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Rejuvenating an old rosemary

ommthreeommthree Posts: 314

I have a rosemary in a pot which I've had for around three years. I've potted it on a couple of times as necessary, but it's not looking too great now. There's a lot of woody growth at the bottom and then it sprawls untidily, with oddly bent branches. It's very far from a tidy, compact bush. It has multiple woody stems emerging from ground level.

It suffered badly last winter (2012-2013), so last summer was very much a rescue effort, cutting out the worst affected parts. This winter I was much more careful (fleeced the plant and bubble wrapped the pot) and it seems much happier than it did this time last year, with plenty of new growth. The layers that I took from it last year are looking fantastic too.

So my question is, can I get it into better shape? I could remove the branches that spread out beyond the shape that I'd like, but beyond that, I'm not sure how to deal with it. Could I maybe divide it, since it has multiple stems?

Thanks for any advice.



  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 63,816
    It won't divide, and by their nature they're not tidy plants. Some cultivars are more sprawly, some are more upright than others. Miss Jessup's Upright is the most tidy one I know, but it grows quite tall.

    Do you know which one you have? If it's one of the sprawly ones you might be fighting a losing battle.

    Also they're not long-lived plants. I find the best plan is to take cuttings and replace the plant when it gets too straggly.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • ommthreeommthree Posts: 314
    Thanks. I don't know which one it is unfotunately, but I think the sprawleyness isn't really in its nature. The younger growth is fairly upright, so I think something funny must have happened to it before I got it.
  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    Cuttings are easy from rosemary omthree, 3 inch cuttings, bottom half stripped and into very gritty compost or sharp sand and mpc 4 to a 3 inch pot and pop them in a cold frame, they root in s few months weather dependent, when rooted, pinch out the top growth, then keep pinching over the next few months to give you a bushy plant.

    Very free draining potting medium, they will grow and cuttings will take in sharp sand alone.

  • WintersongWintersong Posts: 2,436

    I made four resonable sized new rosemary plants from an old one by making a mound of soil (I used ordinary compost) at its base, covering the lower inches of stem. After a year, I dug down and cut the newly rooted branches away from the parent plant into their own pots.image

  • Lupin 1Lupin 1 Posts: 8,916

    I also think Rosemary only has a short life span if wanted for culinery purposes. I take cuttings and have planted the old "sad " looking original in the garden and the bees love the flowers.

  • philippasmith2philippasmith2 Posts: 9,110

    Like most shrubby herbs, if you think they are past their sell by date ( 3 to 4 years on average ).....trim back (but not into old wood ) and cover with compost........they will usually rejuvenate and if nothing else will give you some nice healthy growth to use as cuttings.

    You really only need to buy a new plant if you want a different varietyimage

  • philippasmith2philippasmith2 Posts: 9,110

    Just out of interest..........has anyone ever kown how long a Rosemary can carry on ?  A garden I had in France had a huge Rosemary which the owner swore had been planted 30 years before.

    It stood about 1.5 metres with a spread approx. the same.  I pruned and tidied over a couple of years and it was a good shrub when I left it.   Certainly provided sufficient material for Oil and  drying as well as fresh leaves.  It wasn't the most symmetrical bush I'd grown but goes to show if you have a corner that you aren't too particular about, it can be doneimage

  • ommthreeommthree Posts: 314

    Wow. Thanks everyone. A wide range of views there. Philippa, how did you go about getting that monster into shape?

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