Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs to grow in my garden. Even if you don’t plan to harvest the leaves to toss onto your roasted meats or veggies, you can still appreciate the ornamental value of this beautiful Mediterranean herb and its heavenly scent. Rub some of its aromatic leaves between your fingers whenever you head outside for an instant mood boost—seriously!
Rosemary is an easy plant to care for. Check. It grows well in containers and produces flowers that are beloved by our pollinator friends. Check. With a little frost protection, rosemary can last for several years in your garden in a warm climate like we have here in Central Texas. It’s even drought tolerant and deer resistant. Check, check, check!
Follow these tips to grow your own organic supply of rosemary year after year.
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THE BEST TYPES OF ROSEMARY PLANTS TO GROW
There are really only two different types of rosemary: upright rosemary, which is the kind you see being formed into little topiaries at Trader Joe’s, and creeping rosemary, which acts more like a ground cover or looks amazing draping over the side of a raised bed garden.
Arp rosemary is a really popular upright rosemary that forms blue flowers and can tolerate a bit of frost. You can also find rosemary varieties with white flowers and varying degrees of leaf widths.
Are all rosemary plants edible?
Every type of rosemary is edible. If you plan to cook with rosemary leaves, you might look for a variety with broader leaves that will release more fragrant oils in your dishes.
WHEN TO PLANT ROSEMARY IN TEXAS
If you plan to start rosemary from seed, you’ll want to start in the middle of winter to give this slow-growing perennial herb plenty of time to mature to the point where it can be transplanted outdoors when spring arrives.
Otherwise, the best time to plant a rosemary plant in warmer climates like ours is in the spring or fall. Planting in the spring gives rosemary time to establish its roots before the heat of summer hits.
Planting in the fall similarly gives rosemary time to settle in before winter. If we don’t experience hard frost or snow, your rosemary plant might stay evergreen over winter. You’ll definitely want to give your herb some frost protection if we are expecting a freeze since rosemary isn’t very frost tolerant. It might die back and recover in the spring, or it might just die. A mature plant added to the garden before mid-October or so is the most likely to survive cold weather with winter protection.
WHERE TO GROW ROSEMARY
Rosemary can be grown in a container or a raised bed. You could, of course, grow rosemary in the ground, but it doesn’t love the heavy clay soils found in most of our backyards here in Texas Hill Country. If planting in the ground, I recommend mixing some coarse sand and compost into the top 6 or so inches of the planting area to help improve the soil drainage.
Rosemary can handle partial shade to full sun. If you want flowers, though, you’ll need to give your plant at least 6 hours of sun per day.
Growing rosemary in containers
This is a great option if you plan to move your rosemary indoors over winter in a cooler climate. Set your rosemary in a south-facing window and move it outdoors when the weather’s warm to speed up its growth.
You can also grow rosemary year round under LED grow lights left on for 10 to 12 hours a day.
Grab a pot or container that’s at least 6 inches deep and just as wide as the foliage of your herb to leave plenty of room for rosemary’s root zone. You could instead grab a larger container and plant rosemary with your other favorite perennial herbs, like sage, oregano, and thyme.
Make sure the pot or container you choose has good drainage holes at the bottom. I like natural materials like terra cotta since it absorbs extra water, which can prevent overwatering (the number one way to kill container plants).
I will say, my container-grown rosemary seems to grow a little slower than the rosemary in my raised beds.
Growing rosemary in raised beds
Rosemary loves the good drainage that a raised bed provides. It grows really well alongside other plants. If you’re growing a creeping rosemary, plant it in a corner so that it can drape over the sides of the raised bed.
What’s the best soil for rosemary?
Rosemary soil requirements are simple: a well-drained soil with organic matter. The soil that’s in your raised beds is probably ideal for rosemary. If you’re planting in a container, grab a bag of organic potting mix and stir in some coarse sand (or vermiculite) and compost to improve drain-ability and add nutrients to the soil.
HOW TO PLANT ROSEMARY SEEDS
Growing rosemary from seeds is possible, but it’s a very slow process. Rosemary is actually known for being one of the slowest-growing herbs. For this reason, it’s a great idea to buy a healthy rosemary plant from your local nursery or root cuttings instead of trying to grow rosemary from seed. If you’re just looking to grow one or two rosemary plants, you’re definitely better off buying a healthy plant from the store.
I recommend starting rosemary from seed indoors as early as 10 to 12 weeks before your final frost date. For those of us in Central Texas, that means you can start your seeds around New Year’s so that they’re finally ready to plant outside after mid-March.
Planting Rosemary Seeds in 3 Easy Steps
Mix the seed starting mix with water to rehydrate it and fill up your plug tray.
Sow seeds. Rosemary seeds are pretty small, so I like to wet my finger to help me pick up 1 to 2 seeds at a time and drop them into each cell. If more than one seed per cell germinates, you’ll need to pluck out all but one later. Rosemary seeds like to feel a little light as they sprout, so you don’t need to cover them with more soil. Just press them down with your fingertips to ensure good soil contact.
Due to their slow germination time, rosemary seeds can be started alongside equally slow herbs like sage, chives, thyme, and oregano. I wouldn’t start them in the same tray as faster growing annual herbs like basil, cilantro, or dill, which will need the grow lights moved up much sooner than perennial herbs.
With any luck, rosemary seeds should germinate in about 15 to 30 days.
Check out our indoor seed starting guide for more information on these supplies and tips to tend growing seedlings.
HOW TO GROW ROSEMARY FROM CUTTINGS
Propagating rosemary is super simple—and the best way to get free plants! To start off, buy organic sprigs of rosemary from the grocery store or take a couple cuttings from a mature plant. (Most gardeners are happy to give cuttings if you ask!) If you’re taking cuttings, look for soft wood on the tips of branches that can be bent without breaking. Take cuttings that are about 4 to 6 inches long.
Follow these steps to propagate rosemary.
Propagating rosemary in 3 easy steps
Using a clean pair of scissors, cut the bottom of each stem at a 45° angle. Strip the lower leaves off the cutting so that the bottom couple of inches are bare. If you’ve got rooting hormone on hand, you can dip the tips of each cutting to encourage root formation.
Place these cuttings in a jar or glass of water that’s narrow enough to hold all the cuttings upright. You want the bottom part of the stem in fresh water. The leaves should never touch water.
Move the jar or glass to a place that gets indirect light. Change out the water every couple of days. Your cuttings should produce roots within a couple of weeks.
Once the roots on your cuttings are a couple inches long, transfer these new plants to a pot filled with potting soil. Use a chopstick or dibber to make holes in the soil large enough to accommodate the fragile roots, and handle each little cutting gently for best results.
Move your young plants to a spot that receives a couple more hours of sunlight. If it’s warm outside, move your plants outside for a few hours each day to get them used to the great outdoors before they make it their permanent home. It will likely take a couple more weeks before your rooted cuttings produce new growth.
What herbs grow well with rosemary?
Rosemary grows great alongside other members of its family, which include basil, sage, oregano, thyme, marjoram, and tarragon. It also mixes well with flowering herbs like marigolds, chamomile, echinacea, and calendula.
HOW TO TEND ROSEMARY HERBS
Rosemary is super low maintenance, but it does not like to be overwatered. You’re far likely to give rosemary too much water than not enough. To prevent root rot, avoid frequent waterings so that the soil can dry out a bit in between. Only water when it feels dry down to your knuckle when you stick your finger in the soil. In a container, this will be about every week. In a raised bed or in-ground garden, this will be every 10 to 14 days.
Once rosemary is established, harvest frequently to maintain good air circulation.
THE TOP FERTILIZER FOR ROSEMARY PLANTS
If you’re growing rosemary under ideal conditions (good drainage, moderate water), you can add compost and an organic all-purpose fertilizer each spring to give your plant a nutritional boost. Rosemary is pretty fuss free and doesn’t require as much fertilizer as our vegetable annual friends.
HOW TO HARVEST ROSEMARY
Rosemary that you’ve grown from seed or cuttings is typically ready to harvest about a month after being moved outdoors. Keep in mind your harvests should be very small at first to avoid shocking the plant. Just take a couple of leaves for dinner. Since rosemary is so slow-growing, it’ll be a while yet before you’re able to cut sprigs and sprigs at a time.
Once your rosemary is well established, harvest often to encourage new growth. Cut those older, outer stems to prevent this herb from becoming too woody.
Rosemary is easy to harvest since there are so many leaf nodes. Every time you cut off the tip of a stem, it will split into two stems.
Are rosemary flowers edible?
The leaves, soft stems, and flowers of this herb are all edible. You can infuse rosemary flowers in olive oil, use them as a garnish or cake decoration, or even steep them in hot water to make your own herbal tea.
HOW TO STORE FRESH-CUT ROSEMARY
It’s so nice to have fresh rosemary on hand.
Wash and dry rosemary after harvest before saving it for later use or chopping it up for fresh use. You can store rosemary stems in the fridge in jar with a tiny bit of water at the bottom (remove any lower leaves that might touch the water first). You could instead wrap rosemary sprigs in a damp paper towel and then tuck them in a Ziplock bag inside the fridge. Sprigs should stay fresh for a couple of weeks this way.
For longer storage, place your sprigs on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer for a couple hours. Once they’re frozen, toss them into a freezer-safe plastic bag and put them back in the freezer.
You can, of course, dry rosemary. Strip the lower leaves from the stems, tie several stems together, and hang them upside down somewhere dark and dry for at least two weeks. Rosemary is dried when the leaves are brittle and fall off easily. Separate the leaves from the stems before storing in a jar. If you have a dehydrator, you can dry your leaves in a matter of hours.
This culinary herb with its piney flavor is excellent on chicken with some lemon, roasted veggies, soups, and stews, and bread. My favorite recipe is rosemary and garlic potatoes! It mixes really well with other herbs, so get creative.
What’s your favorite way to use rosemary in the kitchen?