Rosemarinus Officinalis (rosemary) is a beautifully fragrant evergreen shrub that thrives in the warmer USDA planting zones 8 and higher and is very easy to grow. You can grow it successfully in colder areas, though it will need protection if the ground freezes. Rosemary originated in the Mediterranean region and it prefers dry, sunny conditions.
So where should you plant rosemary in your garden? Chances are you will have several options, depending on whether you want to grow rosemary in a herb garden or use it for landscaping, perhaps as a low hedge alongside a pathway. As long as you choose a spot with well-drained soil that gets at least six hours of full sun every day, you can’t go wrong.
Where do I put rosemary in my garden?
As long as you find a nice sunny spot with well-drained soil, you can plant rosemary anywhere in your garden. If you’ve got a herb garden, this may be the obvious place to plant it.
But rosemary is also great for landscaping in gardens as a whole. Upright varieties can grow up to 3-6 feet tall (900 cm-1.8 m) and make lovely formal or informal hedges.
Rosemary bushes planted with shrubs that have contrasting broad-leaved foliage or flowers add interest to garden beds. It’s also a favorite for topiary or perfectly clipped knot gardens.
In informal garden designs, prostrate creeping types look fabulous in rock gardens or planted so that they cascade over a low rock or masonry walls. Rosemary also looks good in pots, in the garden, or on patios and decks.
Where does rosemary grow best?
Because rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region, it stands to reason that it will grow best in places with similar climatic conditions. More specifically, rosemary is native to the dry, rocky coastal areas of the region.
According to The Herb Society of America, which was founded in 1933, rosemary got its name from its Latin genus Rosmarinus, which means dew of the sea.
They advise that it will do best in the USDA hardiness zones 8-10, in full sun. Ideally, temperatures shouldn’t dip much below 30°F (-1°C).
During winter, the ideal daytime temperature is 60-65°F (15-18°C) and 40-50°F (4-10°C) at night. But it still needs bright light and the air should be damp. The good circulation around rosemary plants will help to prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew.
It’s best to plant rosemary in a sand or gravel mix that should be kept slightly moist but not too wet. It likes soil that is slightly acidic, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
How to Choose the Best Spot to Grow Rosemary
Having decided whether you want to grow rosemary in your herb garden or somewhere else around your home, you can find the most suitable spots.
Step 1: Full sun
When growing rosemary, it’s important to ensure it gets full sun for at least six hours every day. If you’ve got a south-facing wall, a garden bed or herb garden alongside it might be the ideal spot.
If you are growing rosemary indoors, find a sunny window in a cool room for the pot.
Step 2: Well drained soil
If you grow your rosemary in containers, it’s easy to go out and buy potting soil and mix it with some gravel so that it drains well. But in your garden, if the soil has a high clay content or there’s too much organic matter in the soil, it’s not always that easy to amend it.
The problem is that if your soil is constantly wet, rosemary plants won’t thrive. A compromise is to try digging around your rosemary plants and adding fine gravel around them.
If there are no areas where the soil is suitable or can be amended reasonably easily, you might want to pot your rosemary. Of course, if you live in a cold climate, you’ll be better off growing this herb in pots so that you can take them inside in winter.
Step 3: Ensure there’s enough space
Rosemary bushes can spread about 4 feet (1.2 m). Unless you plan to prune them, you need to leave enough room between plants for them to grow.
Step 4: Good companions
If you’re planting rosemary in an established vegetable or herb garden, aim to plant it near to plants it will benefit. Beans, cabbages, carrots, and sage are all excellent candidates.
Is rosemary an easy plant to grow?
Rosemary is remarkably easy to grow. You can grow it from rosemary seed, but it’s a lot quicker and easier to propagate it from stem cuttings. Alternatively, buy established rosemary plants from a local garden center.
Seeds germinate very slowly and the germination rate is low – usually only about 15%. Cuttings, on the other hand, root very easily and will soon grow into lush rosemary bushes.
Rosemary doesn’t like to be transplanted once it is established, so it’s important to locate your new plants in a suitable spot. Some may survive if you move them, but you will risk losing plants.
If you live in a cold climate, don’t be tempted to plant them in your herb garden and then dig them up to bring them indoors in winter. Rather grow them in pots or other containers so that you can move your rosemary indoors when it gets too cold.
Tips to Grow Rosemary
Here are a handful of useful tips for growing rosemary in your garden.
Tip 1: How to plant cuttings
Growing rosemary from cuttings is cost-effective and rewarding. But wait until you have a strong, healthy, well-established plant to harvest cuttings from.
The professors at the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension suggest that you clip off 3-inch (76 mm) branches from the stem of your plant. Remove most of the leaves from the bottom section of the branch.
Plant 1-2 cuttings in 3-inch (76 mm) pots. If the pots are larger, you can plant more cuttings per pot. Water the cuttings.
Place your pot on a windowsill that gets indirect sunlight and temperatures of about 60-70°F (15-20°C) and water regularly. After about two months the cuttings will have roots and you can plant them in your garden.
Tip 2: Avoid Overwatering
Although you will need to water rosemary quite often if you plant cuttings, once it is established you only need to water when the top layer of soil is dry. If you overwater, there will be a high risk of root rot.
It can be tricky to gauge when to water rosemary because its needle-like leaves don’t wilt like the broad leaves of other herbs. On average, watering every two weeks should be enough.
Tip 3: Fertilizer
Rosemary rarely needs fertilizing, but if you find that the plant appears to be stunted or is growing very slowly, you can fertilize once in the early spring before any new growth appears. You can use any all-purpose fertilizer in liquid or dry, granular form, but be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging.
Tip 4: When to Harvest Rosemary
While you snip off a sprig of rosemary now and then, it’s best to wait until plants are well established before you harvest rosemary. Check that they are woody stemmed and harvest just above the woody growth.
The best time to harvest is just before the plant flowers. Avoid harvesting while the plant is blooming.
If you see dead or yellowing branches, you can remove these at any time.
Tip 5: Pests & Diseases
Rosemary is an excellent natural insecticide, so it isn’t surprising that it is resistant to most pests. If you post spider mites, scale, or mealybugs, a homemade insecticide made with rosemary should do the trick.
Fill a bucket with fresh rosemary sprigs and cover with boiling water. Leave it to cool covered, and then strain. Stir in half a cup of soap powder and use as a spray. It’s safe for everything from vegetables to roses. You can even use it inside the house.
Tip 6: What to do with your harvest
Rosemary is a favorite culinary herb for stews, roast lamb, fish, poultry, and for adding flavor to barbecued food. Add a few peppercorns and a sprig of rosemary to red wine vinegar and you’ll have a delicious, instant salad dressing.
While there is no doubt that fresh rosemary is best, if you prune your rosemary bushes, keep the clippings and dry them for future use. The easiest way to dry rosemary is to hang it in bundles in a dry, dark environment or drying cupboard.
You can store fresh rosemary in the refrigerator for about a week.
Rosemary is a relatively hardy evergreen shrub that is easy to grow in warm, dry areas. It enjoys full sun and will thrive in well-drained soil.
If you live in a colder climate, your best option will be to plant rosemary in pots so that you can move your rosemary indoors when temperatures plummet.