How to Prune Woody Herbs

We’ve got an extensive collection of herbs for culinary, medicinal and garden health purposes and while they mostly need nothing from us, I do give the woody herbs a drastic haircut around now (spring’ish) to bring on fresh, abundant growth. Left alone, herbs like sage, rosemary, curry bush, oregano, chamomile will become leggy, sparse and woody at their base. To manage this, you can literally cut them back to the ground (or close to), allowing them to grow a whole new plant above ground – here’s how…

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Meet our curry bush (Helichrysum italicum). It’s been quietly cranking in our herb garden and was well overdue for a big haircut.

IMG_4476 As you can see above and below, the stems where becoming leggy and unproductive and if you look at the base of the plant you can also see fresh growth starting to grow, searching for sunlight.

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All you need to do is get a sharp pair of secateurs and cut the bush back close to the ground. You can also do this before you see fresh growth coming from the base, in which case you can cut it back to pretty much ground level.

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While it initially looks a bit shocking, this little stump will shortly be bushy up nicely, promise.

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What should you do with all that leaf? Usually we make small bunches of all our herbs and dry them for using in the kitchen, however we don’t use a huge amount of curry bush so we put it back into the garden as mulch, plus we do dry some. If you want to, you can also take some cuttings to propagate more plants.

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IMG_4485One bunch of curry bush amongst some already drying calendula flowers and mint.

In the same garden we’ve also cut back our sage plants, salvia officinalis and salvia elegans a few weeks earlier and you can already see their fresh growth coming on strong. To reduce the shock from going to having a very bushy, large herb patch to one full of small “stumps”, you can stage the pruning sessions like I’ve done – it can help the visual side of things a bit if you have some fresh growth amongst the other stumps.

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IMG_4472Pineapple sage, salvia elegans, coming back strong after a big pruning session.

If this is your first time, just remember – it’s really really hard to kill these types pf perennial herbs, so there’s no need to be shy or nervous. And if you’re wondering what herbs you should include in your herb patch, have a look at some of the ones we think are essential.

8 Responses to “How to Prune Woody Herbs”

  1. Kathy

    Great post! I like to make sure to “pinch back” my woody herbs through their growing season, to ensure they don’t get a bit leggy or over the top. This is a super simple thing to do that helps their overall growth! http://bit.ly/1UlgX6I

    Reply
  2. kay saarinen

    Thank you for your tip, i have a question, as we grow all our herbs and manufacture our all natural skin care, i grow Lavender Augustafolia (from a cutting from my nans place to now a hedge row) I was wondering if i can do the same treatment to them for they are getting woody and rather large, i was told not to cut them past the green growth! Would love your opinion. Kind regards kay

    Reply
  3. Marion

    Really appreciate you putting this post up, thank you. Off out now to drastically cut back our sage, was thinking of pulling it out before reading this.

    Reply
  4. Charmaine Rogato

    Thank you! That was simple advice without fluff. Off to prune my curry bush!

    Reply
  5. Esther Moulds

    What can you do with a large amount of harvested camomile overgrown woody lawn branches and clippings?

    Reply

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