Live Rosemary Topiary

Herb Flavored Decor

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Rosemary is a lovely plant, usually grown as a flavoring in a herb garden, but it's also very pretty as a live rosemary topiary.


I grow it planted in a clay pot, with a chopstick, peeled willow stick or a shish kebab skewer as a support.

For the summer months, a rosemary topiary can go outside, as long as it's not too windy which could snap off the heavy top growth. In the fall, bring it indoors and keep it in a sunny window for the winter.

It's best grown from cuttings, rather than from seed, as it needs to have long straight stems for topiary use.

The cuttings need to be from straight growth on the upper part of a rosemary plant - whatever type of growth you take a cutting from, often that's what continues to grow.

rosemary-cutting-600x800.jpgRosemary cutting - where to cut

A cutting about four to six inches long is best, using non-woody growth. The stem should be thick, and white instead of spindly and brown.

This will root quickly, in a few weeks. If you're like me, you want instant gratification.

Pull off the lower leaves, so they leave a scar - this helps expose the layer that roots will emerge from.

Dip the lower inch into rooting hormone - Stimroot #2 is good, or one of the liquid types like Roots.  Then insert the inch into sterilized potting soil for best results.

rosemary-topiary-pruning600x800.jpgRosemary topiary pruning

Don't cut the top off the cuttings. Even though usually you would, this will just encourage the growth of side shoots, which in this case, you don't want.

As the cutting grows, stick a sharp bamboo skewer in beside it to provide support and prevent it from bending over. 

In time, once the cutting reaches the height you want (30 cm or 12" or so) you can replace the skewer with something stronger - a willow stick or a chopstick.  The stick should reach to the top of the stem, wherever that ends up being.

Continue to trim or pull off the lower leaves to expose the stem. This can be ongoing, for a few weeks or months. The aim is for a long straight, leafless stem.

At that point, it's time to cut off the top of the cutting, so it branches out.

Keep trimming or plucking off the top of each side shoot, and remove completely any that form on the stem below the head.

Pinching can be done at almost any time, to keep the shape tidy. If required, use sharp scissors instead of your fingers.

In time, a nice round ball will form, making a very fine live rosemary topiary. Plant in a clay pot, wind raffia around the stem and the stake for support.

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