown freely in the garden can get to heights of 6-8 feet! Any plant this size will get woody and unkempt looking if not pruned.
Photo credit Flickr
If you decide to do more of a hard pruning, earlier in the year, ratcheting pruners will make cutting the old wood easier, but never cut more than 1/3 of the plant or you may kill it. With old wood, a good rule of thumb is one branch out of three. Then, 6-8 weeks later, as the new growth is growing vigorously, you can cut back another woody branch and so on. At all costs, don’t cut all the old wood off at once.
Pruning Rosemary Plants in Containers
Rosemary is a perennial herb, so it will continue growing year after year in containers. This can result in pot bound plants.
A pot bound rosemary plant will produce less and less new growth and get quite woody. Re-pot the plant into a larger pot, if you can. If not, remove the plant from the container and carefully prune the roots back and bit and add a fresh layer of soil. I find that I can grow rosemary for several years in a large pot before it needs this step..
What to do with rosemary clippings
Rosemary can be easily dried for use in recipes during the winter and, like most herbs, can be preserved many other ways. Rosemary oil and rosemary herb butter are just a few ideas.
You can also root the cuttings of newer shoots of rosemary to get more plants for free. Either place the springs in water to grow roots and plant them in soil, or use a root powder on the tips and plant them directly into soil. Before you know it, you’ll have a new plant. Rosemary makes a great indoor plant to grow on your kitchen counter near a sunny window.
These tips for pruning rosemary bushes are easy to do but important in the overall look and health of the plant. Knowing how to prune rosemary plants will make for a happy plant that gives you sprigs of lovely flavor for cooking.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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HOW TO CARE FORTHE HERB ROSEMARY
ROSEMARY IN CONTAINERS OR OPEN GROUND
There is very little difference between growing rosemary in open ground or in pots. Those in pots will require more watering and a light feed but that’s about it. Growing in pots however is convenient because you can have one by your back or front door making harvesting so much easier.
The key differences between the two methods are mainly concerned with frost and the type of soil of you have:
- no variety of rosemary is fully frost hardy and all varieties can be killed by very severe frosts. Some can be killed by light frosts. See the section below on frost hardiness for more specific details. Growing rosemary in pots gives you the ability to move the plants to a frost free position for a few days if a bad frost is predicted.
- rosemary prefers a light soil in full sun, plants grown in standard multi-purpose compost do well and they can always be positioned in full sun. If you are growing in open ground and your soil is heavy then prepare it well to lighten the soil and give good drainage.
- rosemary grown in open ground almost looks after itself. Only in the very driest conditions will it ever require watering. In open ground there is no need to feed the plant, it will extract sufficient nutrients from all but the very lightest of soils.
As you can see from the above if you choose a hardy variety of rosemary, prepare the soil well and position it in mainly full sun, both pots and open ground cultivation work well. If you have problems with heavy soil or want to grow a less frost tolerant variety then it’s probably best to grow this herb in pots.
HOW FROST HARDY IS YOUR ROSEMARY HERB
Before we answer that question it’s crucial to understand that the primary environmental enemy of rosemary is an over-wet soil and this is especially the case in winter when more rain falls. If your soil is free draining and relatively light then most varieties of rosemary are frost hardy down to -8°C / 18°F, many to much lower temperatures. If your soil is even slightly water logged then any temperature below freezing will probably damage or kill your rosemary plant.
Another key factor in how frost hardy a rosemary plant will be is how exposed the site is. Those subject to strong winds will be less frost hardy compared to those in protected positions.
As a general rule of thumb varieties with thin leaves are more frost hardy compared to those with fleshy broader leaves. Creeping varieties are far less frost hardy compared to upright varieties. The plain old Rosmarinus officinalis is one of the most frost hardy, normally down to -12°C / 11°F. Other varieties which stand the frost just as well are:
- Rosmarinus officinalis Arp – excellent frost resistance
- Rosmarinus officinalis Benenden Blue
- Rosmarinus officinalis Majorca Pink
- Rosmarinus officinalis McConnell’s Blue
- Rosmarinus officinalis Shimmering Stars – excellent frost resistance
- Rosmarinus officinalis Sissinghurst Blue
- Rosmarinus officinalis Sudbury Blue
- Rosmarinus officinalis Tuscan Blue
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR ROSEMARY HERB
OPEN GROUND CULTIVATION
Before planting a new rosemary plant make sure the soil conditions and the position are correct. They thrive in a light, well-drained soil. If your soil is heavy or clayey then dig in lots of well composted organic material and ideally some horticultural sand. Dig it in deeply because after a few years your rosemary plant will put down extensive roots. Choose a position which is is in full sun for 6 hours of the day at the very least.
Planting is simply a matter of digging a hole slightly larger than the roots, put it in position to the same depth as was in the post and fill in with soil. Firm down gently and water in. Do not feed the plant at all. The eventual size of the bush, if allowed to grow freely, will be about 50cm / 3ft wide so take this into consideration when planting. Regular pruning can easily keep the plant to around 30cm / 2ft wide with out any problems.
Caring for a rosemary plant growing in open ground is minimal. Keep the area around the bush free from weeds and prune as explained below. If the soil is normal then no feeding is required. In very poor, soil feed twice a year with a balanced fertiliser such Blood, Fish and Bone.
GROWING IN CONTAINERS
Watering will be necessary during summer time in dry periods but keep the soil drier than for most other plants. A feed with an organic long-lasting fertiliser such as Blood, Fish and Bone in spring, summer and autumn will be enough to keep the plant well fed
WHEN AND HOW TO PRUNE ROSEMARY
Once a rosemary bush is established they require very little attention but an annual prune in late winter to early spring will extend its productive life considerably and keep it looking good. If you look at the lower part of an established rosemary bush you will see that it is woody and no foliage is sprouting from the lowest part of the plant. As time goes by, if the bush is not pruned, that non-productive woody part will extend higher up the plant.
An annual prune won’t stop the woody part extending up the plant but it will greatly slow it down. There’s no complicated pruning rules with rosemary, simply cut back the top third of the plant (never into old non-productive wood) with a pair of shears or pruners. Then generally cut the plant to shape. Rosemary will withstand very hard pruning if overgrown as long as you don’t cut below productive wood into non-productive wood. That’s it, job done!
Many people save the prunings by drying them in a cool and dark place (a shed or garage is ideal) and then use some of them on their barbecues. The aroma or burning rosemary leaves and branches is superb and it goes well with lamb and chicken in particular. Many veggie dishes are improved as well.
RECOMMENDED VARIETIES OF THE HERB ROSEMARY
Rosmarinus oficinalis ‘Miss Jessops Upright’
A frost hardy variety which has blue to light blue flowers which are freely produced in May and June. The leaves are narrow, dark green on the top and dusty white underneath. It will grow to an eventual height and spread of 1.8m / 6ft but can easily be kept to half that size with annual pruning. The plant is compact and upright and can be used equally well as a specimen plant or as hedging. Excellent as a herb for cooking purposes.
Rosmarinus oficinalis ‘Arp’
If you want a very hardy variety that can withstand low temperatures then this is the one to go for. The flowers are light blue with narrow green leaves on top and white below. Ideal for hedging or as a single plant. The scent of the crushed leaves is typical rosemary with a background of lemon, ideal for cooking use.
Rosmarinus oficinalis ‘Roseus’
If you want pink flowers on your rosemary bush then this variety is for you. The flowers are light pinks and there are lots of them. The thin leaves are green on the top with a white underside. This is an attractive plant as a single centre piece because the foliage is dense and upright. Height and spread are 1.2m / 4ft which can be reduced considerably with pruning. Needs a well drained and sunny position. Excellent for cooking purposes.
PESTS AND DISEASES OF ROSEMARY
ROSEMARY LEAF BEETLE
At its fully grown stage this beetle is hard to miss even though it is small (8mm long at most). The red stripes down a metallic background clearly identify it. They feed on the tips of new shoots of rosemary plants causing them to shrivel and turn brown. They first become apparent in mid May time although they do most of their damage from mid to late summer.
The beetles mate and lay eggs on the undersides of the leaves in August. The larvae then emerge in a week or two, have a munch on your rosemary for about three weeks and then fall to the ground where they overwinter.
The proper name for this pest is Chrysolina americana which may give the impression that it originated in America. In fact it originates from Europe and has been common on South Eastern Europe and Mediterranean areas for many years. It was first spotted in the UK in 1994 and has steadily migrated northwards now reaching Wales and even as far north as Scotland.
The larvae are much smaller, about 2mm long, looking like very small slugs with a black line down their back. They are normally found on the underside of young foliage.
The plants can be sprayed but manually removing them is normally sufficient in the average UK garden because they are so obvious. Either pick the beetles and larvae off by hand or lay paper under the plant and shake them off onto the paper then dispose of them. Encourage birds into the garden because they will eat the larvae. As well as rosemary (their favourite plant) they can also be be found on lavender and sage.
CUCKOO SPIT or FROGHOPPERS
This pest can cause problems at its larvae stage. It is easily identified as a white froth on young stems. The froth is generated by the larvae to protect them from birds. They first appear in May and can last up to July. The cure is simple, spray them off with a jet of water as soon as you notice them.
The name cuckoo spit refers to time of year when this pest first appears although it has nothing whatsoever to do with cuckoos. When the larvae hatch a leafhopper will emerge which is harmless to rosemary plants.
GROWING ROSEMARY FROM CUTTINGS
Rosemary is one of the easiest plants to take cuttings from, an ideal subject for even the very most amateur of gardeners. All you will need is a number of pots (about 8cm diameter is ideal) some general purpose potting compost and a sharp pair of secateurs or knife.
Rosemary cuttings can be taken literally at any time of the year because they are never dormant. However the best time is probably between late March to mid September avoiding their flowering period which is normally mid May to late June. If you take the cuttings in winter or autumn they will certainly grow but they may take a little longer with the shorter days restricting their vigour.
Personally we find the best time of year is early to mid September because this avoids the gardeners busy part of the year when other crops need attention.
THE COMPOST TO USE FOR ROSEMARY CUTTINGS
We use multi-purpose potting compost and it works fine for us. Some sources recommend buying special cuttings compost which is slightly lighter and drains more easily. Certainly this will also work fine. Soil from your garden is definitely not recommended, it is likely to be too heavy and will have various bugs and pathogens in it which are not good for taking cuttings.
Because rosemary is so easy to propagate from cuttings we suggest placing one cutting in each 8cm pot. Almost all will grow and it will avoid potting them up. Fill the pots with the compost to about 2cm from the top and gently firm the soil down. Use a pencil or similar to make an 8cm / 2½in hole in the compost where the cutting can be inserted.
We don’t use hormone rooting powder when taking cutting because previous experience indicates it makes no difference. However, if you wish to use some then simply dip the end of the cutting into the powder and shake any excess off just before placing the cutting in the compost.
The initial cutting should come from the top half of the plant and should be about 10cm / 4in long. It should have leaves growing well from the entire length of the stem. Use a sharp knife or secateurs to make the cut and avoid crushing the stem.
Strip off the lower leaves leaving only the top 5cm / 2in with leaves on. Pull off the leaves one at a time to avoid damaging the stem.
Place the cutting on a hard surface and cut the bottom of the cutting again just below a leaf node (the tiny lumps in the stem where a leaf joins the stem).
Place the cutting in the hole in the compost so that the lowest leaves are barely above the level of the compost. Gently firm the compost around the cutting to support it and ensure the stem is in contact with the compost. Water well and let the excess water drain away.
Place the pots in a light position but out of direct sunlight. A window sill will do fine for this purpose. The cuttings will root where the soil temperature is between 12°C / 54°F to 22°C / 72°F. the higher the temperature within that range the quicker the cuttings will root.
Leave the cuttings for six weeks only watering if the compost is not moist.
After six weeks any cuttings which have failed to root will be clearly dead, any which are still green can be assumed to have rooted.
The new plants should be transferred to larger pots when the roots have filled the original pot. At this point gradually acclimatise the plants to outside weather conditions (leave it to later if there is a danger of frost) and they can then be placed outside.
COOKING WITH THE HERB ROSEMARY
The classic use of rosemary is with roast lamb. Sprigs of rosemary are pierced into the meat surface before it is cooked. During the cooking process they add delicious flavour to the lamb and are can also be added to the gravy.
Not only is the flavour added by rosemary superb, the roast lamb looks very impressive when taken from the oven.
Other recipes which make excellent use of rosemary include lamb and feta burgers, chicken with grapes and rosemary and delicious rosemary and garlic potatoes.
How to turn a rosemary bush into a tree
A small rosemary “tree” sitting on a windowsill provides beauty, fragrance, and flavoring.
Picture a little rosemary tree at your kitchen window, standing there upright and green as if in defiance to the wintry scene beyond the panes.
This little tree offers more than decoration and winter cheer. Pass your hand lightly over the leaves, close your eyes, and the scent will carry you to a sunbaked Mediterranean hillside, the plant’s native habitat. Snip off a few leaves for cooking, and your tongue will similarly transport you to milder climes.
Grown as a little tree rather than as a sprawling shrub (its natural inclination), a rosemary plant takes up little sill space and is easy to prune. Here’s how to make that tree.
START WITH A TRUNK
Begin with a small rosemary plant, grown from seed or cuttings, or bought. Seed is slowest and most difficult, cuttings root easily, and the bought plant will still offer you the satisfaction of training the tree. Even naturally creeping varieties can be coaxed into becoming little trees, but if you have a choice, choose a naturally upright variety such as Majorca Pink or Salem.
Single out one stem to become the future trunk of your plant, completely removing all stems except for this trunk-to-be at the base of the plant. The most vigorous, upright stem is the obvious candidate. In the case of a creeping variety, just select any healthy stem and stake it upright. Poke a dowel or thin piece of bamboo into the soil near the base of the plant and tie a piece of soft yarn tightly around the stake, then loosely around the stem.
As growth begins, the trunk-to-be will elongate, new stems will sprout out along it, and other stems might sprout near the base of the plant as trunk wannabes. The latter are most common with creeping varieties, which have bushier inclinations.
Your goal in the weeks ahead is to promote elongation and thickening of the trunk-to-be. To that end, keep cutting away any new stems sprouting from the base of the plant. Pinch back to just a few leaves any stems sprouting along the trunk-to-be. Doing so keeps them subordinate but lets them help thicken the trunk.
AND NOW THE HEAD
Once the trunk reaches full height, your goals change: You now want to stop growth and create a bushy head. But how high is “full height”? It’s all for show, and what looks good depends on how big a head you are going to give the plant and how big a pot the plant will eventually call home. Generally, a head 2 to 3 times the height and just slightly more than the width of the pot looks good. Stop growth at the desired height by pinching off the growing tip of the trunk, a simple operation that awakens growth of buds down along the trunk.
Create the bushy head by repeatedly pinching – and thus inducing more branching – the tips of all shoots that sprout from the top few inches of trunk. Now define that head more clearly by completely removing all stems and leaves further down the trunk.
All these prunings need not be wasted, of course. They could be used as flavoring or as cuttings to make yet more plants.
Maintain your little tree by repeatedly nipping back the ends of stems, which keeps your plant compact, neat and elegant.
A final tip: Although rosemary thrives in the dry air of the Mediterranean region and of our homes, the soil must be kept moist. Rosemary’s narrow leaves never droop, so your only indication that the plant needs water might otherwise be a dead plant.
There is a lavender at the bottom of my street that has grown so wild it sprawls through the fence; you can see a line along the flowers where passersby can’t help but caress its fragrant blooms. I’m one of them. I like its dishevelled nature, but I’m not sure it would work in a garden. Its bare legs and gaping belly would make it unsightly.
Woody herbs such as lavender, thyme, rosemary and sage, as well as the less-woody-but-still-woody-enough oregano and winter savory (Satureja montana) do need pruning. Left to their own devices, they become leggy, with the woody parts bearing few or no fresh shoots.
In the Mediterranean heat, these herbs are clipped by nature – thin soils, baking summers and strong winds will keep them neat enough. In our wetter, milder climate they grow in a different manner, so it’s important to prune them regularly – once or perhaps even twice a year – to keep them in a nice shape.
The best time to prune is early spring, but there is a second chance now, once flowering is over. Remove the spent flowers and cut the stems back to a pair of leaves on no more than a third of the overall plant. Next spring, cut another third and you’ll find your herbs will stay in a good productive shape.
It is almost impossible to get back to a neat, bushy plant once it’s grown big. This is because the woody parts tend not to resprout new growth; if you chop back into this, you will be left with stubs and little else. In this case, it is better to take cuttings or start again than to try to renovate the shrub.
Cuttings are easy enough, though. Choose non-flowering growth and cut sections of stem that are 10-15cm long. Remove the lower pair or pairs of leaves so you have a clean stem, then, with a sharp knife, cut just below a pair of leaf nodes (the point from which the leaves grow). Then place cuttings in gritty seed compost (mix equal parts grit and compost) and water well. Place them in a warm, shaded spot and keep well watered. Or, if you are taking the cuttings indoors, place a clear plastic bag over them to retain moisture.
In a few weeks you should start to see roots at the bottom of the pot. If not, carefully invert the pot and check what’s happening in the soil. The RHS website has a good page on herb cuttings if you are nervous.
If your lavender suddenly turns into an awkward leggy teenager, then it is possible to cheat and do the “dropping” trick if it is not too big. Dig up the plant, dig a deeper hole and replant so that only the leafy growth is showing; essentially you bury the woody stems. (Do not try this on a hot day or if the plant is in flower.) The soil must be gritty, otherwise the stems will rot. Keep the plant well watered till you see signs of new growth.
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Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. This bush, in addition to being used in the kitchen, is used to treat many health problems such as digestive problems, overweight or hair loss. Given the importance of this small plant is that you could not miss an article about it in this blog, we will see everything about how and when to prune rosemary.
You will learn the best techniques for proper pruning, the right time to trim and with what tools to do it. Stay until the end of the article and you will not have any doubts when you take your pruning shears.
Note: Please note that the advice given here is general, this blog is consulted from many countries in the world, with totally different characteristics, what not all tips will be adapted in the same way in all cases. Once you finish reading the article it will be necessary to analyze all the information and apply what you have learned in the best way. If you have any questions, remember that you can contact us to make your inquiries.
Table of Contents
1. Interesting facts about rosemary bush
Before entering the main topic of this post, prune the rosemary, I leave some interesting facts about this bush. I bet what you want, you do not know one or several of them. 😉
- Usage of rosemary dates back to 500 B.C. when it was used as a culinary and medicinal herb by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
- The famous Water of the Queen Hungary has as main component rosemary. The name of this perfume and its fame is due to Queen Elizabeth of Hungary (1305-1380), she suffered from rheumatic pains and paralysis, to seek relief she went to a hermit who gave her this alchemical tincture, thanks to her she managed to make them disappear the pains, rejuvenated and embellished so much that the king of Poland offered him marriage and that she was 72 years old.
- A very old legend explains that the Virgin Mary, in her flight from Egypt, lost a blue mantle that covered her, the mantle fell on the branches of a simple green bush, then, the bush blossomed giving small blue flowers, to the bush today it is known as rosemary.
- In Egypt it was one of the ingredients of the formulas made to embalm the bodies of the dead.
- Ancient Greeks believed that Rosemary was a magical plant that could strengthen memory.
- During the English Tudor era, Rosemary symbolized fidelity, and brides would give sprigs of Rosemary to bridegroom as a tradition.
- The health benefits of rosemary include increase blood circulation to the brain, boost memory, reduce inflammation, treat Alzheimer’s, reducing the severity of asthma attacks, heal cancer, relieve pain, and protect the immune system.
- Distilled Rosemary oil can be poisonous in strong doses.
2. Tools needed to prune or trim an rosemary bush
Rosemary pruning is not a complicated task, and with it the tools you will need for this task are easy to achieve.
- A pair of gloves.
- Safety glasses.
Keep in mind that you must disinfect all the tools before trimming your rosemary. This will help prevent disease transmission, you will have to do it before you start pruning and every time you change plants.
2.1 Needed care of pruning tools
If you want to extend the useful life of your pruning tools there are some basic care.
- Use the right tool for a job and avoid twisting or straining it.
- Clean and oil tools regularly by wiping an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces.
- Keep cutting edges sharp by regularly using an oilstone.
- Wooden handles should be varnished or regularly treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking or splintering.
Carry out the previous care on a regular basis and you will be saving good money on tools. 🙂
3. How to prune rosemary
Carrying out rosemary pruning is not life or death for this shrub. By this I mean that it is not a 100% necessary care, but it is a good practice if what we want is to control the size, shape or in some cases rejuvenate the plant.
With this said you can go imagining what types of pruning are those we carry in the rosemary, they are:
- Pruning or trimming in order to shape the bush.
- Trim in order to control the size of the rosemary. This is given that if we do not perform maintenance pruning we will have a fairly large bush, which can reach two meters in height.
- In case you have a very old or not so old rosemary but with several years without being pruned, what we will need is to perform a rejuvenation pruning.
- Clean pruning where unnecessary and unhelpful elements for the shrub will be eliminated.
Then we will explain each of these types of pruning, because although they are not complicated to carry out, it is necessary to know some essential tips.
You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:
- Spirea bush
- Japanese maple tree
3.1 Trimming rosemary to shape
Like all training pruning, it is good to do it from the early age of the plant. If you do so, it will be much easier to guide the bush to the desired shape. Otherwise, if we want to give shape to a mature rosemary, we will have to cut bigger cuts which can be harmful to your health.
For the first case, prune at an early age, you can fix it with a simple gardening scissor. But if your rosemary is something bigger, you should look for a long-handled scissors to make your task easier. Whatever the case, make sure they are correctly sharpened, this will help to make more neat cuts that will heal better.
In training pruning you can find two very different cases:
- When it is the first pruning of formation in your rosemary: for it you must take distance, observing of different sizes to the bush. Then with the way you want to visualize it in your head, begin to cut back.
- When you have already done previous training pruning: this will be a maintenance pruning of the shape of your rosemary, and it is quite simple. It will be enough to look for the cuts of the previous prunings, and to carry out the pruning in this height of the branches. This will ensure that your bush recovers the previous form.
The pruning of formation not only helps to give form, but it will allow a more dense foliage of rosemary. For its wide use in the kitchen, a very dense foliage is very beneficial.
Perform this pruning periodically, do not let years without doing this rosemary pruning, and your bush will look more beautiful and healthy. Besides being faster and easier pruning.
3.2 Rosemary pruning to control its size
Personally, I am one of the people who prefer to see trees or shrubs with their natural forms, without forcing them with any type of trimming. In the same way, the time may come when the size of the bush is a bit annoying for the garden. That is, I will have to prune my rosemary to control its size, which can exceed two meters in height if we do not cut it.
Depending on the degree to which you want to reduce the size, it will depend if you can do it in one stage, or you should plan it in more than one stage. It is never advisable to trim the dimensions of rosemary by more than a third. If you want to reduce by more than a third, you should do it in more than one pruning, leaving time for the bush to recover from the wounds.
No matter where you are making the cuts (in height, sideways), take each branch and do not cut more than a third of it. Rosemary is an arbous that recovers very well to pruning, but you must give it time for such recovery. Remember that with pruning you are making wounds to your plant, you do not want them to end up hurting your health.
3.3 Trimming of an old rosemary – Rejuvenetion trimming
If your rosemary begins to present a very low growth rate, with branches that have a lot of dry wood, it is a good time to consider the need to perform a rejuvenation pruning. Like all rejuvenation pruning what is sought in this case is to give the rosemary a push to reactivate again, with new shoots that emerge from its base and are healthier and stronger than the previous ones.
Many woody shrubs do not support a drastic pruning like the one of rejuvenation, and they die without releasing new buds. But that does not happen with the rosemary, which responds perfectly to this type of pruning, and with the pertinent care will sprout with much strong from its base.
The first thing you should do is to carefully observe the entire structure of the shrub, analyze if there are still branches that have strength to re-sprout and which do not. Give an opportunity to those that seem to be strong, you will have total time to cut them in case they do not react. Cut to the ground those weaker and reduced a third of the strongest.
3.4 Rosemary cleaning pruning
This cleaning pruning does not change anything to the pruning that should be done to any tree or shrub. When pruning the rosemary you will have to make sure to trim the following elements:
- Dry flowers, you can do it with your own hands without using scissors.
- Dry, damaged and / or diseased branches. Within this group are the branches dry by the frost, damaged by the wind or some storm, affected by any type of plague or engermendad. Be sure to trim these last ones, you do not want that affection to spread to the whole plant.
The success of this pruning will depend almost exclusively on the good observation of the pruner. So you should take your time, do not rush or you can leave unwanted branches.
4. When to prune rosemary
Rosemary pruning can be done at any time during spring or summer. It is advisable never to do it near the first frosts, since irreparable damages can be generated in the plant.
In autumn and winter it is advisable not to prune as this will be focusing on their new growth, in addition to the acclimatization to the environment. It is a very important phase since it must be hardened so that winter and its low temperatures can not hurt it. As always, these tips will depend a lot on where you live, since in tropical areas you will not have to take care of frost.
On the other hand it will depend on what kind of pruning we are talking about. For example, cleaning pruning can be done at any time of the year, regardless of whether it is cold or hot. While a pruning of rejuvenation should never be done in frost periods, since it could affect the cuts. Do this pruning close to spring, when the plant starts to activate and you can heal the wounds.
5. Video trimming rosemary
To end the article, and as usual in this blog, I leave a video (The Arbor Gate channel) where they review several of the concepts we have seen so far.
Good until here the article has arrived, I hope you have understood everything about how and when to prune rosemary, and do not doubt even a second when you take your scissors. 🙂
You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:
Rosemary is a great addition to any herb garden, however, it does require annual pruning to keep it looking at its best.
The main reason for an annual prune is to help slow down the formation of wood and extend the vigour and lifetime of your rosemary.
The best time of year to prune rosemary is just before growth starts in mid-spring after any risk of frost has passed.
Pruning at this time of year should avoid any frost damage to new growth, and any pruning scars that occur will be covered by new foliage in the growing season ahead.
Rosemary can be pruned from mid-spring right up until four to six weeks before the first frost in the autumn.
If rosemary is pruned after this time, it can cause the shrub to focus on growing new, tender growth rather than hardening off and protecting the growth that it already has.
If a rosemary bush does not harden itself off, it will be more susceptible to winter damage which can kill it.
One advantage of an early autumn prune is that it will encourage good air circulation, which guards against your rosemary rotting.
Rosemary blooms in late spring to early summer, and if you lightly prune after its first flourish of flowers it will more than likely bloom again in late summer.
How To Prune Rosemary
Before embarking on a rosemary pruning session make sure your secateurs are nice and clean, and sharp. Ragged cuts caused by blunt and dirty blades could leave your shrub open to infectious diseases or pests.
The shaper your blades, the cleaner the cut you will achieve, rewarding you with branches that grow back stronger.
A Light Prune Or Trim Of Your Rosemary
If you wish to give your shrub a light or a hard prune the first port of call should be to remove branches that have crossed and those that are dead and diseased.
Cut stems that have been frost damaged back to the first set of healthy leaves. Do the same for low-lying branches that show signs of fungal infection, such as drooping or discoloured foliage.
If the entire branch appears to be affected, it’s usually best to get rid of the whole thing to keep the condition from spreading.
To produce a nice bushy foliage, lightly trim your plant by cutting back two to three inches from the outer most stems. This should encourage the stems split in two, producing a nice bushy shrub.
Avoid cutting below the lower leaves and into older wood, as removing too much foliage can harm your rosemary, causing it to grow only woody stems.
Shaping Your Rosemary
Shaping your plant is one of the main reasons for trimming your rosemary. You may wish to shape it as a topiary or a hedge.
You can shape your shrub as desired, keeping the depth and angle of each cut consistent will give your rosemary, a neat and well-manicured appearance.
Try to avoid making it too uniform though, as rosemary is naturally bushy, so it’s ok for it to be a little thicker in some places.
You may wish to focus on one part of the shrub for a practical prune. For instance, your rosemary may be overtaking a nearby plant or overhanging on to a pathway, cutting back those sections will help open things up creating space.
Hard Pruning Your Rosemary
Before you give your rosemary a hard pruning, it is best to evaluate whether to cut it back or if it has become too woody, replace it with a new edition.
If your rosemary has become overgrown and needs rejuvenating start by lopping off any stems that are dead, diseased or are no longer producing foliage.
Overgrown shrubs can be cut back a third of their total size. Cutting back your rosemary by more than this could kill it off by leaving only non-productive foliage.
If you want to reduce the size of the plant further, wait six to eight weeks before cutting back the rosemary again by another third.
If you wish to keep your plant the same height, you can also cut every third stem to thin it out without affecting the overall dimensions of the shrub.
The practice of cutting out a significant amount of foliage from this woody shrub is known as “rejuvenation pruning,” and can be useful for saving shrubs or trees that are failing due to exposure to harsh weather or disease.
How To Harvest Your Rosemary
If you wish to harvest your rosemary for some sprigs for your Sunday roast, the best time to do this is just before it flowers, as this is when the flavour of the rosemary will be at its peak. If you also plan to dry some rosemary this is also the best time to so.
When trimming look for stems that are at 8 inches (20cm) in length, and do not take cuttings from newly grown stems.
Cut sprigs off that are around two inches long, making sure you don’t cut too close and always leave some foliage on the stems.
To ensure you always have enough mature stems to clip, it is a good idea to keep more than one plant in the garden. Two or three should be more than adequate for most households.
Never harvest more than a 1/4 of your rosemary bush at a time. Leaving at least 3/4 of your plant will ensure that it continues to thrive and produce new sprigs.
When drying your cuttings, tie them together in evenly sized sprigs and hang them in a dark, dry and well-ventilated part of your house.
After around ten days your rosemary should be completely dry and ready to take down to strip off the leaves and store in a jar or an airtight container.
Also if you cut sprigs for harvest while your plant is in bloom, you can use the flowers for cooking as well, as apparently, they are edible as well.
Growing Rosemary From Cuttings
As mentioned before it is a good idea to keep more than one rosemary in your garden if you plan on using it for harvesting, but instead of purchasing more plants why not grow your own from cuttings from the plant that you already have planted in your garden.
Even if don’t use your rosemary for harvesting, you can grow free plants from the cuttings that you take from your annual prune of the shrub.
There a couple of valid reasons for growing rosemary from cuttings:
A rosemary plant raised from a cutting will mature more quickly than a plant grown from seed, and rosemary seeds tend to have a low germination rate and take a long time to grow. A rosemary cutting will reach a usable size in just a few months, and be ready to harvest much more quickly.
Same As The Donor Plant
The plant you grow from a cutting will be an exact clone of the donor plant and have the same disease resistance, growth and flavour.
How To Take Cuttings From Your Rosemary
- First, you need to select which stems to use from your donor plant. Choose healthy stems that have fresh growth, younger shoots will have green stems that are flexible. Avoid taking cuttings from woody stems.
- Using secateurs take a cutting around 5 to 6 inches back from a fresh growing tip.
- Gently strip off the lower 2 inches of leaves from the cutting.
- Place the cutting in water and place in a warm position away from direct sunlight. Change the water every couple of days with room temperature water. The fresh water will provide dissolved oxygen that prevents the cutting from rotting.
- The cutting should grow roots in a few weeks depending on the room temperature. After 6 to 8 weeks it should be apparent to see if the cutting has taken. Cuttings that have failed will be brown and will have shed leaves.
- Pot up the cutting once roots develop, using a sandy soil mix that drains well. Mix equal parts of multi-purpose potting soil and sharp sand, or use cactus-potting soil.
- Fill a 4-inch pot with slightly damp potting soil for each rosemary cutting. Use a pencil to make a 3 to 4 inch hole into the soil. Place the cutting in the hole with care to avoid damaging the roots. Cover gently and water thoroughly.
- Place the newly potted rosemary plant in indirect light or in filtered sunlight until roots become established, and then move to direct light, at least 6 to 8 hours per day. Keep the potting soil moist until you see new growth.
- Let the new plants to put on some growth before harvesting. Once the plant is 6 inches tall, harvest by cutting stems as needed. New growth will continue forming on the stem.
Can You Hard Prune Rosemary: Learn About Rejuvenation Pruning Of Rosemary
Given the right conditions, rosemary plants thrive, eventually reaching heights of 6 to 8 feet. They grow out as well as up, sending out stems that seem determined to explore their surroundings and invade the space of adjacent plants. If your rosemary plant has grown out of control, it’s time to take drastic action. Rejuvenation pruning of rosemary may be needed.
Can You Hard Prune Rosemary?
Gardeners are sometimes hesitant to make drastic cuts on rosemary shrubs because a few herbs with similar, woody stems don’t recover if you make severe cuts. A mature rosemary plant, however, tolerates this drastic pruning, even into the woody parts of the stem.
You can do light pruning and harvesting any time of year, but a rosemary plant responds best to hard pruning in winter when it isn’t actively growing. When pruned in winter, the plant grows back in spring looking better than ever. Read on to find out how to rejuvenate a rosemary shrub.
Note: For most people who grow rosemary, the plant will go through a cold period. It isn’t a good idea to prune any herb, rosemary or otherwise, shortly before or during cold because it will cause the plant to grow new shoots, which are very vulnerable to cold damage. In warmer areas where rosemary is more apt to grow to the size in which rejuvenation pruning is needed, the plant is not experiencing the same killing cold, so winter pruning while it’s in dormancy is best. That being said, for those of us NOT living in such areas, stick to spring pruning after the threat of frost has passed.
Rejuvenating Rosemary Plants
The first step in rejuvenating rosemary plants is to determine the size at which you want to maintain the plant. Cut the shrub back to about half of the desired size, and by the end of spring it will fill the allotted space. You can maintain the size of the shrub through summer with light pruning and harvesting.
Cutting through the thick, woody parts of the stem on a mature rosemary shrub may be too much for your hand pruners. If you find the stems hard to cut, use loppers with long handles. The length of the handles gives you more leverage and you’ll be able to make the cuts easily. When tender new shoots replace the old growth, you’ll be able to make cuts easily with hand pruners.
Don’t toss the prunings on the compost pile! Save the best tips to start new plants, and strip the needles off the remaining stems for drying. The tough stems make excellent kabob skewers.