Prune rosemary: when and how to do it

The Rosmarinus officinalis , rosemary commonly called, is an aromatic plant native to the Mediterranean area. It is a shrub that can reach heights of up to 2 meters, and is very recognizable for its small violet or white flowers, as well as for its thin and elongated leaves. Rosemary is very popular for its large number of medicinal and culinary properties, which is why it is a widely used ingredient in many Mediterranean diet dishes. Although this plant does not need much care, its pruning deserves to be treated in depth, because although it is not vital for the plant, it does help to keep it in good condition and with the desired shape. If you want to learn how to prune rosemary, keep reading in this article where you will find a very useful practical guide.

When to prune rosemary

There are two differentiated prunings to perform on rosemary. As we have said, neither of them is necessary for the plant, but both have their own function.

Rosemary formation pruning

This pruning is similar to that applied to fruit trees, saving obvious distances. This is done shortly after planting the rosemary or, if we have planted it from seed, when it grows enough to be able to mold it.

Rosemary cleaning pruning

This other type of pruning is done to keep the plant as healthy as possible. Both this pruning and the other should be done in the warm months, at least 4-6 weeks before the first frosts arrive. For this reason, the beginning of spring , after the cold, this is a good time. In fact, rejuvenation pruning or cleaning of old rosemary should always be done at this time.

Prune rosemary: when and how to do it - When to prune rosemary

How to prune rosemary step by step – 2 types of pruning

As in all types of pruning, before starting we must properly disinfect the cutting tools that we are going to use. Once this point is clarified, we can move on to how to prune rosemary step by step according to the two types of pruning.

How to prune rosemary to shape

Formation pruning, which is done as soon as the bush begins to adopt a moldable shape, that is, when it begins to have a minimum density. Rosemary is not a fruit tree whose future production we should worry about, so you will simply have to visualize what shape you want to give it and prune accordingly. If you want to carry out maintenance pruning, or you simply don’t want the shrub to grow up to the 2 meters it can reach, an annual or every two years pruning will give very good results.

  1. Focus on light pruning, as too drastic pruning could be damaging to the shrub.
  2. Take the pruning shears and cut the dry branches and those that are withered or show signs of bad condition.
  3. Once these are removed, begin to shorten the healthy ones that are too long.
  4. Move away from the plant a bit to get a better perspective of its shape and appearance to continue cutting branches correctly.
  5. Never reduce its height more than a third of a single pruning, and if a very drastic reduction is necessary, do it in several stages, giving the plant enough time to recover from the damage that, after all, each pruning entails.

How to prune rosemary – cleansing or rejuvenation

Another case is that of very old rosemary that are stopping to grow and need a rejuvenation pruning. This is a drastic remedy that can endanger the plant, and it should be done only when we are sure we want to return the rosemary to a state of greater growth and activity. Not all woody shrubs can withstand such aggressive pruning. In fact, rosemary is one of the few that can. Follow these steps to prune rosemary to rejuvenate it :

  1. Take the pruning shears and start to prune the branches that are too dry or old of the plant to their very base, that is, cut them whole.
  2. Go removing one by one and moving away a little to observe the whole plant well and better detect the branches to be cut. As you cut the outermost ones you will have to look more closely to detect some that are on the inside of the foliage.
  3. Leave only the branches that still appear strong and healthy, although keep in mind that, if it has been a long time since this plant was last pruned or not much care has been taken, it may happen that none of the branches are in good condition. so you may have to cut them all.
Pruning rosemary: when and how to do it - How to prune rosemary step by step - 2 types of pruning

Basic care of rosemary

Follow these guidelines on how to care for a rosemary plant to keep yours in the best possible condition:

  • Climate: as a plant native to the Mediterranean area, the ideal climate for rosemary is temperate or warm. However, the great adaptability of this shrub allows it to develop also in cold climates. It can withstand mild frosts, but severe or prolonged frosts will force us to protect it in some way.
  • Light: rosemary is grateful to receive a large amount of direct light, unless it is an exceptionally hot climate, in which case it will be better to protect it from the hours of more intense incidence.
  • Soil or substrate: the most important thing at this point is that the soil offers good drainage, since this plant is used to a certain aridity. It prefers dry soils, so you should avoid clay-type soils as much as possible.
  • Compost: you can use general compost in the warm months. If you opt for organic, such as worm castings or compost, just add a couple of centimeters of it to the soil in spring.
  • Irrigation. Never abuse watering, avoiding at all costs to flood the plant, as it could cause its roots to rot. Water without wetting the aerial part of the bush, approximately every ten days, when you notice the dry soil. 

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