How to Prune Rosemary [7 Expert Tips]

Use sharp, clean pruning shears to trim rosemary. Begin pruning in late winter by removing dead branches from the plant. Then, in spring, cut one-third of your rosemary branches back until there is only one to two inches (2.5–5 cm) of leafy growth above the bare part of the stem. This will encourage additional branches to grow. When trimming, you can harvest the rosemary for use in your kitchen. Avoid plucking individual leaves off your rosemary or trimming more than one-third of the plant. These methods can damage or kill your rosemary.

How to prune rosemary

How Do You Prevent Rosemary from Dying After Pruning?

The easiest way to grow a rosemary plant that bounces back after pruning is by using a Click and Grow garden. Their indoor gardens provide the perfect growing medium, light, and water automatically. All you have to do is plug in the garden, add the rosemary pod, and fill the water reservoir.

  • This indoor garden will grow healthy rosemary that grows back after pruning.
  • Growing indoor rosemary in a Click and Grow garden improves plant health and helps pruning recovery.
  • You can also grow healthy rosemary outdoors to promote fast post-pruning growth.

A healthy rosemary plant will recover from pruning. In fact, when it’s pruned correctly, rosemary will actually produce bushier growth after trimming. You can grow strong rosemary outdoors or by using an indoor garden that mimics the conditions rosemary needs to thrive. Combine this method with our pruning tips to grow incredible rosemary plants.

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7 Tips for Pruning Rosemary

Both small rosemary plants and large rosemary bushes benefit from regular pruning. Here’s how to create healthier, fuller rosemary when you trim your plant.

Prepare Your Tools

Use sharp pruning shears to prune small rosemary plants. Scissors are often not strong enough to cut through rosemary’s tough stems. For large rosemary bushes, use large pruning clippers or a pair of loppers.

  • For small rosemary plants, use this sharp pair of pruning shears.
  • When trimming large rosemary plants, use two-handed trimmers.
  • Clean the blades of your pruning tools with rubbing alcohol before and after each use.

Whatever pruning tool you use, scrub the blades thoroughly with rubbing alcohol. Make sure to remove all debris and sap from other trimmings. This process kills plant diseases and fungus. If you skip this step, your rosemary may become infected with disease.

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Remove Dead Branches

At the end of winter (February or March), inspect your rosemary plant for dead, broken, or diseased branches. Remove these branches entirely. When removing branches, cut them off where they meet their parent stem. Do not leave any nubs or “coat hangers.”

  • Perform your first pruning at the end of winter, from February through March.
  • Cut off any dead wood, as well as branches that are broken or sickly.
  • Cut off dead branches flush with their parent branch.
  • Removing dead growth helps your rosemary resist disease and insect damage.

Dead and dying branches invite disease, rot, and insects to your plant. By trimming off these weak points, you protect your rosemary’s overall health. Plus, you provide more space for new growth to fill and develop a bushier plant.

Trim Rosemary in Spring

Perform a second pruning for your rosemary in late spring. April and May are the best months for this task. Begin by looking for areas where you wish to encourage fuller growth. Additionally, pinpoint a few branches that are growing in odd directions, since this is your opportunity to shape the plant. You should only choose about one-third of the branches for pruning at this stage.

  • Begin your spring pruning in April or May.
  • Select one-third of the branches for pruning.
  • Cut back the selected branches so there is only 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) of leafy growth.
  • The pruned branches will fork and produce two new branches.

To encourage bushy growth, cut back your selected branches until there are only one to two inches (2.5–5 cm) of green growth above the bare, woody portion of the branch. Make your cut at a slight angle with the pruning shears. Cutting in this style will encourage the pruned branch to fork and produce two new branches. This is how you create a bushy plant.

Do Not Prune Woody Growth

When pruning rosemary, avoid cutting the woody branch portion with no leaves. If you cut off the branch below the leaf growth, it will not grow back at all. You will be left with a dead branch that needs removal.

  • Do not prune off branches to the point where there are no leaves.
  • Pruning rosemary back to the woody portion of the branch will kill it.
  • You will get the most productive plants by pruning only the green stems.

It is best to cut only the green stems on your rosemary plant during pruning. This will result in a plant that bounces back quickly after it is cut. Plus, green rosemary prunings contain the most flavorful leaves for cooking.

Harvest New Growth

Since you only pruned one-third of your rosemary’s branches in spring, you should be left with several branches for continued harvest throughout the year. This way, when you need fresh rosemary for a recipe, you can go out into your herb garden and take a branch or two. Just remember to always cut the green stems and leave some leafy growth on the branch when harvesting.

  • Follow up your pruning with occasional trimmings to harvest fresh rosemary throughout the year.
  • Fresh rosemary is an excellent addition to many culinary dishes.
  • Harvest rosemary a little at a time, to allow your plant to recover after each harvest.
  • If you have too much fresh rosemary after pruning, dry it and save the leaves for later.

You can use fresh rosemary straight from the garden in your cooking. This provides a tender, herby flavor. However, if you just trimmed a larger plant you may have more rosemary than you can use before it goes bad. In this case, tie rosemary trimmings in a bundle and hang them in a dry, shady place indoors. Once the leaves are dry, shake them off into a container for later use.

Don’t Pluck Individual Leaves

Never pluck or pull rosemary leaves off the plant as a form of harvest. The stem won’t produce new leaves in this bare area. So, you may kill the plant by pulling off leaves.

  • Do not pull off leaves one by one to harvest fresh rosemary.
  • Your plant will struggle to recover in areas where leaves have been plucked.
  • Rosemary bounces back best when green stems are cut off for harvest.

Although pruning seems more destructive, you’ll actually keep your plant healthy by cutting off green stems to use in cooking. After the stem is cut off, the rosemary plant can recover from the wound and may produce additional growth there. Pulling off leaves will stunt growth.

Avoid Overpruning

Never prune off more than one-third of your rosemary plant’s total size during pruning. Overpruning can severely weaken or kill rosemary bushes of any size. Instead of aggressive cutting, think of rosemary pruning as gentle shaping.

  • Prune off a maximum of one-third of the total size of your rosemary plant.
  • Too much pruning can kill healthy rosemary.
  • Regular trimming, sunlight exposure, and watering grows the best rosemary shrub.

After pruning, always make sure your rosemary is getting enough sun exposure and water. Proper conditions will help your plant grow back. It will even encourage more vigorous growth than before.

How Do You Cut Rosemary so it Keeps Growing?

In order to prune rosemary to harvest fresh herbs and encourage increased growth, you should:

  • Use sharp pruning shears that have been cleaned with rubbing alcohol.
  • Remove dead and diseased branches at the end of winter.
  • In spring, cut back one-third of the living branches until there is only 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) of leafy growth.
  • Do not cut branches back to the bare, woody area—this can kill the branch.
  • Use rosemary trimmings as fresh herbs or dry them for later use.
  • Never pluck individual leaves off rosemary.
  • Cut off no more than one-third of the plant’s total growth.

By selectively trimming branches in spring, you will get bushier growth. However, avoid trimming the entire plant. You will want branches available for harvest throughout the year. This way, you’ll have nonstop production from your herb garden.

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