QUESTION: Do herb plants grow back? Or do they die when you take cuttings so you have to do it all at once? – Alexandra V
ANSWER: Most herb plants can be harvested so that the plant continues to grow after the cutting is taken. There are even perennial herb plants that come back year after year and do not die over the winter. Occasional light pruning will help herb plants to grow bushier and be more productive. (That’s right, the cutting actually encourages new growth.) In fact, trimming your herb plants is necessary in order for the plants to stay healthy.
During peak season when your herbs are growing at their highest rate, you should do a light pruning every few weeks. You can trim quite a bit and the plants will still grow back—it’s OK to remove up to a third of the plant without causing problems. Make sure to remove the flowering tops whenever you see them to keep your plant producing the leaves longer, extending your harvest. Avoid cutting large leaves near the base of the plant, as these are vital in helping the plant take in nutrients and sunlight. Stop pruning your plants eight weeks before the first frost of winter, and don’t start pruning again until you see new growth return the next spring.
Evergreen and perennial herbs need an occasional hard pruning of a quarter to a third of each branch early in the year when they’re starting to put out new growth. Also remove any dead branches completely. Lavender works differently than other perennial herbs. At the end of summer or beginning of fall, cut lavender back drastically so three or four inches of greenery is left on top of the woody stalks.
Perennial herbs that will grow back year after year include the following.
- Catnip/catwort/catswort/catmint (Nepeta cataria)
- Chamomile/English chamomile/ground apple/mother’s daisy/Roman chamomile/whig plant (Chamaemelum nobile)
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
- Coneflower (Echinacea)
- Curry/Curry leaf (Murraya koenigii)
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Lavender (Lavandula)
- Lemon balm/common balm/balm mint (Melissa officinalis)
- Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
- Mint (Mentha)
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum): Parsley is a biennial and not a perennial, so it comes back after the first year for one more year before dying.
- Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- Winter Savory (Satureja montana)
- Wintergreen/American wintergreen/Eastern teaberry/checkerberry/boxberry (Gaultheria procumbens)
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