By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a savory kitchen herb with a pungent flavor and attractive, needle-like leaves. Growing rosemary in pots is surprisingly simple and you can use the herb to add flavor and variety to a number of culinary dishes. Read on for tips about growing potted rosemary herbs.
Planting Rosemary in a Pot
Rosemary in a pot requires a good quality commercial potting mixture with ingredients such as fine pine bark or peat moss with vermiculite or perlite.
Growing rosemary in a pot with a diameter of at least 12 inches (30 cm.) allows enough space for the roots to grow and expand. Be sure the container has a drainage hole because rosemary grown in containers will rot in soggy, poorly drained soil.
The easiest way to grow rosemary in a pot is to start with a small bedding plant from a garden center or nursery, as rosemary is difficult to grow from seed. Plant the rosemary at the same depth it is planted in the container since planting too deeply may suffocate the plant.
Rosemary is a Mediterranean plant that will thrive in a sunny location on your porch or patio; however, rosemary isn’t cold hardy. If you live in a climate with chilly winters, bring the plant indoors before the first frost in autumn.
If you prefer not to grow rosemary indoors, you can grow the herb as an annual and start with a new rosemary plant every spring.
Rosemary Container Care
Caring for rosemary grown in containers is easy enough. Proper watering is the key to growing potted rosemary herbs, and the best way to determine if the plant needs water is to insert your finger into the soil. If the top 1 to 2 inches (3-5 cm.) of soil feels dry, it’s time to water. Water the plant deeply, then let the pot drain freely and never let the pot stand in water. Use care, as overwatering is the most common reason rosemary plants don’t survive in containers.
Rosemary in pots generally doesn’t require fertilizer, but you can use a dry fertilizer or a dilute solution of a water-soluble liquid fertilizer if the plant looks pale green or growth is stunted. Again, use care, as too much fertilizer may damage the plant. Too little fertilizer is always better than too much. Always water the rosemary immediately after applying fertilizer. Be sure to apply fertilizer to the potting soil – not the leaves.
Maintaining Potted Rosemary Herbs in Winter
Keeping a rosemary plant alive during the winter can be tricky. If you decide to bring your plant indoors during the winter, it will need a bright location. A sunny windowsill is a good place as long as the plant won’t be chilled by cold air.
Be sure the plant has good air circulation and that it isn’t crowded with other plants. Be careful not to overwater.
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How to grow rosemary
Learn how to plant, care for, harvest and store rosemary, in our detailed Grow Guide.
Published: Tuesday, 7 April, 2020 at 10:37 am
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Rosemary is a versatile herb, providing evergreen interest all year round, fragrant leaves for use in cooking, and nectar-rich flowers for bees in spring. Grow rosemary along a path, so every time you brush past, the leaves release their aromatic oils.
Hailing from the Mediterranean, rosemary thrives in a sunny, sheltered spot in well-drained soil. It can struggle in heavy clay soils, particularly in winter, when the ground tends to be wetter. You can grow rosemary in pots, but bear in mind this perennial herb can grow quite big, and will need potting on in fresh compost every couple of years.
How to Grow Rosemary
Last Updated: September 8, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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Fragrant, delicious rosemary is a wonderful herb to grow on your own, either indoors in a pot or outside in your garden. Rosemary is generally not hard to grow, and once it has taken root, this perennial, woody shrub will thrive for years. Read on to learn how to plant, care for, and harvest rosemary.
How to grow rosemary
Rosemary is a truly amazing herb that’s a feast for the senses. Not only does it offer year-round garden splendour, but it’s also delightfully fragrant and super flavoursome – just think of how well it complements lamb and roast potatoes!
Certain varieties also provide great flower colour, when they bloom in late spring or summer. These florals range from dark to pale blue, through to pink and crisp white. Rosemary can also be used as an evergreen hedge, trimmed into a standard or kept as a long-life shrub – it even thrives in pots. Follow this guide and discover how you can plant up this all-rounder in your garden.
Where to grow
To cover a sun-drenched wall, consider planting a prostrate form of this herb such as Rosmarinus ‘Irene’. It spreads quickly and will cascade neatly over a surface.
To create a cute mini double hedge in your garden, grow rosemary behind a row of lettuces and trim or pick to keep it compact.
Plant under your kitchen window for an easy-reach herb patch – It’s handy if you ever need a last-minute sprig for cooking. Or, simply open your window and enjoy the sweet scent.
How to grow
Native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary thrives in hot, dry areas with little to no frost in winter. However, it will grow well in just about any climate, providing it’s not too humid, wet or cold.
For rosemary to flourish, choose a sunny spot that receives at least six to eight hours of sunlight daily. Also ensure it’s protected from cold, drying winds.
Plant in a well-drained soil that’s neutral to slightly alkaline. Add dolomite or lime at least once a year to increase the pH level and keep the herb happy. If planting in a pot, use a quality potting mix that drains freely. For even better drainage, try planting it in a cacti and succulent mix, such as Debco Cacti & Succulent Superior Potting Mix or Yates Thrive Cacti & Succulent Potting Mix.
This herb doesn’t like to be completely dry, nor does it thrive when saturated, so water regularly but sparingly. If pot grown, water when the soil feels dry.
In spring, feed with organic food such as blood and bone or cow manure. Alternatively, apply a slow-release fertiliser such as Scotts Osmocote Plus Organics.
Remove any dead stems and straggly shoots in spring. Lightly trim your rosemary after flowering to encourage bushy growth – keep the cuttings and use them in the kitchen or place them around your home for a natural perfume.
6. Care for Your Plants
Now, you’ll need to move your rosemary plant into filtered or indirect sunlight. Wait until roots are re-established, then move to direct light. It will need about seven hours of sunlight each day. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, until new growth appears.
Once established, rosemary is robust and requires very little care. It needs full sunlight and watering only when the soil feels dry to the touch.
As your plant grows larger, you can re-pot it. You don’t need to re-pot until the roots fill the container. Rosemary plants growing in containers can easily reach up to three feet tall! Just continue transplanting as the root systems get larger.
You may also want to prune your rosemary from time to time. Of course, you’ll be doing this automatically as you cut rosemary sprigs to use in your cooking. Just keep in mind that the more often you trim, the bushier your plant will become. You can prune it after flowering, too, to help it grow in a more compact form.
When you’re caring for your rosemary plants during the winter, remember that rosemary will need to be kept a bit on the cooler side. Keep your plant away from heat sources and maintain temperatures around 60 degrees. Humidity is essential – misting your plant or running a humidifier near the plant can be helpful.
There aren’t many pests or diseases you need to watch out for besides aphids and root rot. Aphids will suck on the plants and can be found both indoors and out. You can control them with a blast of water or by using insecticidal soap. Root rot, on the other hand, is common when rosemary plants are overwatered. Let the soil dry out completely to prevent this fungal disease.