Learn how and where to cut when you prune your herbs- Scratch Mommy

Learn How (and why) To Prune Herbs


How often do you get a haircut? Every six weeks or so? How does it make your hair feel? Pretty good, huh? Like your hair cut, plants benefit from a trim every now and then, too—especially herbs. But, how do you prune herbs? Keep reading…

Pruning herbs will help promote growing and, for the most part, make the plant more attractive. When you let the plant just grow, it will become lanky, woody, and sprawl all over the place. Many first time gardeners are afraid to prune. They think, “Hey, how can I cut my beautiful baby! It’s so pretty, I cannot bear to cut any of it!” I’m here to tell you that I too was once like this. After many years of growing herbs, I learned to make the cut. And, guess what? They grow back.

Besides helping the plant look more attractive, the main reason I prune them is to get more herbs. If you let your herbs go to flower, then that’s the end of that. Instead, regularly pruning will give more delicious herbs for a longer period of time. How do you prune herbs? Let me show you. I will use my lovely basil plant to demonstrate.

Learn How To Prune Herbs


The first thing you need to do before you prune anything is to disinfect your tools. The last thing you want to do is spread disease from one plant to another. Use rubbing alcohol to carefully clean the blades of your scissors or pruners.


Where do you cut first? This is often the hardest part for a newbie.

I took a picture of a basil flower (see, even I am not perfect). I don’t get to all of my basil before it flowers, but it’s not too late to prune (bees love basil flowers, so it’s a win-win). Honestly, with herbaceous herbs like basil, chives, oregano, lemon balm, and mint, you really can’t do it wrong. They are very forgiving and grow back fast.

In general, I like to make my cut right where the leaf meets the stem or at a junction of stems. You can pinch the larger basil leaves off by hand.


Make the cut at the base of the stem, right where it intersects with a set of leaves.

Continue all around the plant. Make sure to take a step away from the plant after a few snips to make sure the plant looks balanced (if you are concerned with that).

Keep Pruning

You can prune just about any herb this way. For the woodier types like rosemary, sage, or thyme, they really only need to be pruned once a year to stay healthy. However, if you are harvesting regularly, then pruning will help stimulate growth of your herbs. You will begin to notice that your herbs will be bushier with regular pruning: this is normal…and good!

As you get more confident with pruning your herbs, you won’t feel so guilty about giving them regular trims throughout the growing season. Your herbs will reward you with a bountiful harvest and incredible flavor.

Craving more herb knowledge? We’ve got you covered!

Comments 32

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  3. I prune all my herbs for cooking once a week and place them in a vase of fresh water on the kitchen sink so I can use them all week. And my plants get benefit of regular weekly pruning. By fall my herbs are thick and lush enough to cut and freeze in ice cube trays for an entire winter of home herbs.

  4. So I went on vacation for a week, and during that time, there was a lot of rain. So my “cooking” herbs all went to flower. Will I still be able to use them? I want to dry them in the fall, but if the taste is going to be off, or flowering changes the herbs so they shouldn’t be consumed this season, it would be handy to know. I cut most the flowered stems off, which were about two feet in length, and left some for the bees. Any help is welcome.



    1. I am sorry that I missed this comment. I’m curious if you were able to save them. I would have cut what I could and dried them. I would think that since they all flowered they would soon die. …and I”m glad you left some for the bees!

  5. I do prune my basil and I water once a week. However, after I prune conservatively the first time, the leaves turn yellow and the plant dies.
    I’ve tried letting it dry out before watering and watering just a little, also.
    What am I doing wrong? I keep it on a window cill without direct sunlight and
    with just morning sunshine.

    1. Hi Charlie! Your basil needs 6 to 8 hours of full sun everyday, so I’d increase the sun time. Also, you’ll want to make sure that you give your basil a chance to mature enough before pruning…let it get established. I hope this helps.

  6. Good information. New gardener of herbs.. Mostly basil 4 different kinds , mint, chives unfortumately unsuccessful with rosemary. Tried 6 times… Grew up to 13 inches tall then just died. Live in a tropical location ideal pest environment.

  7. I pruned my Basil like this and it’s given me an abundance of Basil. Actually so much that i chop it and freeze it in icecube trays in olive oil and has it all year long on hand. Thanks again!

  8. After you cut the basil cut the top and strip off the lower leaves put what’s left in clean water and it will root in a week or two so your original plant will now have more tops and the one in water will root giving you another plant so go look for some pesto recipes to use all this basil

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