Horticulture Magazine

Rosemary Herb Care & Growing Tips

fresh rosemary herb on a kitchen worktop

Rosemary Overview

Official Plant NameSalvia Rosmarinus
Common Name(s)Rosemary
Plant TypeHerb
Native AreaMediterranean
Hardiness RatingH4-H5
ToxicityEdible
FoliageNeedle-like aromatic foliage
FlowersPurple, lavender, white
When To SowMarch, April, May, September, October
Flowering MonthsJune, July
When To PruneJune, July, August, September
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun

Exposure
Sheltered

Size

Height
Varies

Spread
Varies

Soil

Preferred
Chalk, Loam, Sand

Moisture
Well drained

pH
Neutral-Acid

Rosemary is one distinctive herb; its needle-like foliage adds texture and structure to gardens, and its aromatic scent can transport you to a balmy evening somewhere in the Mediterranean.

This delectable plant is also so easy to grow and produces romantic, delicate, pale blue flowers making it one of the most popular herbs among gardeners in the UK.

In fact, rosemary grows so prolifically that managing it and pruning it is where you will spend most your time with this perennial, evergreen shrub.

With recent events in the world, many gardeners are trying to become even more self-sufficient. Including herbs like rosemary in your garden is a great way to do this, and can help you add gorgeous flavour to your meals, without having to make unwanted shopping trips.

farmer trimming rosemary herbs
Quick, easy, and delicious

What is rosemary?

Rosemary is a fragrant, evergreen herb and, like other herbs such as oregano, lavender, thyme and basil, is a member of the mint family.

Hailing from the Meditteranean, rosemary favours sunny and sheltered spots and, being an evergreen. Its leaves can be harvested year-round and used for both cooking and medicinal purposes.

Purple rosemary blossoms in a garden
Forget about thyme; timeless rosemary is the herb that represents remembrance

Rosemary has become a symbol of remembrance, a tradition dating back to the ancient Greeks when students would wear rosemary to aid their memories. For this reason, some folks still wear rosemary at funerals, and it is also often included in bridal bouquets to represent a loved one that has passed.

Why we love rosemary

Rosemary has been a real tradition in country garden cottages for generations, but these days you will see them in much more urban settings thanks to their versatility, charm and many uses.

If you have any reservations about growing rosemary, then allow us to elaborate on why rosemary really is the cat’s pyjamas:

  • Rosemary is an awesome addition to many dishes, from roast chicken to roast lamb, salads to soups, not to mention the extra special something they offer for BBQs. This herb is the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Not only is rosemary tasty, but it also has some brilliant health benefits. Rosemary is a rich source of iron, calcium and vitamin B-6.
  • Rosemary fills your garden with its signature scent. This scent is said to lower stress hormones, meaning this plant isn’t just good for the body – it’s good for the mind.
  • No matter how tiny your garden is, you can still grow rosemary, it grows easily and speedily, making it a rewarding plant for any garden.

Choosing the right variety for your garden

There are many, many strains of rosemary spanning a broad spectrum of features. If you are struggling to choose the right variety for your garden, we have put together a list of things to consider.

Creeping rosemary

Low growing rosemary is a perfect option if you have a modest-sized garden. These varieties are well-suited to pots and containers and will also cascade down beautifully if planted in window boxes and planters.

Creeping rosemary varieties grow no taller than 2 feet in height, but they can spread as far as and 8 feet wide, which also makes them terrific for trailing over walls.

Given how far this rosemary can spread, you will need to either allow for the space they need to grow or prune your plant effectively.

Mid-height rosemary

As the name suggests, rosemary varieties in this category grow to a mid-height, usually growing no taller than 3 feet in height and spreading up to 4 feet in width.

This variety can provide great ground cover for slopes and hard to reach areas of your garden. That said, with all types of rosemary it will spread as far as it can so if you are planting in a more confined area, you do need to keep an eye on it to prevent it taking over.

Tall rosemary

Needless to say, this category of rosemary represents the tallest growing members of the family. These varieties can grow up to 7 feet tall and up to 3 feet wide. If you have the space for this plant, tall rosemary can bring a tremendous amount of texture, structure and interest to your garden.

Smaller varieties make themselves known thanks to their unforgettable fragrance. The taller plants also make their presence known with their unique foliage which comes in shades of deep green, bright green and yellow-gold.

Flower colours

Generally speaking, rosemary flowers bloom in shades of blue. But, if you want something a little different, some varieties produce flowers in hues of pink, lavender and white.

Flavour

Any type of rosemary can be used when cooking, but if it’s flavour you are after then opting for varieties with broader leaves is the way to go. Rosemary that sports wider foliage is richer in the aromatic oils that give it its one of a kind taste. These are the plants you want to pick if you are keen to utilise this herb in your kitchen.

chicken breasts in a frying pan topped with rosemary and lemon
A sprig or two of rosemary can enhance the flavours of many dishes

Growing tips

Rosemary grows best in full sun, in a sheltered spot with well-drained soil. If planted straight into the garden then it is likely the young plants will be sitting in wet soil over the winter which can be extremely damaging. For this reason, we recommend planting rosemary in pots and containers and allowing it to establish itself for a few years before transplanting it into your garden.

You will also want to keep in mind that, if left to its own devices, rosemary can grow as much as four feet in height and four feet. If you are planning on allowing your rosemary to grow that large, then you will need to ensure that you plant in a space that can accommodate it.

How to care for rosemary

Rosemary is a really low maintenance plant, but there are a few things you can do to ensure healthy growth:

  • Water rosemary evenly throughout the growing season, taking extra care to do so during dry spells. Take care not to overwater; however, as rosemary will not tolerate sitting in wet soil.
  • Rosemary should be pruned regularly to prevent it from becoming lanky. We also recommend cutting back after the flowering season to help you avoid your plants to become woody and straggly.
  • If you are keen on having access to fresh rosemary for cooking during winter, then we recommend either taking a cutting or growing another plant inside. Be sure to place it in a warm sunny spot, away from cold drafts.
  • Rosemary that has been grown in the ground will not tolerate being replanted in a pot or container well. For this reason, if you are do want fresh rosemary in the winter months, then that plant should be planted and kept in a pot or container which is easy to move in and out of your house.
  • If you are facing a particularly harsh winter where your rosemary may not survive, then be sure to take cuttings or divide the plant for the following season.

Harvesting and storing

Harvesting rosemary is easy, simply small sprigs gently away from the stem. If you need a larger amount, such as a branch for barbecuing, then you may wish to use secateurs or scissors.

Unlike some other herbs, rosemary should not be frozen. If you wish to store it for an extended period of time, you can place your rosemary on a tray and allow it to dry out in a warm spot such as an airing cupboard.

Pests and diseases

Rosemary is usually pretty unproblematic, but there are a few things to keep an eye out for:

  • Rosemary beetle
  • Aerial blight
  • Bacterial leaf spots
  • Root rot

Eat, drink and be rosemary

As you can see, rosemary is an incredibly easy and rewarding plant to grow and is sure to make your garden merrier, not to mention your kitchen. Rosemary is an essential herb when cooking and can also be used when making tea. It also fills your garden with its aromatic scent.

Rosemary is an excellent option for beginner gardeners and is also a good opportunity for children to learn more about herbs, how to care for them and how to use them in cooking.

So get planting so you can eat, drink and be rosemary!

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