How To Prune Rosemary: Things To Know

Hello fellow gardeners! We are happy to see you here again, and we hope that you are having a great day. But that is enough of the niceties, you are here to learn how to prune a rosemary bush. Well, you have come to the right place.

In this article, we have all the answers to your questions. How to prune a young rosemary plant as well as an old one, things you can do with your rosemary clippings, and how to know when to prune your rosemary plant. 

Sound exciting? Well, let us dive right in!

How to Prune Rosemary

Why Does Rosemary Need Pruning?

Rosemary is a hardy plant that is relatively low maintenance. They do not really need much work and do not always require pruning. In fact, you could get away with only pruning when they become overgrown or too woody. 

But pruning can make your plant more productive and also increase the size of your plant. So, pruning can be a real help if you want to achieve either of these things.

In addition to that, this plant is an evergreen which means that with proper care they can have leaves ready to be picked even in the winter.

So, prune your rosemary if you want to increase its size, promote growth, you have a plant that is very woody and requires it, or your plant is overgrown and needs to be trimmed. 

How Do You Know When To Prune Rosemary?

You can prune your rosemary plant in the late winter months or throughout the spring and summer. It is not recommended to wait until your plant has finished flowering as this may happen a little too late in the year to be good for your plant.

Cutting encourages growth and if you prune too late in the season your rosemary plant might not have had the time to harden before the first frosts arrive. So, in general, make sure that you prune four to six weeks before the first frost.

How To Prune Rosemary

Pruning rosemary is actually really simple, it can be a little different depending on the age of your rosemary plant. But, do not worry, we have you covered. Below we have carefully detailed how you can prune a young rosemary plant and an older woodier rosemary plant. 

Smaller/Younger Rosemary Plants

In this section, we are going to tell you exactly how you can prune a younger rosemary plant. So, let us get started. 

Step 1 – Before you start, you are going to need a pair of shears, make sure that they are sharp so that they cut the branches cleanly and do not damage the plant more than necessary.

It is very important that your shears are sharp as jagged cuts can not only damage the plant they can leave your rosemary vulnerable to diseases and pests. So, step one is to get those shears sharp and ready. 

Step 2 – With your lovely sharp shears, you can now start cutting off flowers that are damaged or reaching the end of their life. Leave healthy flowers on your rosemary bush.

Fun Fact, Did you know that rosemary flowers are edible? So, if you want to find a way to use them make sure to look up a few fun recipes and enjoy a unique rosemary flower treat. 

Step 3 – Once you have gotten rid of the damaged or old flowers you can start cutting off the damaged shoots. You should prune branches that have been affected by the following: 

  • Shoots that have been killed or damaged by frost
  • Shoots that are diseased or have fungal infections
  • Shoots that are discolored or drooping

The main thing you need to be aware of while you are doing this is to not cut too many shoots off the plant. As a side note, if you want to prevent further fungal infection you can use one to two inches of sand or pea gravel and sprinkle it at your plant’s base.

Sand and pea gravel help to dry the ground out which makes it harder for fungus to get attached to your plant. 

Step 4 – Once you have gotten rid of the dead or damaged shoots you can start cutting about two to three inches from the outermost stems. You might think that it is weird to cut the top of healthy shoots but by doing this you are promoting growth.

Those stems can start to sprout again and sometimes even grow two separate stems from one branch if you are lucky. While you are doing this make sure not to cut below the lower leaves as this can damage the leaves of your rosemary bush.

Pruning the healthy branches too low can cause the plant to grow shoots that are bare and woody. 

Step 5 – You can shape your rosemary at this point if you are bothered by manicuring your rosemary plant that is. This type of plant is naturally bushy, so it might be hard to shape it anyway but if you want to shape the plant now is your chance. 

Older Rosemary Plants

Older Rosemary Plants

Your rosemary plant might be a little older and look more like a woody shrub. This can mean that your pruning process may look a little different. But, don’t worry we’ve got your back. In this section, we will talk about how you can prune an older rosemary plant. 

Step 1 – To properly prune a large rosemary bush with thick woody stems you will need a pair of sharp shears and a pair of loppers, so you can tackle the thick stems at the base of the bush. So, gather your long-handled loppers, pruning shears, and some gardening gloves before you continue. 

Step 2 – The first thing you will need to do is lop off the dead branches that are not producing leaves. Just make sure not to cut more than a third of the plants’ branches off as this could kill the plant if you are not careful.

When you cut off a significant amount of foliage and branches from a large rosemary plant it is called ‘rejuvenation pruning’. It is a very useful practice as it can really save your rosemary bush if they are suffering from disease or harsh weather. 

Step 3 – You will need to wait about six to eight weeks before you can continue the pruning process for an older rosemary bush. This is because you now need to wait for branches and leaves to start growing back.

Now you will need to cut back one-third of your offshoots and if you feel the need you can repeat this process again in the next six to eight weeks. By staggering pruning like this, you are making sure that you are not over-pruning and allowing your plant to recover from the dramatic loss. 

Just make sure not to cut the next set of branches until your previously sheared section has reached its original size. This is so that the plant does not get smaller and has the chance to reach the size it originally was. 

Step 4 – When everything has grown to a good size you can now examine your rosemary plant for any branches that are growing in the opposite direction or entangled in other branches. So, basically, you are looking for a branch that is forked and growing in an unfavorable direction.

If you find any branches like this you should cut off one of the offshoots. This will help avoid the plant getting choked and promote airflow throughout the rosemary bush. By having this airflow you will have less chance of your plant getting a fungal infection. 

Related: How To Propagate Rosemary: Everything You Need To Know

Things To Do With Rosemary Clippings

Now that you have pruned your rosemary bush you probably have a bunch of clippings. Don’t throw them away, there are plenty of uses for them. So, let us take a look at what you can do with your collection of rosemary clippings. 

You Can Make Rosemary Salt

This can be an absolutely stunning addition to any recipe and making rosemary salt is super simple. All you need to do is the following: 

  • Get your clippings and clean them under cold water. After that make sure that they are dry before you continue to the next step.
  • Start taking all the leaves off the stems of your clippings. 
  • Next, you can grab your salt of choice, we like Himalayan sea salt, and add the rosemary to it. You will need to add about three parts salt to one part rosemary leaves. 
  • Finally, after about two weeks the salt and rosemary should be infused and ready to use. 

You Can Make Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

If you want to give your olive oil an extra punch you can infuse it with rosemary. You can use it for salad dressings, or even for your regular cooking. 

Below you can see a simple guide on how to make rosemary infused olive oil: 

  • The first step is to wash and dry your rosemary clippings using cold water and a towel. 
  • If you want to make a cold rosemary olive oil infusion you should put the cuttings in an airtight jar or bottle and cover the sprigs with olive oil. You should add about two to three stems of rosemary for every cup of olive oil. If you want to make a warm rosemary olive oil infusion you just need to warm the olive oil over a low heat. As soon as it has been warmed up, take it off the heat and put the rosemary in the oil. Pour the rosemary and oil in an airtight jar or bottle and leave it to infuse further. In either case, you should leave the leaves in the leaves in the oil until the infusion flavor is as potent as you prefer it to be.  
  • Finally, you should store your olive oil and sprigs in a cool and dark place for at least two to three weeks before it is ready to be used. 

You Can Just Use It For Cooking

You can, of course, go back to the basics and just use your rosemary for cooking. It goes perfectly with meat, vegetables, and sauces, so you can definitely use it no matter what you like eating. 

Frequently Asked Questions

It is time for us to answer a few of the remaining questions you might have about rosemary plants and how to prune them. So, without further ado, let us start answering some of your questions. 

What Is The Lifespan Of A Rosemary Plant? 

A rosemary plant should live for about ten years if you take care of them. But they can live longer or shorter depending on their environment. 

How Tall Can A Rosemary Bush Grow?

A rosemary bush can grow to be about 4 to 6 feet tall. They are a perennial evergreen shrub that prefers warmer climates. With the right care and optimal environmental conditions, they can grow to be very tall but do not always. 

How Do You Care For Rosemary In The Winter?

If you plant your rosemary plant in a sunny spot that is sheltered from the cold winter winds or in a nice warm spot that is near your house and prune about three inches of foliage after the first frost they should do well in the cold winter months. 

Final Thoughts

That is all for this article, we hope that you have learned everything you need to know about pruning rosemary plants. It is a really simple task and one that your rosemary bush will thank you for in the long run. 

So grab your garden shears and start carefully pruning your rosemary plant.