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Rosemary is a spice plant that adds a delicious flavor to many dishes. In this country, rosemary is usually cultivated in pots or tubs. In milder regions, however, it can also thrive outdoors. Rosemary is one of the undemanding plants, but the Mediterranean herb needs appropriate care so that there is always enough rosemary available for the preparation of food. That is why a regular cut is part of the care. This not only ensures the health of the shrub, but also a lush harvest.

To harvest

Rosemary can be harvested all year round. In order to be able to enjoy as much of the wonderful aroma of rosemary as possible, it is important to harvest it at the right time. A distinction is made as to whether the "dew of the sea" is used immediately or whether it should be dried or frozen.


drying and freezing

The highest proportion of the tasty essential oils is in the leaves of rosemary. The leaves are very narrow and lanceolate. Since they look like the leaves of fir or spruce, they are often referred to as "needles" by analogy. To dry or freeze rosemary, the needles should be bulging with the essential oils.

Therefore, the best way to harvest it is:

  • In the late afternoon
  • at lunchtime

These times of the day are particularly suitable for harvesting because the cell sap level is very high then. In the afternoon it falls again and the aroma and taste decrease, if perhaps not always noticeably. Choose a sunny or rain-free day to harvest. Because the shoots should be dry for harvest. Morning dew should have dried by noon. If the shoots are damp, this can lead to mold growth, especially when drying. If moist rosemary is frozen, water crystals attach themselves to the sprouts and later water down the dish. Freezing has no effect on the aroma of the rosemary itself.

Tip: Rosemary should also not be washed before freezing or drying because of its wetness.


Immediate use

If rosemary is to be used immediately as a spice, you can basically harvest it at any time of the day. But the same applies here: The plants have the greatest aroma in the late morning to midday. And when it is in bloom, rosemary is said to have a special taste.

When harvesting, you have two options:

  • Cut off whole shoots with a sharp, clean knife or scissors
  • Pick off individual leaves (needles).

Tip: To encourage new growth, you should always cut off shoots.

To cut

Since rosemary is actually a shrub that can grow up to two meters high, it unfortunately tends to lignify and subsequently become bare. Therefore, harvesting is an important care measure. If not harvested, rosemary should be cut annually.

care cut

The young, green twigs have to be pruned so that the harvest can also be used for care. Because rosemary does not sprout from the old wood. It is best to always cut close to the woody part of the plant. In this way, the shrub produces new shoots and the shrub becomes bushier.

Tip: When harvesting, make sure that you do not damage buds, young shoot tips or the old wood.

The care cut also serves to thin out the rosemary. If the shoots are too dense, the individual shoots get too little light and air and wither. Thinning out also prevents infestation by pests and fungi. Shoots that are too close together are a kind of gateway for infestation, as individual shoots are weakened due to the lack of light and air. All diseased and withered parts of the rosemary are also removed during the maintenance cut.

Tip: In order for rosemary to develop well, it should be pruned as evenly as possible.


The topiary in spring ensures rejuvenation and health. Here you can cut back vigorously. But be careful, the fresh, soft shoots must not be cut off. With the topiary, the shoots from the previous year should be removed. You should therefore cut rosemary before it sprout, but only if no more night frosts are to be expected. Because rosemary is protected against late night frosts: the first shoot tips freeze, and then replacement buds sprout. And these could be cut off if you cut too early, and then the plant can no longer sprout.


For a pruning cut back to within a few inches of the old wood. Rosemary is very difficult to sprout from the old wood.

maintenance cut

The so-called maintenance cut ensures that rosemary does not lignify so quickly. Depending on where the plant overwinters, it is cut.

Overwintering in the garden:

  • cut back by a third in spring
  • if necessary, cut off frozen shoot tips
  • Remove deadwood

Overwintering in winter quarters:

  • Carry out a maintenance cut before moving
  • do not cut before night frosts

Wilted rosemary

Cut dried rosemary

If rosemary shows a dried-up appearance, it is because it has received too much water, although the hobby gardener tends to suspect the opposite. To save the "dew of the sea", take the following measures.

  • dig out of bed or tub
  • remove rotten roots (root pruning)
  • Rinse the remaining roots well with lukewarm water and then dry them
  • cut back plant
  • plant in dry and well-drained substrate or soil


Botanical assignment and origin

Along with basil and thyme, the evergreen rosemary is one of the Mediterranean kitchen herbs. Since rosemary only survives the German winter planted in mild regions, it is mainly cultivated in pots, although it is ideal for keeping in tubs.

Botanically, the popular spice plant belongs to the genus Rosmarinus from the mint family (Lamiaceae). Its botanical name is Rosmarinus officinalis. Its profane name is derived from Latin and means something like "dew of the sea". Rosemary is a semi-shrub that can reach a height of 0.5 to 2 meters. Rosemary grows wild in the central and western Mediterranean. Rosemary has been cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean since ancient times. In Central Europe, the subshrub was first documented in the 9th century.


Rosemary is in and of itself a low-maintenance plant. Unfortunately, as a semi-shrub, it tends to quickly become woody and subsequently bare. This not only reduces the yield, but also the appearance of the shrub. That is why a correct cut is part of the care of the rosemary. It is for the health of the plant. With older rosemaries, it ensures the rejuvenation of the plant. A great way to prune rosemary is by harvesting it. If it is carried out evenly, the semi-shrub can develop particularly well.

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