The Joy of Growing Rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis

Growing rosemary is a pleasure; using it is sheer delight. The uplifting, invigorating fragrance of the bruised leaves of Rosmarinus officinalis is sufficient excuse for planting the herb, and, if you’ve ever been in a kitchen when rosemary chicken was roasting in the oven, you will be eager to enjoy that delicious aroma in your own home.

This can only be achieved by growing your own plant.

Only a mature rosemary bush can provide you with the large handfuls of cut stems it takes to fill a house with that heavenly smell.

Rosemary grows at a moderate pace when properly cared for. You’ll want to start with the largest plant you can get hold of so as not to have to wait long before you can begin harvesting it for use in the kitchen.

A word of caution:

Rosemary does not like to be moved once it is established, so, unless you plan to continue growing rosemary in the container it is in, avoid purchasing a large established plant in a pot.

If you plan on growing rosemary in the ground, choose a sunny site as near the kitchen door as possible. You will inevitably want to snip a handful at night or on a rainy day. If you have to travel to reach it, it will go unused.

Add compost and slow release fertilizer to the planting hole.

A rich, moist soil is best as this is one herb that, despite its Mediterranean lineage, does not like to dry out.

Plant it at the same level it was at in the nursery pot and keep it barely moist until it is established. After that, you won’t need to worry about watering much. Just give it a drink during the summer if it hasn’t rained all week.

Feed it 2 or 3 times during the growing season with compost tea or fish emulsion. Herbs perform best when fed organic fertilizers. Be careful not to splash any on the leaves. Water and feed the rosemary bush very little in the winter.

If you live where winters are cold and plan on growing rosemary outdoors, select a cultivar that has been bred for cold hardiness.

‘Arp’ is said to be the most hardy rosemary.

‘Salem’ is reputed to be hardy as far north as Salem, MA.

Cold tolerant varieties may die to the ground, but should return from the roots the following spring. Most other varieties will survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees F. 

If it frequently gets colder than this where you live, you might like to know that rosemary grows very handsomely in a pot.

How to Grow Rosemary in a Pot

A 10-12 inch pot would be better for growing rosemary than a 6 inch pot as mature plants tend to grow large.

Also, a plant in a small pot will dry out more quickly in the summer and require more attention. Use a water retaining potting mix.

Rosemary’s blue-green leaves and lavender blossoms look particularly at home in a terra cotta container. Regular harvesting will keep the plant bushy and beautiful.

How to Grow Rosemary Thru the Winter

Rosemary 3 (4.5″) Plants

Move the pot to a bright, cool room before the first frost. Keep the plan above freezing temperatures but below 65 degrees F. Keep the soil nearly dry until spring. You can put it back outside once all danger of frost has passed.

Place it in the shade at first and move it into stronger light gradually. The outside sun is much brighter than the sunniest indoor room.

Follow these tips and you’ll be growing rosemary that’s fit for a master

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