Rosemary is a popular culinary herb and is basically constantly pruned at harvest. However, this pruning is not enough to keep the plant healthy and dense growth in the long term. Here is how to properly prune rosemary.
Although you naturally prune your rosemary regularly to get the delicious needle-like leaves, the kitchen herb needs extra pruning. It’s the only way rosemary stays compact and forms strong new shoots. Whether harvesting rosemary or pruning it, the right tool makes all the difference. In any case, use clean, sharp pruning shears so that the cuts do not fray.
Why do you need to cut rosemary?
Rosemary (formerly Rosmarinus officinalis, today Salvia rosmarinus) belongs to the so-called semishrubs (hemiphanerophytes). This means that the perennial plant becomes increasingly woody at the shoot base over the years, while the herbaceous branches renew themselves each season and then often die back in winter. If you do not prune your rosemary, the woody parts increase more and more and the plant becomes more and more “long-legged”: the rosemary withers from the bottom and the new shoots become shorter and shorter every year. This, of course, also means that the harvest becomes smaller and smaller.
Important: When harvesting rosemary, it is better to cut whole branches and not individual leaves. Also, for a more beautiful growth, make sure not to cut the plant on one side, but to remove branches evenly on all sides. If you occasionally cut out branches from the inside of the crown, you will at the same time thin out the rosemary a little.
Cut rosemary – is it really necessary?
Part of the pruning of rosemary is done quite automatically during harvesting, where regularly cut small branches from the seasoning herb with kitchen scissors. But for healthy growth rosemary needs additional pruning in the spring. If it is not pruned, the plant begins to lignify and quickly becomes sparse and unsightly.
When to prune rosemary?
The best time to cut rosemary is in the spring after flowering. If you grow your rosemary in containers and/or keep it outdoors, you should wait until the last frosts have passed before pruning. Otherwise the fresh shoots that were stimulated by pruning will easily freeze during late frosts.
Cut back the shoots from the previous year to just above the woody parts. Thin out the bushy growing rosemary a little at the same time: Branches that are too close together will impede each other’s growth, get too little light, and increase the likelihood of infestation by pests or plant diseases. Diseased, wilted or weak branches are also removed. Paradoxically, rosemary branches tend to wither when given too much water. Remove these stems and, if necessary, renew the substrate as well. Herbal soil with a high mineral content is ideal. Make sure it is permeable and add a layer of sand to the bottom of the planter, for example, for better drainage.
Of course, you do not have to dispose of the cut branches of rosemary. Just hang them in an airy, dry and warm place for the rosemary to dry. Once the rosemary is completely dry, pluck off the needles and store them in a dark screw-top jar until you are ready to use them in the kitchen. This way, even in the winter when rosemary is not harvested, you will still have a nice supply of the Mediterranean seasoning herb.