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Tips for Growing, Planting and Caring for Rosemary plants in your herb garden

We all know and love one type of cooking ingredient: Rosemary – mainly known for being a popular herb in the kitchen. It’s an attractive option that’s used in landscaping. 

It has beautiful blue flowers, which is an excellent source of nectar for bees as a bonus. In herbal health, Rosemary is thought to help with strained nerves and headaches. 

As an essential oil, the effects rosemaries gives are – invigorating, soothing, sensual and confidence building.

Fun fact

Rosemary has been used as a culinary and medicinal herb since 500 B.C by the ancient Greeks and Romans; believed to strengthen the memory (although, unfortunately, we can’t guarantee this is true). 

The main types/varieties of Rosemary

There are a few different rosemary cultivators with evergreen shrub – Rosmarinus officinalis being one of the most common varieties. However, each array differs very little in taste and can be used in cooking all year round. 

Some types do better outside, whilst some in, and the numerous varieties can get somewhat confusing as some can potentially be sold under different names. 

Although it’s still best to google the exact species you have, below are a few of the most common varieties;

Rosmarinus oficinalis ‘Arp’

This bushy cultivator with narrow green leaves on top and white below flowers late Spring to early summer with soft light blue upright flowers. 

This type of Rosemary is perfect for colder climates. It has proven to be a hardy variety for low temperatures and will suit both outdoors and potted indoors and a good cut flower. 

Rosmarinus oficinalis ‘Miss Jessops Upright’ 

With light blue flowers blooming in May and June with upright stems, this Rosemary is amazing in cooking. 

When it comes to early summer, prune back after flowering to promote bushy growth and is the best variety for a rosemary hedge; we would suggest the height of around 60 cm and planting space about 45cm apart. 

Rosmarinus oficinalis ‘Roseus’ 

Producing light pink flowers through springtime in clusters is aesthetically pleasing and another ideal and popular option for culinary uses, specifically in stuffing, meat and poultry. 

It is another hardy evergreen, growing up to 150cm. In Autumn cut back, one-third of this will prevent it from becoming leggy. It is another hardy plant that will withstand frost if it is not windy and wet also. 

General care of Rosemary

Whether you want to plant your Rosemary inside the home or outside (which you’ll be glad to hear that both are indeed possible), there are a few things that both prefer- 

Soil

Rosemary will appreciate dry soil with good drainage, much like the Mediterranean habitat where they derive. We would suggest using a soil used for cacti – typically quite a sandy variety; or equally adding sand to regular potting soil. They will not appreciate being placed in a container of soil-based, peat-free compost. 

Potting

Your Rosemary will thrive being planted in pots sized 30-60cm; we would suggest adding crocks to the bottom of the pot to ensure sufficient drainage and checking that your pot has drainage holes at the bottom. 

Although some varieties are shown to have winter hardiness, frozen soil will usually mean the end of your Rosemary. Therefore planting in pots is perfect as during the first frost in Autumn, you can bring them indoors to protect them. 

When it comes to planting your Rosemary, we suggest doing so in Spring to late summer. 

Harvesting

You can harvest anytime your Rosemary is ready May through till October are the best months. Gentle pull small sprigs away from the main stem, taking no more than one-third of the plant at one time. 

If you are roasting a large amount of Rosemary, it is best to use secateurs to remove these large bunches away. When it comes to drying out your Rosemary, place it on a baking tray inside an airing cupboard; for example, we would suggest not freezing this. 

Pests

Chrysolina Americana

Commonly known as the rosemary leaf beetle is the primary type of pest you will come across, growing to the maximum of 8mm. Despite their size, you will notice them due to their distinct metallic background colour and red stripes. Control by removing the adults and larvae by hand or holding paper under the plant, giving it a gentle shake them off as they land onto the paper, then disposing of them. 

Aphids

Another pest that can attack your herb; they will mainly attack your Rosemary when found in greenhouses or indoors. These small sap-sucking green flies can also come in white, yellow, black, brown and even a pink species. In groups under the branches, use a strong water force to wash these pesky colonies off. 

Growing Rosemary inside your home

Growing Rosemary indoors is very handy for those who do not have any outdoor space, and also for those who get good light in their kitchens – ease of access to be able to grab a handful of Rosemary when it’s right next to you!

It smells incredible, tastes fantastic, and it’s also an excellent looking herb if we do say so ourselves. Although keeping this herb inside your home isn’t plain sailing, it’s more challenging inside the home; nonetheless doable! They require more tending to and attention. 

Location & Light – Indoor Rosemary

This Mediatarran herb is drought tolerant and will thrive best inside your home in a south or west-facing window; a windowsill would be a great option. Morning sun is preferable, and the best motto is ‘the more. Light is always right’; you will notice leaves dropping if your Rosemary is not getting enough light, so keep an eye on this telltale sign. Try to avoid having it overcrowded by other plants. 

Watering – Indoor Rosemary

A prevalent mistake people tend to make with Rosemary is underwatering; although they derive from the Mediterranean, they do not like to be left to dry out completely. 

It is best to keep the soil evenly moist by checking on it every couple of days – the best way to do this is by touching the top of the soil. If the top of the soil is dry, it’s best to water. In between watering, we would recommend misting – they are commonly known as the “upside-down” plant, meaning that they prefer to absolve water through the air! 

We would suggest every ten days giving your Rosemary a mist between watering. 

Food – Indoor Rosemary

If your Rosemary is in a pot, it will typically not need fertilising, much like watering too much overfeeding will cause death. 

We suggested only using when growth has become stunted or if the plant looks pale green; this should be a slow-releasing pellet-type product. 

Too little amount of fertiliser is better than too much! Ensure to apply the fertiliser to the soil and not onto the leaves, and also water after.   

Temperature – Indoor Rosemary

Now, Rosemary’s aren’t too hard when it comes to temperature; try to ensure it is away from cold drafts. For best growth, soil temperature should be around 21 degrees. 

When it comes to moving your potted Rosemary that has been outside all summer into your home for the colder, frosty months – fall and winter, you will want first to put your Rosemary on a sunlight diet. 

Moving it into the shade for a few hours a day will gradually accustom it to the reduced light inside. Once brought indoors, keep on a windowsill that has full sun!

Growing Rosemary outside your home

Now, if you are lucky and have the space that you can grow your Rosemary outdoors, then you’ll be glad to hear that Rosemary does very well being grown outside. 

There is very little difference between growing in a pot or open ground, so feel free to do what you prefer, unless you live in a particularly cold or frost area. Either way, you will want to start planting your Rosemary in Spring or Autumn.  

Top Tip

If you want to create a rosemary hedge, the best variety for this is the ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ planting around 45cm apart. To promote bushy growth, prune back in early summer and aim to keep approximately 65cm tall.

Location & Light – Outdoor Rosemary

Your Rosemary outside will enjoy the full sun; it will appreciate the midday and afternoon sun the most, ensuring they are protected from strong winds. However, one plant is usually enough for culinary requirements if you want to grow more than this space our Rosemary by roughly 75cm (30in). 

Rosemary is an excellent companion to most vegetables. In particular, broccoli, the smell of the Rosemary will prevent pests from attacking your veg, whilst the broccoli enriches the soil, helping your Rosemary thrive. 

It’s also a good companion when placed next to cabbages, beans and hot peppers. Avoid planting next to any other herbs aside from sage, and avoid carrots, potatoes, carrot, and pumpkins. You can read more about gardening companions here. 

Watering – Outdoor Rosemary

Ensure that you water evenly through all seasons, making sure not to overwater. It will not appreciate wet of soggy soil and, if planted or sat in wet soil during the cold winter months and will suffer.  

Food – Outdoor Rosemary

Much like potted Rosemary, we don’t suggest fertilising your Rosemary that often due to it being a hardy shrub.  

Temperature – Outdoor Rosemary

If you live in a particularly cold or frosty area, we would suggest growing in pots to bring indoors during cold temperatures or place branches under a horticultural sheet whilst applying a thick mulch around the ground where your Rosemary is. For best growth, soil temperature should be around 21 degrees. 

When it comes to moving your Rosemary outside, from the inside, you will want to do this sometime in May; this will ensure that the area you decide to grow will be frost-free. Rosemary grown outside will not transplant to containers well. 

Interesting Fact

The smell of Rosemary growing in your garden will repel the carrot fly!

What to look for when buying herbs

You will most likely buy herbs from either a supermarket that typically produces basil, parsley, mint and Rosemary. The opposite end of the spectrum is a specialist nursery stocking many cultivators from one or two genera; happily in the middle are garden centres. So wherever you decide to shop, here are a few tips for you. 

What to look for

  • Try searching for the younger or healthier looking plants. Its foliage should be clean unstained and free of excessive damage. Clean pots indicate young plants grown in uncongested place with room to grow.
  • Be sure to feel the compost it should be moist but not waterlogged and the surface should also be weed-free. Another good way to test this is by removing the herb from the pot; it should be easy to remove without damaging the roots.
  • You will want to pick a herb with a good root ball; it should be easy to remove from its pot without damaging the plant or its roots. Check to ensure it is pest-free and has fine coarse roots.

What to avoid

  • You will want to avoid buying small plants potted in pots that are too large for them; these are typically ones that have recently been potted and not of the best value.
  • If you notice that the plant looks tired wilted or has matted roots growing through the drainage holes.
  • You will want to avoid a herb with bad roots; these will be congested and hard to remove from their pots.
  • Also avoid leggy plants. These indicate having low lighting and grown in a crowded area these will typically be cheap and you should avoid buying unless you want to nurse back to a healthy state.

Treasure or toss?

Well, you will be pleasant – but maybe not so surprised that this is a treasure! Provided that you look after it correctly, you can keep this throughout the years, both inside or outside.

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