Growing rosemary might take a little patience since it tends to grow slower than other herbs in the first year of life. But the wait will be worth it.
Aside from its intoxicating aroma and culinary benefits, rosemary continues to be used for its wide array of medicinal benefits thanks to its rosmarinic acid and essential oils. In addition, given plenty of sun, the tiny blue/purple flowers that emerge are a delicious, healthy addition to salads. They also make beautiful decorations for cakes and pastries.
As a perennial, evergreen shrub with origins from the Mediterranean Sea, rosemary is an herb the world has loved and used for centuries. This hardy herb does best in warmer climates, but can be grown nearly anywhere, including in a pot indoors.
There are three main types of rosemary; they all produce leaves with the same flavor but they form different shapes as they grow. Common rosemary is vase-shaped, prostrate rosemary is a trailing variety and salem rosemary is slimmer and more upright.
Just like other evergreens, growing rosemary from seed can be difficult. You’ll have better luck if you start with a young plant or a cutting.
If you live in a colder climate, make sure you plant the rosemary just after the last frost hits. It probably won’t survive temperatures below 30F.
Plant in a loamy soil with a pH between 6 to 7.5. A good soil combination would be:
- < 52% sand
- Between 28% and 50% silt
- Between 7% and 27% clay
If using a potting mix, add some sand in a 3:1 potting mix to sand ratio for extra drainage.
If possible, place your rosemary plant where it will get direct sunlight for six to eight hours a day. But, don’t worry if you can’t, as it can also do very well with just a little sun.
In cooler climates, the shrub can be grown in a pot near a sunny window and moved outside when the weather gets warmer. In this case, it is best to leave the plant in the same container all year round to ensure it stays strong and healthy. But make sure you repot every year into a slightly larger container with fresh potting mix.
Rosemary is drought tolerant by nature, so it can go for long periods of time without water. With that in mind, you should only water when the top of the soil feels dry. And never let it sit in soggy soil.
During the summer months, your rosemary plant may benefit from some all-purpose liquid fertilizer every few weeks – especially if the leaves start turning pale. But don’t give it too much as this can do more harm than good. Make sure to water after fertilizing.
As far as pruning goes, it’s not really necessary, but you might want to do this for aesthetic reasons. Apart from looking neat and tidy, pruning will produce a bushier, more productive plant. Pruning is best done in the spring or summer so the new growth can harden before the cooler winter weather.
Pruning tips include:
- Cut it like you would a houseplant. Cut whole sprigs from the plant and aim for just above the leaf joints.
- Do not cut while it is blooming.
- Never cut more than a third of the plant at once.
Watch this short video below for a quick chicken dinner with rosemary:
Pests and Diseases
Rosemary doesn’t attract many pests. Aphids and mealy bugs are some of the more common pests and they can be controlled with the use of a non-chemical, natural pesticide.
What you should be more concerned about is your rosemary plant catching a disease. Aerial blight is a type of fungal disease that infects the stem, pods, and leaves. And, it is also susceptible to black bacteria spots on the leaves, which is common for most edible plants, as well as root rot.
However, with good maintenance and the right soil (so your plant can drain easily and dry out between waterings), you shouldn’t have any problems with root rot – or any other disease for that matter.
Because of its strong aroma, rosemary repels mosquitos and other insects. This makes it ideal for companion planting as it can help deter pests from other plants. It is especially good for deterring pests from beans and it is a good companion with sage and thyme.
Perhaps the best part about growing rosemary is the harvesting. Cut off just 2 to 3 inches at a time, not too close to the plant. But don’t remove leaves during the winter as this may weaken them. Let the plant begin to regrow before you harvest again. This gives it time to recover between each harvest.
You can never have too much rosemary. To preserve for the winter months, tie in bundles and hang upside down until dry. Then store in an air-tight container.
Rosemary is known for its many medicinal properties and for its flavor which improves almost any dish. It is commonly used as a seasoning in soups, casseroles and stews and as an accompaniment to many meat and fish dishes. It also enhances many vegetarian dishes that include grains, mushrooms, onions, peas and potatoes. But, don’t limit it to these dishes as its uses are limitless!
Once you’ve successfully started growing rosemary, it’s extremely easy to keep alive and healthy, so you can continue to enjoy it for many years to come.
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