There are two key types of herbs to take into consideration here and then you can learn how to get the most from each. Planting once and harvesting forever, these herbs love to regrow.
When looking at cut and come again herbs we have Evergreen and Herbaceous to take into account. The evergreen type will take a good prune and harvest through the growing season, with a general trim before the dormant Winter. Herbaceous herbs will thrive with regular pinching out of new growth.
Learning a bit more about the difference will help you to give your herbs the right growing conditions to allow them to thrive.
Cut And Come Again Herbs
We need to look at each type of herb individually here to get an idea of the best ways to harvest vs prune.
Evergreen herbs that will appreciate a regular harvest include; Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram and Bay Leaves. This is because pruning older leaves and stems out will encourage new growth of shoots below, producing a bushier and more balanced plant.
Harvesting and pruning are two different events in an evergreen herbs life. Harvesting for the dinner table is a regular event that will take place from Spring onwards up to mid Autumn / Fall. Then you will need to prune down your plant to overwinter it. At this point we take longer cuttings and use them to dry out for the Fall – Spring period.
With sturdy evergreen plants like bay tree or rosemary you will find a central stem that is sort of taking over. This is the one that research says will respond best to being pruned. It is no coincidence that a well pruned bay tree will hold a pleasing shape, but cutting it back in Fall will actually encourage new growth the following Spring. So keep that central stalk well pruned and expect to see new growth underneath and a bushier looking plant overall.
Cut And Come Again Herbaceous Vegetables
Typically herbaceous herbs can fall into the category of annuals, traditionally grown for one season, however herbs like parsley are actually biennials. Consideration can be taken for this when we look at how best to make them our cut and come again essential herbs.
Herbs that can be cut and regrow include softwood varieties like; Basil, Parsley, Chives, Mint, Lemon Balm, Mustard and Cilantro. All of which will take either cutting down to around two thirds of their full height and then waiting to regrow, or having leaves pinched out at a node to encourage new growth to sprout.
Basil, mint and lemon balm will all enjoy having their leaves pinched out and this should be a weekly occurrence during the main growing season. As they can all be grown indoors all year round this can vary depending on hours of sunlight.
If you do not pinch out herbs regularly then you run the risk of leggy and spindly plants. If you are growing outdoors then mint and lemon balm will require a prune back to around 2-3 inches from the base before the harsh winter weather. Other herbaceous plants may not be Winter hardy and will die off in the cold weather. In the UK basil will need a little mulch and it may survive but parsley and chives will thrive when planted outdoors, in pots or raised beds.
When harvesting parsley, cilantro and chives you can cut to around one third from the base and expect to wait between 2-3 weeks until you can repeat this process. Use successional planting where you grow from seed each two weeks and you will have a cut and come again harvest all year.
Herbs That Will Regrow After Harvesting / Pruning
Perennial herbs that regrow after harvesting include; rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, sorrel, mint, sage, tarragon, oregano, lemon verbena, bay tree, kaffir lime leaves, and marjoram. Annual herbs that will regrow after harvesting include; cilantro, basil, chives, parsley, cress, and mustard.
There are notable herbs that need a little bit of patience before you harvest and these include Kaffir lime leaves, Curry leaf plant, lavender and rosemary. In the case of lavender this is because it will only flower in the second year and we are harvesting the flowers for drying. With curry leaf plant and kaffir lime these are sizeable trees when mature and we want to give the plant a good 3-5 years of growth before taking any leaves. Rosemary will live almost forever so waiting a few years is well worth it.
Will Basil Regrow After Cutting
When you first start growing herbs it can be tempting to buy for a single dish and then use the plants up completely. Here is a way to ensure great value and a long life to your herbs.
Basil will regrow after cutting and you can have many years worth of growth from one pot, even a store bought plant! You need to only ever take a third of leaves at any time and allow your basil 2-3 weeks to recover and regrow. You can take cuttings for propagation once the basil is fully grown and it will survive.
Pinching out basil leaves above a node is a great way to ensure new growth and new stems. This can be overdone though, and pruning too early can result in damage to the plant as it does not have sufficient leaves left for photosynthesis. As your basil will get straggly without being pruned you may harvest before you are ready to eat. So this means you will need to store your fresh leaves to keep them ready to eat.
Do Herbs Regrow After Cutting
This is the warning part of our article really as it can be tempting to jump into the harvesting part of growing herbs. Really there are some pitfalls to avoid.
Not all herbs regrow after cutting and care must be taken to ensure over-pruning does not result in the plant dying. Perennials may need a few full growing seasons before it is appropriate to remove leaves or stems and annuals can be cut back too far, too early and result in their not surviving.
A few simple rules to follow for cutting back are to wait until annual herbs are around a third of their full size. Then you are able to pinch out leaves above a mode and this will encourage bushier growth. Even evergreen herbs like rosemary can have new leaves pinched out to make the stem split and create two new stems.
If you are harvesting roots from herbs like horseradish then lift the surrounding soil with a fork and gently uncover the root. Cut through with a sharp, clean knife and return about a third of the the root to the soil and recover with well rotted organic matter. This will give you a head start on next seasons growth.
Harvest your herbs at the start of the day and water once you have taken any cuttings. This will help the plant deal with the stress of being pruned, but also help them to regrow.
The best cut and come again herb we grow is sorrel. It is perfect as it will grow all year round and you can take a few leaves from each plant and within days there is a new crop available. It is also relatively winter hardy and in the UK and colder climates you can simply apply a mulch and the plants will sit covered in snow for weeks at a time, then to reignite once the thaw has started.
What Next & Further Reading
- How To Apply Zero Waste Principles In Your Garden – cut and come again herbs are the ultimate in zero waste gardening. Food for free with zero food miles attached.
- For more on pruning and the positive effects on plants have a read of the Science Daily article here.
- Herbs That Like Shade some of our cut and come again herbs will struggle in full sunlight.
- Crops That Thrive In Soggy, Wet Soil
- How Many Hours Of Sun Do Herbs Need