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Pruning Woody Herbs

How to Keep Herb Plants Growing Well

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Why Do You Need to Prune Woody Herbs

Most woody perennial herbs don’t require pruning to grow. However some judicious pruning will improve the look and vigor of the plants. Pruning spurs tender, new growth and limits the amount of woody, non-leafy stems. A plant that is allowed to grow leggy and become woody will eventually split open in the center and flop over.

When is the Best Time to Prune Woody Herbs

Pruning, other than the pinching down you do when you harvest your herbs, is best done in the early spring, once new growth starts at the base of the plant. A second pruning can be done after flowering. Don’t prune late in the season. You don’t want to encourage new growth when the plant is trying to go into winter dormancy.

How to Prune Woody Herbs

  • Early spring - remove dead and broken wood, once you see signs of new growth beginning. Shrubby herbs (lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme...) don’t need to be pruned at all, unless they’ve become leggy or overgrown.

  • Softer perennial herbs (germander, marjoram, oregano, winter savory...) can be cut back by ½, to get rid of old foliage and spur new growth.

  • If you did not cut the flowers when the plant was in bloom, remove the spent flowers afterward. Cut back to a pair of leaves, no more than 1/3 of the way down the plant.

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