How to Prune Herbs for Optimal Growth


Find out how to prune your herbs for optimal growth.

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Pruning Basics

Pruning is the process of removing dead, dying, or damaged plant tissue. It is also done to shape or control the growth of a plant. Proper pruning techniques will result in a healthier, more attractive plant.

Why prune herbs?

Pruning is an important gardening task that should not be overlooked. By pruning your herbs, you encourage new growth, which results in more bountiful harvests. In addition, pruning helps to prevent diseases and pests from taking hold of your plants.

There are a few different ways to prune herbs. You can do a light pruning, which involves trimming off the tips of the leaves, or a more heavy-handed approach, which involves cutting the plant back by several inches. The best time to prune herbs is in the early spring, before new growth begins.

To get started, you will need a sharp pair of gardening shears. Make sure to sterilize your shears before each use, as this will help to prevent the spread of diseases. When you are ready to start pruning, follow these simple steps:

1. Cut off any dead or dying leaves. These can be identified by their brown or black coloration.
2. Trim off any leaves that are severely damaged or discolored. These leaves will not recover and will only detract from the plant’s overall appearance.
3. Cut back any leggy growth. This will help to encourage bushier growth in the future.
4. Thin out overcrowded plants. This will improve air circulation and prevent mold and mildew from forming on the leaves.
5. Cut off any flower buds that have formed. While it may be tempting to let your herbs flower, doing so will ultimately reduce the yields of your plants

When to prune herbs

Pruning is an important part of herb gardening and there are a few things to keep in mind when you do it. First, you should prune herbs in the early spring before they start to grow. This will help them to branch out and become fuller plants. You can also prune them in the summer if they become leggy or overgrown.

Herbs that benefit from pruning include: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

To prune basil, cut the plant back by about one-third its height. This will encourage new growth and prevent the plant from getting too leggy. Chives can be cut back by about half their height to encourage new growth. Cilantro should be cut back by about one-third to one-half its height to promote bushiness.

Dill can be left unpruned except for deadheading the spent flowers. Oregano can be cut back by about one-third its height in the spring to encourage new growth. Rosemary can be lightly pruned in the spring or summer if it becomes overgrown. Sage should be cut back by about one-third its height in the spring to promote bushiness. Thyme can be lightly pruned in the spring or summer if it becomes overgrown.

The Pruning Process

To prune or not to prune – that is the question when it comes to herbs. Many people think that pruning is key to keeping herbs healthy, while others believe that pruning can actually damage the plant. So, what is the truth? Let’s take a closer look at the pruning process and find out.

What tools to use

Pruning shears are the most basic and essential tool for pruning herbs. They come in two varieties: anvil pruners and bypass pruners. Anvil pruners have one sharpened blade that closes against a flat anvil, like a knife against a cutting board. Bypass pruners have two sharpened blades that slide past each other, like scissors. Both types of pruners can cut through small-diameter stems with ease.

Loppers are larger shears designed for cutting through thicker stems. They come in both anvil and bypass varieties, and sometimes feature compound action levers that give you more cutting power with less effort.

Pruning saws are useful for larger branches that shears and loppers can’t handle. For example, you might use a pruning saw to remove a large branch from a lavender bush. Folding pruning saws are especially convenient because you can carry them in your pocket when they’re not in use.

How to prune

Pruning is vital to the health and vigor of most herbs, as it helps to stimulate new growth, control the shape and size of the plant, and remove any diseased or damaged parts. For many herbs, it is best to prune in early spring, before new growth begins. Here are some tips on how to prune your herbs:

-Start by removing any dead, diseased, or damaged parts of the plant. Cut these back to healthy tissue using sharp, clean shears.
-Next, trim back any long or straggly stems to produce a more compact plant. If you are growing your herb for culinary purposes, you can also cut back any stems that have flowered or gone to seed.
-Finally, shape the plant by trimming back any stray branches or stems. You can also thin out overcrowded plants by removing some of the older stems at the base of the plant.


To ensure your herbs have the best chance at growing, it is important to prune them regularly. This will help to remove any dead or dying leaves, stems, or flowers. It will also promote growth by encouraging the plant to put more energy into new growth.


Watering your herbs regularly is vital to keeping them healthy and able to produce the best flavor. Depending on the type of herb, how often you water will vary. Here are some general guidelines:
-Tender herbs, such as basil, chives, cilantro, and parsley, should be watered every day or every other day.
-Hardier herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and sage, can be watered every three to five days.
-Cacti and succulents can go even longer between waterings, as they are accustomed to living in dry conditions. Water them only when the soil is completely dry.

In addition to watering frequency, it’s important to pay attention to the amount of water your plants are getting. Be sure to water deeply so that the water reaches the roots of the plant; shallow watering will encourage shallow root growth that makes plants more susceptible to drought stress.


Your potted herbs will need to be fertilized every two to three weeks during their growing season, which is generally spring and summer. You can either use a water-soluble fertilizer or a slow-release fertilizer, following the package directions for application. Be sure to leach the pots every six weeks or so to prevent salt buildup in the potting mix. To leach, water the plants well and allow the water to run out of the drainage holes for several minutes.

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