A native of the Mediterranean region and member of the mint family, rosemary is a lovely, easy-to-grow plant with great culinary and ornamental value. A striking, upright evergreen shrub that is winter-hardy in zones 8 to 10, it fills the air with its fragrance as soon as you brush your hand across the leaves. The key to growing rosemary is a well-drained soil that stays evenly moist at first; as the plant takes root it becomes increasingly drought tolerant. It is also excellent for containers, which lets gardeners in colder climates to bring it indoors in the winter. Unlike most herbs, rosemary has a stronger flavour when fresh than when dried. Cut sprigs anytime for fresh use. Trim it regularly to encourage tender new stems or the plant will get woody.
It’s hard to have too much rosemary. The plant has so many uses that it will be enjoyed all the time. Just a few cut stems will fill a room with fragrance.
- Type Perennial in zones 8 to 10
- Planting time Spring, fall
- Features Tiny, strongly aromatic and flavourful leaves, blue blooms
- Light Full sun
- Soil Well drained, on the dry side, pH 6 to 7
- Plant spacing 24 to 36 inches
- Plant size 24 to 36 inches tall
- Garden use Herb garden, flower border, containers, low clipped hedge
- Culinary use Italian and Mediterranean dishes, vinegars and oils, breads
Light requirements Full sun is ideal. Plants tolerate part shade, but growth will be scraggly.
Planting Space 2 to 3 feet apart.
Soil requirements Plants grow best in light, well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 7. To improve soil drainage, add builder’s sand or small limestone gravel, or tuck plants into raised beds or atop a stone wall.
Water requirements Keep soil uniformly moist, but allow it to dry out between waterings.
Frost-fighting plan Established plants can survive a few hard frosts (under 28º F). Use a frost blanket to protect newly planted seedlings from late spring frosts or prolong the growing season. In general, potted rosemary can stay outdoors in a protected location until nighttime temperatures are consistently below 25º F.
Common issues Mildew and root rot can devastate plants in humid regions. Plants can rot if mulch is piled against stems. Whitefly, scale, spider mites, and mealy bugs may attack rosemary.
Harvesting Pick leaves at any point in the growing season. Snip individual leaves or stems.
Storage Fresh stems last in water five to seven days. Refrigerate unwashed stems in a paper towel slipped into a loosely closed plastic bag that’s stashed in a warmer area of the fridge, like a door compartment. Use within 7 to 14 days. For longer storage, individually quick freeze leaves or stems on a parchment-lined tray and store in freezer bags, or freeze in ice cubes.