My garden has been on the backburner for a couple of years and my rosemary is woody and lacking leaves. I'm theoretically growing it to eat, rather than look at, so how best do I encourage soft growth?

  • Where is it that you live, Sam? Southern hemisphere or Northern, grins! Please take a picture and send, okay? Do you have a pair of hedging shears? What about the rest of your garden? Would love to help. Healthy rosemary is good to look at as well as use for seasoning. It is a woody perennial and it is easy to keep growing new growth depending on a few other factors.
    – stormy
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 8:39
  • I second @stormy's request for a picture or two. You should be careful about cutting into the woody parts, this may be problematic with re-growth.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 9:52
  • Lacking leaves? Is it in a pot? definitely need a photo
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 11:21
  • @Stormy, Southern Hemisphere.
    – SAM A
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 17:04
  • 1
    Are you able to see any new growth at all? The best way to prune, any shrub, especially rosemary is to dead head the tips. Most of the energy of that plant is in the tips, the apical buds. When those buds are cut off that energy goes back down the stems to the lateral buds. Proper watering, great drainage, good lighting, a little fertilizer and shearing this plant once or twice a season should make a very happy rosemary. Think salad bowl. Turned over your plant. Make the salad bowl large enough to cover this rosemary...okay? Shears are perpendicular to the center of the sphere...
    – stormy
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 5:33

1 Answer 1


I would add some fertilizer. Not much, rosemary is a plant of poor and dry soils. On the other hand, if it is a lot woody, probably it has eat most of nutrient in the soil.

I would also check if there are some plants nearby which compete with rosemary. Rosemary is slow to grow (I think also on the roots), and it hates shadow. Really!

Pruning: I would never touch the wood (large branches), but when it is dead. It seems that rosemary doesn't like it. The green parts will cover the wood again. You should prune just the green branches (they are also woody, but round and young).

The good news: from my experiences, rosemary are very resilient. They will growth stronger that before, very quickly. [I assume you have no problem with climate, because the rosemary seems already old].

  • @SAM A Ask a separate question about the cat problem.
    – VividD
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 19:20

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