Rosemary plants are an awesome addition to every garden. Rosemary is easy to grow and a perfect plant for every hobby cook. You can use the leaves and soft twigs to flavor various foods and rosemary could even help against some pests. If you don´t have a garden then you could also grow rosemary in pots at home, if you wanted to. But one common issue a lot of hobby gardeners have with rosemary is that rosemary will get woody after a while and only the thin twigs and the young leaves are good for cooking. So after you are done reading this article you will know exactly why Rosemary plants are getting woody, how to avoid too many woody twigs, and how to prune Rosemary correctly.
So to keep Rosemary from going woody it is necessary to prune the plant regularly. Every Rosemary plant will become woody over time, which is completely normal. But the growth of new leaves and young shoots can be encouraged by pruning the Rosemary plant regularly and by feeding and watering it.
Rosemary plants are native to the Mediterranean and Asia. It is very resilient and can survive a severe lack of water and sunlight even for longer periods of time. This makes Rosemary plants quite easy to grow and even for beginners.
The plant can live for a very long time (up to 30 years). And you don´t have to care for it all that much.
But still, there is one problem a lot of people have with the plant after a while. It gets woody.
This is completely normal, however. Every Rosemary plant will get woody after a while and there isn´t really anything, that you can do to stop it from becoming woody.
But you can encourage the plant to produce new leaves and twigs faster by pruning it, however.
Regularly watering the Rosemary plant is another thing you can do to encourage the growth of new leaves and twigs.
So make sure to water the plant once a day and remove dead stems. You should also use an organic soil enricher once a year to make sure, that the plant has everything it needs to grow healthy. If you grow your Rosemary plant in a container, then you may have to fertilize it annually as well.
How to Prune Rosemary
So now that you know how important it is to prune your Rosemary plant, let´s take a look at how to actually prune a Rosemary plant.
You can harvest the young leaves and twigs of the plant at any time without any problems. The plant will grow just fine as long as you don´t cut off half of the plant.
When it comes to pruning, however, there are a lot of different things, that you have to be careful about. If you cut the plant at the wrong time or too much, then you may damage or even kill your plant.
The best time for pruning is in spring or early summer. Before that, the plant will not respond well to heavy pruning. That is mainly because the plant will either grow actively during summer or it will be resting in winter.
You will need a sharp pair of pruning shears or a very sharp knife.
First, we need to remove dead branches and faded flowers. Simply cut off the dead branches right at their base and plug the flowers simply with your hand. Just gently pull on the flowers until they come off.
Dead shoots should be cut back to the first pair of green leaves to allow them to grow anew.
next up trim about 2 – 3 inches from the outermost stems. cutting these new and most developed stems will stimulate new and stronger growth.
You should avoid cutting any woody stems. This will only damage the plant and it will not stimulate growth in any way. On the contrary if you cut the woody parts of the plant too much then the plant could either die or it will not develop new shoots in that area anymore.
You should also avoid cutting below the lower leaves. If you remove too much greenery in general, it could potentially harm the plant as well. And if you cut the plant too short, then the rosemary plant can only get new woody shoots, that will not have a lot of leaves or stems. So be careful when pruning your plant and only stick to the top 2-3 inches without cutting the shorter shoots at all.
The same applies to rosemary plants, that are raised in containers, by the way. The only difference here is, that you may want to repot the plant whenever the old pot has become too small.
Don´t be too intimidated by all the talk above. As long as you make sure, that the Rosemary lant is only cut one-third of its size then you should be fine and your plant should develop perfectly.
And you can obviously harvest the thinner parts of the plant throughout the year whenever you need a bit of rosemary to spice up your cooking.
I personally have two rosemary plants in my garden and they are thriving just fine for two years now even though I only started pruning them this year. If the plant is new, then you will probably not have to prune it at all for at least a year.
What to do With all the Rosemary Cuttings?
After pruning your plant you will probably have a lot of smaller and maybe even a few bigger cuttings. It would be a waste to simply throw them away so what can you do with all these cuttings.
There are actually several things, that you can do with all of the cuttings. You can grow new plants from them or you can dry the rosemary cuttings.
Grow New Rosemary Plants From Cuttings
Yes, you read correctly, you can actually use these cuttings to plant new rosemary plants! This is probably my favorite method in the beginning. Once you have enough plants then drying the cuttings maybe makes more sense.
So let´s get started by choosing the right cuttings for this method. The cutting should be at least 3 inches tall and the more leaves it has on it the better. The leaves will help the plant to do more photosynthesis and thus et more energy to create new roots.
So the more leaves the higher the chance to get a new and healthy rosemary plant.
Gently cut the lower part of the cuttings diagonally to give the stem more surface area for the water and to give them more space to grow strong new roots.
Then put these cuttings into a glass of water and leave them there for a few days until they develop new roots. You will see the first roots after about one day but you should wait until you can see at least 4 or 5 longer roots before planting them in soil. You can also put some honey on the bare cuttings to encourage more root growth.
Next up, we will actually plant them in a container with some rich soil. It will take a few weeks before the plant is big enough to be transplanted. It should at least be twice as big as it was when you planted it into the soil before you transplant it. You can either plant it in your garden or in another, bigger, pot. That is entirely up to you.
This method will not work every time. I found, that about 2 out of 3 plants make it and the rest will simply die. So don´t be discouraged when your first attempt doesn´t work.
Drying Rosemary Cuttings for Later
This is perfect for smaller cuttings or if you already have enough rosemary plants.
You can dry your Rosemary plants quite easily by either hanging them up in a well ventilated area or by drying them in an oven.
The fastest way is probably drying them in an oven. For this method, all you have to do is spread the cuttings evenly on a baking tray. Try not to use any woody cuttings for this.
Set the oven to a very low temperature (about 180 degrees F should be just perfect) and put the rosemary cuttings in the oven for around 2 to 5 hours. You can see when the rosemary is done by gently touching the needles. If the needles come off right away, then the rosemary is dry and you can take it out.
Once the Rosemary is done let the cuttings cool down. Once they are cool you can easily remove the needles from the twigs.
Store the needles in an airtight container.
The second way to dry Rosemary is by stringing the cuttings up with some string and hanging the cuttings in an aerated and dry place. This method will take a few weeks until the cuttings are completely dry, though.
Once it is completely dry you can store it in an airtight container just as before.