Rosemary is a plant that plays double-duty in the garden—its fragrant leaves add a pine-like flavor to dishes and its purple flowers add subtle color. With that in mind, many people opt to grow rosemary plants at home. We’re going to cover all you need to know about growing rosemary both in the garden and in pots.
Common name: Rosemary
Scientific name: Salvia rosmarinus
Bloom time: April and May
Height: up to six feet tall
Width: up to five feet tall
Sun: Full sun
Water: light to medium
Soil pH: 6.0 to 7.0
Soil type: Well-draining, slightly acidic
USDA Hardiness zones: perennial in zones 7-10, annual in zones 3-6
How to Grow Rosemary
Rosemary is a relatively easy-to-grow plant, as long as you know what type of care to provide. Growing this herb is similar to planting and growing tulips and other flowers, with a few key differences.
Where to Plant Rosemary
Rosemary is native to sunny outcroppings in the Mediterranean, so you’ll want to find a location that mimics the conditions found in this area. At least six hours of direct sunlight is crucial, but the more sun, the better.
As far as soil and moisture go, avoid any low-lying or moist areas. If your soil is heavy in clay or compacted, loosen it with a shovel or digging fork. You can also mix in some sand or compost to increase aeration and drainage.
If you live in an area where the temperature generally stays above freezing, but sometimes dips near it, consider placing your plant near the south-facing side of a house or shed. This will provide some protection from the cold.
Even if you’re planting a small transplant, remember rosemary plants can get big! Ensure your plant has at least a few feet of space all around it unless you’re planting a dwarf variety of plan on pruning.
When to Plant Rosemary
Since rosemary doesn’t like below-freezing temperatures, the best time to plant it is in the spring. If you are in an area that receives frost, wait until the danger of frost has passed. Generally, April and May are good times to plant rosemary in your garden.
You can plant potted rosemary any time of the year.
Rosemary Plant Care
One of the biggest mistakes people make with rosemary is providing it with too much water. These plants can handle a bit of drought and even thrive in dry conditions. What they can’t deal with is saturated soil.
With that in mind, you’ll only need to water your rosemary plant about once every one to two weeks—if you haven’t received rain. If the soil is moist, wait to water.
These plants aren’t heavy feeders, so they don’t require a lot of fertilizer. However, you can apply a balanced fertilizer once every few months in the spring and summer.
Pruning Rosemary Plants
While you don’t need to prune your rosemary plants, you can. Pruning can help increase air flow, as well as alter the size and shape of the plant. If you prune your rosemary, make sure to use a sharp and sanitized pair of pruning shears to help prevent the spread of disease. The best time of year to prune in the late spring through late summer.
While it may seem counterintuitive, trimming rosemary plants can actually lead to fuller plants. Simply trim back a few inches from each stem and then watch the plant grow.
Rosemary Pests and Diseases
The majority of diseases that impact rosemary plants are caused by excessive moisture, both in the air and soil. High humidity can lead to fungal diseases such as botrytis. This disease causes rosemary needles to darken, shrivel, and eventually drop. If you live in a humid area, the best way to prevent fungal diseases is by pruning your plant to increase airflow.
Overwatering can lead to another fungal disease called root rot. This turns the plant’s root mushy, which prohibits them from taking up water and nutrients. So while it may seem counterintuitive, overwatering can actually cause your plant to appear underwatered. To prevent this issue, plant in well-draining soil and water only when the soil is dry.
Rosemary plants are pretty hardy when it comes to pests. However, they may become attacked by sap-sucking pests such as aphids, spider mites, and thrips. These pests can be removed with a heavy-duty hose spray or can be sprayed with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
Growing Rosemary in Pots
If you live in a cold climate or don’t have access to a yard or garden, another option is to grow rosemary in pots. This herb can thrive as a potted plant as long as you select the proper container and provide the right care.
When it comes time to select a pot, choose one that is a few inches larger than the plant’s root ball. For example, if you are purchasing a rosemary plant in a 4” nursery container, choose a pot that is about 6” in diameter. Providing just a bit of room will allow the plant to grow without leading to waterlogged soil.
Next, it’s time to choose a soil mix. Like most potted plants, you won’t be planting your rosemary in true soil—you’ll be using a carefully designed potting mix. Since rosemary prefers soil on the drier side, you’ll want to ensure the mix is well-draining. One option is to start with a regular peat-based potting mix and then add some extra perlite or sand to increase drainage.
As far as sunlight, temperature, and watering go, a potted plant will have similar needs to a plant that is growing in the ground. Water when the top few inches of soil is dry, provide it with plenty of sun and protect it from below-freezing temperatures. Near a south-facing window is often the best indoor location.
Since pots are mobile, you can leave your rosemary outside during the warmer months and bring it indoors during the winter. While the plant may drop some leaves during the winter, it will likely bounce back come spring.
If you decide to grow rosemary in pots, remember these plants can get big! If you’re looking to keep your plant petite, look for a dwarf variety or get ready to trim it on a regular basis.
Rosemary Meaning and Symbolism
Along with being a beautiful plant, rosemary also holds unique meaning and symbolism.
Rosemary has long been a symbol of remembrance and has been used at funerals to remember lost loved ones. People in Australia sometimes wear rosemary sprigs on Anzac Day when they remember those lost in military service. Rosemary’s ties to remembrance also appear in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when Ophelia declares “There’s rosemary. That’s for remembrance.”
This herb is also a symbol of faithfulness, loyalty, and fidelity. Therefore, it’s sometimes used in wedding ceremonies, anniversaries, and other related events. Some people opt to give a potted rosemary plant instead of ordering a flower delivery.
Rosemary Fun Facts
Now that you know how to care for rosemary, learn some of the reasons why this plant is so cool!
It’s Packed With Beneficial Compounds
Some of the compounds that give rosemary its aroma and punch may also help with health. Rosemary contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds including rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, both of which may help destroy free radicals and also decrease inflammation. Drinking rosemary tea is a popular way people take advantage of these properties.
The leaves also contain antimicrobial properties. Therefore, the salves made from the leaves have been used to treat cuts and burns.
It Has Unique Flower Color Origins
One of the tales about rosemary involves the Virgin Mary. Rosemary plants grew in the Middle East long before Mary was born. However, she played a big role in the flowers’ colors. Legend has it that all rosemary flowers were once white until Mary threw a blue cloak over the plant. When the cloak was removed, people discovered the flowers had turned blue.
Today, you can find rosemary plants with white, purple, pink, and blue flowers.
Its Name Lies In Greek
While some people think rosemary relates to the Virgin Mary, it actually has its origins in Latin. The species name Rosmarinus comes from the words “ros marinus“ which translates to “dew of the sea.” Some people say this relates to the fact that rosemary could survive on as little water as the dew that came from the sea.
It Has Endless Culinary Uses
Rosemary works equally well in sweet and savory dishes, in cocktails and appetizers, and in fresh and dried forms. You can use it as a meat rub, add it to roasted vegetables, or make a simple syrup to spice up cocktails or soda water.
Start Growing Rosemary
Now that you know how to grow rosemary at home, it’s time to add one of these plants to your garden! If you’re looking for help with growing other garden plants, check out these azalea flower care tips or tips on peace lily care next. And if you want a houseplant to supplement your garden, check out our plant delivery options.Shop All