pruning rosemary

kestrel(z7 OR)October 1, 2005

How severely can I prune rosemary this time of year without killing it? I have two bushes that are both a bit over 4 feet tall and roundish in shape. One is over 6 feet across and the other is over 4 feet across. The centers are brown because of the large size. I want to prune them back because I want to put an herb garden in that area and also to try to keep them a bit neater. However, since I don't want to kill them, I can wait until spring if it would be a more appropriate time to prune them. Any advice will be appreciated. Thanks!

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I'd like to know the answer to this one also. I have a large pair. Mine are hanging over a walkway and I'm not sure I can wait until spring ((if that is better) because they will be leaning over more during the rainy season and really getting in the way.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 3:54PM
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Chances are you will lose bloom if you cut them back now. And if you cut into woody areas, there probably won't be re-growth. And since they're hardy down to zn 8 usually, and you're both in zone 7--you would be asking for big trouble to prune now. Wait till spring and shape them then. Still don't cut hard back into woody areas.

We had a huge one at work, got severely pruned in late summer/early fall. A year ago. Still looks terrible. Kind of a columnar look with lots and lots of leafless wood showing on the bottom half. It looks extremely unnatural.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 10:57PM
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kestrel(z7 OR)

So once part of a branch has hardened off and become woody it can't be forced to put out leaves again? Or, if I moderately prune in the spring would some areas green up?

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 8:28PM
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I had two large rosemary "Tuscan Blue"-s 5' (high) x6 feet. They are a good 10 years old. Last spring I pruned them back severely, to woody growth including all minor branching, but not to major woody growth where there are no "needles" or leaves on the branch. There was little greenery left except for older discolored leaves. The pruned size was 2 1/2' (high) x4 feet.

There is about 8" of new growth on all branches and the plants look very nice. There will be little if no bloom next year.

I let them get so big because the honeybees like them a lot, so usually I selectively thin the bush, removing some branches down to a main stem.

Perhaps a foot should be pruned off now, and finish the job in April.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 10:41PM
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kestrel(z7 OR)

Thank you! It's good to know that there's hope of reining them in a bit without killing or permanently disfiguring them. I do like them (looove the smell, great to cook with), they're just so darned big right now.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 10:03PM
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I have pruned my rosemary (Tuscan Blue) at various times of the year without any ill effects. It is a large, fast growing plant and simply responds by sending out new growth, even in late season. FWIW, damaged or stressed rosemaries at my nursery often get cut down pretty much to ground level and will regenerate quickly. Frankly, as long as the plant is in a good, open sunny location and in fast draining soil, I doubt there is much you can do to harm a rosemary in this climate. Most cultivars sold in this area are fully hardy through zone 7, 'Arp' reliable in zone 6.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 10:37AM
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