Growing Rosemary

growing rosemaryAs a staple herb throughout Mediterranean cooking, rosemary has earned itself a reputation for its potent evergreen taste. Plus, it is easy to use in a number of different dishes. This woody shrub is an aromatic herb that grows as a perennial throughout many climate zones. This means for years to come you’ll be growing rosemary.

The ancient Greeks sensed the powerful health properties of rosemary. This is why they used it to decorate their hair before taking tests in order to strengthen their memory. Whether you choose to plant it for culinary, medicinal or even ornamental purposes, you’ll be sure to get plenty of enjoyment out of your rosemary. With minimal effort on your part, you can grow enough to easily keep your entire community supplied for growing seasons to come.

Start Growing Rosemary

There are three main ways of growing rosemary: from seed, from transplants and from cuttings. The technique you choose to use will impact how long it takes your rosemary to reach maturity. Additionally, it will impact how much care and attention it will need along the way.

When and Where Should You Grow Rosemary?

In order to grow well, this Mediterranean-based herb needs close to full sun and a solid six months to reach maturity. The ornamental properties of rosemary’s blue-green needles make it a perfect garden border and an ideal accent plant to grow along walkways and in containers. Make sure to choose a place with decent soil and plenty of room, as rosemary plants can reach over two feet tall at maturity.

Growing Rosemary From Seed

For the average gardener, rosemary is difficult to grow from seed. This is due to the herb’s long germination time (10-25 days) and the time it takes before the plant is ready to be harvested (up to two years). However, many gardeners find growing their own rosemary is well worth the time and effort.

In order to speed up the time it takes rosemary to sprout, start your seeds three months before warm weather comes to your area. Before planting, be sure to soak the seeds for at least six hours. This softens the seed coat and encourages them to sprout faster. Sow the seeds indoors under warm light and be careful not to overwater them. Even with these precautions you should expect a low germination rate for your seeds.

Growing Rosemary from Transplants

To speed up the growing process, you can buy your rosemary as transplants from a garden supply store. Make sure to purchase the hardiest looking plants and ease their transition into the ground to prevent them from getting stressed. Another option is to plant your rosemary in containers that can be taken inside during the worst of the winter. Because container grown rosemary can still reach over three feet tall, it’s important to ensure you have big enough pots for your plants. Once the danger of heavy frost is over in the spring, you can bring rosemary back outside.

Growing Rosemary From Cuttings

For most people, the easiest way to grow rosemary is to take a cutting from a mature plant. The best time of year to take a cutting is in the late spring when plenty of new growth is starting to show on their stems. Use a sharp knife to take a three inch cutting just below a leaf joint and trim the bottom inch of the cutting to remove any leaves. Fill a three inch pot with potting mix and insert one to two cutting in each pot. Water throughout and cover with a plastic bag in order to trap in heat and moisture. Put your cutting in a place where it can get natural light, like a window out of direct sunlight. Once the cuttings have fully rooted (about eight weeks) they can be planted outside.

Preparing a Rosemary Bed

Unless you choose to grow your rosemary in movable containers, you’ll eventually need to set up a permanent garden bed for your new perennial. Rosemary tends to grow best in well-drained, sandy soil, but this hardy herb can tolerate a wide variety of soils as well. It’s important to put your plants in a place where they will get full sun and protection from frost. If you want to grow your rosemary as a perennial, make sure to choose a spot that will work for years to come that won’t mess up your garden rotation plans.

Planting Rosemary

The spacing you give your rosemary makes a big difference in how well it will do in your garden. You can get away with one to two feet of spacing for single season rosemary, but if you want to grow it as a perennial you’ll need at least four feet per plant.

Watering and Mulching Requirements

Rosemary tends to be drought tolerant once it’s established, but plan to water your plants more often throughout the first year in order to stabilize it. Because rosemary isn’t picky about the kind of soil it’s in, you don’t need to much fertilizer besides an annual spring infusion of compost or fish emulsion.

Companion Planting and Rotation Considerations

Rosemary is a great companion plant that does well with a wide variety of species. Planting rosemary around cabbage, beans, sage and carrots is especially helpful. Some gardeners even claim that rosemary helps to deter bean beetles, carrot rust flies and even cabbage moths.

Common Pests and Diseases for Rosemary

Rosemary typically doesn’t have too many problems with pests and diseases, but it tends to be a favorite feeding option of whiteflies, aphids and spider mites. A non-toxic insect spray made from soap can deter these pests.

Rosemary that is kept too damp or grown indoors is susceptible to powdery mildew, a fungus that thrives when plants don’t get good air circulation. You can counter this condition by keeping your plants dry and well ventilated.

Harvesting and Storing Rosemary

Once your rosemary is established, it can be harvested throughout the growing season. The easiest thing to do is to harvest whole stems in the morning in order to get the best flavor. It’s usually better to cut three to four inches from one branch rather than cutting the tops off several branches. Strip the needles from the stem and chop them up before using them.

Storing rosemary is simple, as this herbs maintains its flavor when both dried and frozen. You can freeze and dry the whole stems and simply pull off the leaves you need for each recipe. To dry the leaves, place the stems in a dehydrator or tie bouquets of rosemary sprigs together and hang them upside down until they’ve dried, after which you can store them in glass jars.

Saving Rosemary Seeds

In order to save the seeds from your rosemary plants, remove the seed heads after they begin to turn brown and dry (usually late in the summer). Put them out of direct sunlight and let them finish drying until you can thresh out the seeds by shaking and rubbing the heads. These seeds need to be stored in a cool dark place and should last for at least two years.

Choosing the Best Rosemary Seeds for Your Climate

Because rosemary is difficult to grow from seed, the variety you grow might depend more on what transplants are regionally available than your seed preference. Nonetheless, some of the top types of rosemary are the following: Roman BeautySalemSissinghurstSpice Islands and Tuscan Blue.




Additional Growing Tips for Organic Rosemary

When you start it off right, rosemary can grow in your garden without many problems. However, if you need some extra tips for troubleshooting, these suggestions should help you out.

  • If you want your rosemary to last more than a single season, find a way to bring it indoors when the temperature dips below 30 degrees F. If you grow your plants in a sheltered area with southern exposure, they are more likely to survive temperature extremes into the low teens.
  • Minimal fertilizer should be needed for your plants, but if you’re struggling to keep them looking fresh, feel free to add a 5-10-5 fertilizer as a top dressing.