This is how to Prune Rosemary! Tips and Video

Rosemary can develop to be a large shrub so quickly in optimal conditions that it may become a nuisance if not properly pruned. So how should you Prune Rosemary?

Pruning is the process of removing the woody dead parts of the plant. Though it is not a must, most experienced gardeners prune Rosemary for the plant’s overall health, growth, and shape.

If you don’t prune Rosemary, you are open to risks like woody growth.

Tools Required to Prune Rosemary

Let us have a quick look at what tools you may require for this task.

  1. Sharp pruning shears with precision blades are recommended for light pruning
  2. Loppers or Pruning saw for heavy pruning
  3. Gardening gloves. Recommended for folks who are allergic to oils found in the leaves of rosemary.
  4. Small jars or pots. Recommended if you are doing indoor gardening.

How to Prune an Indoor Rosemary?

It is essential to consider shape, size, and structure while growing rosemary in pots or in an indoor home garden.

The size of the pot in which you are growing your rosemary determines the herb’s growth, development, and size. It will grow as large as the pot or container allows.

Check for height while examining your herb in the pot. Typically, plants can grow to the same height as the height of the container.

So if you see Rosemary above the container is almost the same height as the container, either trim your rosemary herb or transplant it to a larger pot if it has grown to the height of the pot.

Easy Steps for pruning indoor rosemary herb

Trimming is suitable when you don’t want your plant to grow in size. Let us look at the easy steps to follow.

Step 1: Plan to Prune your Rosemary in the spring or early summer

The best time to prune rosemary is between March and June. Warm weather and plenty of sunshine promote the development of new leaves.

A reasonable rule of thumb is to complete your season’s last trim at least 4-6 weeks before the first expected frost. This will help the entire growth to harden off before the outside temperature drops.

Develop a habit to prune your rosemary bushes at the same time every year.

Step 2: Use Sharp and sterilized Pruning shears

Find a new pair of shears, or have an older pair sharpened before you begin. The branches will grow back stronger if the cut is clean.

Use sharp pruning shears to make cleaner cuts. Dull blades may create uneven cuts on your rosemary, making it susceptible to pests or infectious diseases.

Sterilize your equipment before starting to prune to avoid spreading of any pests or diseases.

Step 3: Remove all the flowers that have died

You should start pruning by cutting the dead flowers or gently pulling them off. Pay special attention to flowers that are dead or damaged. You may choose not to prune healthy flowers.

Tip – As rosemary flowers are edible, save a couple of the blossoms that appear to be in excellent condition for a nice delicacy.

Step 4: Pluck out all damaged or infected branches

Your plant may have suffered frostbite or might have some pests or fungal infection. Do away with any of the damaged or disease/pests infected branches.

If the entire branch or stem appears to be infected, just remove it completely.

Step 5: Cut the outermost stems up to 2–3 inches

Clip the topmost part of the plant stems up to 2 – 3 inches using sharp shears. Do them at an angle as this will help to split and grow more branches from the existing ones making it bushier.

Cutting too much and at lower levels is not recommended.

Step 6: Shaping your rosemary

While Pruning, you may cut it back to the shape as per your wish.


  1. Prune the plant’s lower sections on a regular basis to eliminate old leaves that clog the soil. This will encourage bushier growth as well.
  2. For reducing the size of your Rosemary, you can cut back up to 1/3rd of the plant size.

Replanting your indoor rosemary herb

You would want to replant your Rosemary for further growth which was getting inhibited in the existing container.

  1. Cut approximately 2 inches of the root matter and side shoots before re-potting.
  2. For 2 to 3 days, keep the trimmed branches and roots in the shade. This gives your rosemary time to adjust to the changes.

If your rosemary regularly grows too big for you, try a different rosemary species with a slower growth rate.

Quick Tip‘Prostrate’ rosemary is perfect for container gardening and hanging baskets. This is since it stays little and falls elegantly.

Easy Steps to prune Outdoor Rosemary Bushes

Here are the easy steps that you can follow to prune your Rosemary Bushes

Step 1: Sharpen and sterilize the tools

Sterilize your equipment to protect them from the spreading of diseases and pests.

Sharpening of loppers and pruning saw would ensure cleaner cuts that will help the growth of new Rosemary branches.

Step 2: Cut thicker branches with a pair of loppers.

While sharp pruning shears can be useful for light pruning to remove a few inches off the top of the plant, you’ll need long loppers to remove the woodier areas closer to the plant’s base.

Cut the healthy branches by 15 to 25 cm but make sure you still have lots of leaves left to grow.

Remove the damaged or woody branches completely and cut them from the base of the plant.

Step 3 [Optional]: Reduce the size of overgrown plants

In case you want to reduce the size of overgrown plants, you can cut it back by 1/3rd. You can either cut the branches to a shorter height or you can also clip the third branch making your plant thinner.

Tip – Cutting your rosemary back by more than a third will likely kill it, leaving only non-productive growth.

Step 4: After 7 to 8 weeks, replant the plants you thinned if required

After hard pruning, you should allow your plant to settle down for typically 7 to 8 weeks.

When you notice the first set of branches regrowing, you can look for trimming again based on whether you have time before the first frost.

We will discuss when you can do light and hard prune your Rosemary later in the article.

Step 5: Leverage the Rosemary clippings

Pruning helps to keep your Rosemary bushy and reduces its chances to get woody. Additionally, you can also grow the cut-down Rosemary Clippings into new plants.

Check out this article on how to grow rosemary from cuttings.

You can also use the Leaves and Flowers to garnish your dishes.


Types of Pruning Rosemary

Simply put you can either do a light prune or a hard prune. Let us look at both of them.

Light Prune

Often you do the light prune to remove the dead flowers, faded leaves, etc. You should also cut the uppermost tips of the stems by 2 – 3 inches.

This helps to promote the blossoming of flowers throughout the growing season.

The cuts on the stems will likely split them into new branches. This would result in the bushier growth of the Rosemary plant.

Hard Prune

The other type of pruning is Hard Pruning. This is recommended once a year to maintain the size and shape required.

In this pruning, you should

  • Make deep cuts to the stems but make sure to leave plenty of green leaves below your cut else the plant may not grow back.
  • Remove the damaged, diseased, or woody branches from the base of the plant from where they start.
  • You can cut back up to 1/3 rd or 1/4th of the plant.

Tips for Pruning Rosemary

  1. Start in the early spring and avoid pruning 4 to 6 before the freezing starts.
  2. You should start to prune your Rosemary plants when they are young. This would help to avoid woody stems.
  3. Use sharp & sterilized tools
  4. Wear gloves to avoid any cuts from hardwood or the edges.

When to Prune Rosemary

When to prune your rosemary is determined by the annual weather trends in your area. Rosemary pruning can be done throughout the spring and summer, up until four to six weeks before the first frost.

  • We would suggest doing a light prune to your rosemary in the early spring, just after the winter freeze.
  • The second light pruning should be in early summer after the first set of flowers fades. This would help to grow the next set.
  • The third pruning can be a hard one and can be done in late fall for maintaining the shape. Ensure you do this before 4 weeks the freezing starts for the pruned plant to settle down to the changes.

Benefits of Pruning Rosemary

Pruning rosemary helps to

  • Remove dead, diseased, damaged parts of the plant
  • It removes woody, nongrowing parts of the plant.
  • Increases airflow and light penetration
  • Reduce chances of disease, infection, and infestation
  • Helps to maintain shape and size required

What happens if you don’t prune rosemary?

Rosemary can grow quickly in optimal conditions. This may mean it can grow up to 2 meters tall which could be more than what you are comfortable with.

Further, this would also mean long woody stems after which leaves start. If your Rosemary gets woody, it will result in two disadvantages.

  1. You would not be able to prune it later as you can’t make a cut without leaving lots of leaves behind. If the woody part of the stem is long, you would not be able to cut it back.
  2. The Woody Rosemary would not be a good sight in your garden.

Final Note

Hope we have established that you should at least prune your plant once in a year if you are not making a couple of light prunes and one hard prune annually.

Regular cutting and trimming can help you with the harvest of leaves and flowers and give you opportunities to grow more Rosemary plants from cuttings.