Growing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis and R. spp.)
Soup-er tasty, a growing rosemary plant adds year-round beauty to growing zones 7 and south. Whether tall and statuesque or cascading down a rock wall, this narrow, dusty silver-green leaved shrub gives any garden an instant touch of the Mediterranean.
Below you will find a description of the rosemary plant, including its height, hardiness, and flower; light, moisture, and soil requirements; cultivation tips for keeping your growing rosemary healthy and tasty; our favorites varieties; and some ideas for how to use the rosemary herb in your home.
The rosemary plant (literal translation: “dew of the sea") will grow 3 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide, depending, of course, on the variety. That said, it's a slow grower.
Once it's old enough, it will flower in mid-summer, and the color could range from white to light pink to pale purple or even blue.
This woody shrub is strongly cold-hardy in the South, the Mid-Atlantic region should plant it in a protected location way from harsh winter winds. In areas north, consider growing rosemary as a potted plant which you can move inside during the winter.
The Basic Requirements of the Rosemary Herb
Light: Full sun, a minimum of 6 hours. If you are choosing between morning sun and afternoon sun, go with the afternoon.
Moisture: Medium to dry, drought tolerant. (Feel that leaf? Most plants with leaves like that are drought tolerant.)
Soil: 3 words: No. Wet. Feet. Rosemary loves the loamy, gritty, rocky soils of its Mediterranean home. Imitate that soil texture as best you can, and it will give you many years of fragrant, tastey foliage.
Cultivation Tips for Growing Rosemary
Starting from seed can be frustrating: rosemary plants have a low germination rate. You are likely to be happier rooting a cutting from your neighbor or buying a seedling.
Good cultivation habits: “Pinch” the growing tips regularly to encourage a more stocky profile. Never take more than 1/3 of any branch lest you shock the rosemary plant.
Varieties to Try
‘Roseus’ Rosemary is a pretty pink-flowering variety, hard to find but well worth the time.
Short on space? ‘Prostratus’ Rosemary crawls across the ground and cascades down retaining walls. The fine texture of the rosemary plant contrasts well with smoother brick and large stones.
Living north of the Carolinas (zone 8)? ‘Arp’ Rosemary has citrus-scented, light green needles and is VERY cold-hardy. In a protected spot with a sun warmed stone or brick wall behind it, this is the one for adventurous northern gardeners to try.
Using the Rosemary Herb
In the Kitchen Besides flavoring roasted potatoes or your favorite fowl, rosemary is key to many soups, especially the sort you'd add barley to. A favorite method of flavoring oils and vinegars is to push a tender branch of the rosemary herb into the bottle to steep.
In the Garden The rosemary plant is an ideal bedding plant for your sun garden. Its evergreeen nature across the south U.S. means garden designers use it to create winter interest.
The rosemary plant can get old and large enough to grow into a fairly substantial shrub with a slightly wild profile, or, if you prune, shape and train it regularly, rosemary makes a spectacular indoor topiary.