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How to Harvest Rosemary Without Killing the Plant [5 Steps]

Use sharp, clean pruning shears when harvesting rosemary. Don’t harvest rosemary from stems that are less than 8 inches (20 cm) long. When cutting, take only the tender part at the top of the stem, making sure to leave approximately 6 inches (15 cm) of the stem behind. Don’t cut your rosemary too close to the base where it’s tough and woody. Always trim your plants after harvesting and aim for a compact, distinct shape when you are finished. This prevents the rosemary from growing too wild.

How to harvest rosemary without killing the plant

5 Steps to Harvest Rosemary Without Killing It

Rosemary is a hardy herb that has a broad range of uses. Plant it early in the season and enjoy a great harvest of green leaves. Below are the steps to harvest your rosemary and maintain a healthy plant:

Use Sharp Pruning Shears

It is essential to use a very sharp pair of shears when harvesting rosemary. Because rosemary stems are tough and woody, trying to harvest with dull shears will crush and crack the stems. These cracks are called “green stick fractures” and can damage or kill a rosemary plant.

  • Use these gardening shears to harvest rosemary.
  • Dull shears, standard scissors, or hand-harvesting can damage the woody stems of rosemary plants.
  • “Green stick fractures” caused by dull harvesting tools can cause stems to die—or even kill the entire plant.

It’s best to avoid using ordinary scissors or your hands to harvest fresh herbs from a rosemary plant. A good pair of gardening shears will make sharp, clean cuts that your rosemary will quickly heal from.

Disinfect Your Tools Before Harvest

Wash your gardening shear blades with rubbing alcohol prior to using them to harvest rosemary sprigs. Shears that have been used on other plants can harbor fungal spores and bacteria, which can then be passed to your rosemary during harvest. By cleaning your shears, you prevent disease from infecting your rosemary.

  • Wash the blades of your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol before using them to harvest rosemary.
  • Fungus and bacteria from other plants you’ve trimmed can be transmitted to your rosemary plant if your shears aren’t clean.

As a rule, wash your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol after trimming each plant. This helps to prevent diseases from being spread to companion plants in herb gardens. This way, each plant you grow will bounce back healthy after pruning or harvesting.

Harvest Only Mature Rosemary Stems

Harvesting rosemary too soon can be a big mistake. Only harvest rosemary from branches that are 8 inches (20 cm) long or longer. Branches shorter than this are not mature yet and should be allowed to grow a bit longer before harvesting.

  • Use sharp clippers or garden shears to cut your rosemary.
  • Don’t harvest rosemary unless the stem is at least 8 inches (20 cm) long.
  • Don’t cut the stems too close to the base.

Use garden shears or sharp clippers to cut the rosemary. Be careful to avoid cutting the stems too close to the base where they are hard and woody. Instead, harvest fresh rosemary by choosing the tender leaves near the tip of the stem.

Don’t Remove Too Much Rosemary at Once

When harvesting rosemary, cut off only the top 2 inches (5 cm) of each mature stem. These rosemary sprigs will have the most tender, flavorful leaves. Leave at least 6 inches (15 cm) of each stem behind. This will ensure that the entire plant remains healthy and grows back.

  • Cut only the top 2 inches (5 cm) of each mature stem when harvesting rosemary.
  • Each stem should be at elast 6 inches (15 cm) long after harvest.
  • Do not cut woody stems near the base—this can kill your rosemary plant.

Do not remove entire stems from your rosemary plant when harvesting. Doing so prevents your rosemary from recovering. Removing stems near the base can permanently weaken the plant. So, keep your plant intact by only harvesting the ends of the stems.

Trim Your Remaining Rosemary

After you’re through harvesting the mature stems, trim the remaining stems to a uniform length. This will help them grow to the proper length again and allow you to keep harvesting in the future. 

  • Trim the remaining rosemary stems.
  • Create a compact, distinct shape when trimming.

It is best to trim your rosemary plants in an orderly, compact shape. This will prevent them from growing too wild and will keep all the shoots at an even level, instead of having some that outgrow others, which can make harvesting tricky.

Will Rosemary Grow Back After Harvesting?

Rosemary is known for rapid, vigorous growth, and will continue to grow after you harvest the first batch. If you follow the correct steps when harvesting your rosemary, it should grow back very quickly.

  • Rosemary will grow back after harvesting.
  • If harvested late in the season, rosemary may grow back at a slower pace.
  • When spring arrives, rosemary will quickly begin to grow again.

If you did your harvest late in the season (late summer or early fall), growth may be a bit slower, since rosemary does go dormant during winter. However, when spring comes, it will quickly begin flourishing again if cared for properly throughout the year.

How Long Before You Can Harvest Rosemary?

It takes approximately 80 days for rosemary to mature if planted from cuttings. For this reason, many gardeners choose to start well before the planting season. If planted from seeds, though, it will take rosemary a year to mature.

  • Rosemary planted from cuttings takes approximately 80 days to mature.
  • Harvest your rosemary once the stems have reached a length of 8 inches (20 cm).
  • If you plant your rosemary early, you’ll often have a harvest by late spring.

Rosemary is not ready to be harvested until the stems are at least 8 inches (20 cm)long. Because of the rapid pace at which it grows, you may find that you can get your first harvest by the end of spring. In some cases, you can even get a second harvest by the end of summer or early fall.

How Do You Pick Rosemary So It Keeps Growing?

To harvest rosemary so that it keeps growing:

  • Use sharp pruning shears—don’t harvest by hand.
  • Clean your shears with rubbing alcohol to prevent plant disease.
  • Only harvest rosemary stems that are 8 inches (20 cm) long.
  • Take only the top 2 inches (5 cm) of each stem you cut.
  • Don’t cut rosemary too close to the base where the stem is hard and woody.
  • Trim and shape your rosemary plants after harvesting for the best regrowth.

These harvesting tips work whether you’re growing rosemary indoors or outside. Just remember to treat the plant with care and it will reward you with plenty of growth after harvest.

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