Growing Rosemary

Place rosemary in a well traveled area to enjoy the scent often.

With the right soil and water conditions, rosemary can grow into a large evergreen hedge in warm areas. Placed along a path or border, it wafts a soothing aroma to those who pass by.

In the Garden

Rosemary is a woody-stemmed plant with needle-like leaves that can commonly reach 3 feet in height, eventually stretching to 5 feet in warmer climates unless clipped. In zone 8 and farther south, rosemary makes a good evergreen hedge. In zone 7 and colder, try growing rosemary in a container you can bring inside in cold weather. You can even train rosemary into topiary shapes. Plants are tolerant of salt spray, making them a good choice for pots on the beach.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Plant rosemary in a terra cotta pot that drains well and dried out between watering.

Rosemary will grow into a lovely large landscape shrub if planted in proper soil with good drainage.

Set out rosemary in spring, planting seedlings 2 to 3 feet apart; you can also plant in fall in zone 8 and south. Plants are slow growing at first, but pick up speed in their second year. While rosemary tolerates partial shade, it prefers full sun and light, well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil at planting, and reapply in the spring. Or, use a liquid fertilizer like Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food at planting and periodically thereafter. Keep the soil uniformly moist, allowing it to dry out between waterings. Mulch your plants to keep roots moist in summer and insulated in winter, but take care to keep mulch away from the crown of the plant. In the spring, prune dead wood out of the plants.

Troubleshooting

Rosemary grows on the edge of a landscape, creating a border.

When cutting rosemary, cut into the tender stems instead of the woody lower branches.

Whiteflies, spider mites, scale, and mealybugs can all bother rosemary, as can powdery mildew and root rot, particularly in humid regions. To prevent mildew and rot, be sure your plants enjoy good drainage and air circulation. In zone 7 and northward, extreme cold will kill the tops of the rosemary plant. In areas where it is likely to be hurt by winter, plant in a protected spot such as one near a south-facing masonry wall and away from the prevailing winter wind; also mulch to protect the roots. In zone 8 and farther south, rosemary needs no winter protection.

Harvest and Storage

Snip rosemary stems in the soft stems, not the harder woody parts of the plant.

Rosemary, olive oil, and a dash of sea salt make the perfect simple dip for fresh bread.

Cut stems at any time for fresh rosemary. To dry rosemary, use a rack or hang it upside down in bunches to dry. Once stems are dry, strip the leaves from them. You can also freeze rosemary sprigs, preserve them in vinegar, or use them to flavor oil or butter.

Uses

Serve bread with olive oil and rosemary.

Rosemary, olive oil, and a dash of sea salt make the perfect simple dip for fresh bread.

While rosemary blends well with other herbs, use it lightly on its own in lamb, pork, chicken, and veal dishes, as well as in soups and stews, vegetables, and sauces. Rosemary provides a wonderful flavor in breads and makes a good marinade with olive oil, wine, and garlic. Rosemary’s aromatic qualities also enhance a bath, bouquet, wreath, or sachet.

Download our How to Grow Herbs instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

Will rosemary grow with the other herbs in my herb garden?

Unlike most herbs that live for only one season, rosemary is an evergreen shrub in zone 8 and farther south. For that reason, you should choose a location where it can continue to grow for years to come. It thrives in a sunny, well-drained location where it will reach up to 3 feet tall and wide. You can place it near the gate to your vegetable garden or as part of your home landscape. Because it is so fragrant when touched, it is a nice addition near a sidewalk or porch.

What is rosemary’s temperature tolerance?

Our rosemary is dependably hardy in USDA zone 8 and southward, which means in areas in which the temperature does not go below 10 to 15 degrees. If you live in zone 7, plant in a protected location, such as near a south-facing masonry wall, to provide added warmth on cold nights.

Can I trim rosemary anytime, or is there a recommended time?

As with any culinary herb, you should cut fresh, flavorful foliage whenever you need it. Plants do well with a heavy pruning anytime from early spring to midsummer. Try not to cut into stems that are dark and woody; these are less likely to sprout new growth than the younger wood. Remember that rosemary will never have a perfectly round silhouette, because it is the nature of the plant to have upright stems. However, the overall habit of the plant can be thicker with pruning to encourage branching.

I grew rosemary in a large pot and left it out over the winter. Should I cut the plant back or wait for new growth?

Early spring before growth begins is a good time to prune any evergreen, and that includes rosemary. Remove any dead, leafless stems first, and then prune to improve the shape of the plant. Avoid cutting stems that are very old, as they may not sprout new shoots are readily as younger stems. However, if your plant is nicely shaped and you are happy for it to continue growing larger, remember that pruning is not a necessity. Note: when rosemary is grown in a container, do not let it dry to the point of wilting. It may not recover.

42 Comments

Mandy

Hi, I am wondering if I can plant flowers around my rosemary that is in a large container? If so which flowers would be best? Thanks

Danielle Carroll

Hi Mandy,
You sure can…the flower palette is endless. Here are some ideas from the Bonnie Plants container gardening library. I like trailing annuals cascading over the container. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Jan

I planted my rosemary plant in the ground 2 years ago. It did fine. This winter I thought it looked kind of mottled green and whitish, but I thought it might be the cold since I am zone 7/8 depending on the chart. Now that it is spring, I thought I would see new growth, but the leaves still look mottled. I trimmed it back a lot (in some places trimmed back to the woody stems) and noticed some flying thin white insects that seemed to startle and return. I cleaned up some leaf debris and snails, then sprayed with an insecticidal soap. Then I found this website. Wish I had checked here first. Any suggestions?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Jan,
You probably have whiteflies on your rosemary. An insecticidal soap is a good thing to use, especially if you want to use the rosemary in the kitchen. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Laura

I passed by a beautiful Rosemary bush last year and thought that was just the thing for my yard this year. I love cooking with it, but have never tried growing herbs before. I have to say reading all the Q & A on this site has given me a lot of hope! Your staff is very knowledgeable and friendly. I hope that my little family will be enjoying Rosemary by the end of the growing season, thanks to the advice found here.

Danielle Carroll

Happy Growing, Laura! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Sherry

I just bought one of your rosemary plants and im wondering if I can put about 1-inch of small pebbles in the bottom of the pot before adding the soil? I want to make sure to have good drainage. I had a container rosemary plant for almost 3 years that I grew from seed before it died on me. I think it may have been because I didnt harvest it right and cut to far down on the plant. Can you give me some tips also on properly havesting my rosemary? Thank you.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Sherry,
You can add the small pebbles in the bottom of the pot for drainage! Rosemary can be harvested almost anytime except when it is flowering. Pinch back small sections on new plantings. On established plants, always harvest above the woody growth at the bottom of the plant. Enjoy! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Dee

What would you recommend to keep the ants out of my rosemary (grown in a large container)? After finding ways to keep our cats out of the container, my rosemary finally started to grow, only to become filled with a huge ant mound.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Dee
Oh no, be careful if you change the potting mix which is one way to go about it. Transplant the rosemary into clean soil, shaking and removing as much of the old soil off the plant as you can. Water drenches have also been known to work. This publication from California extension describes submerging the pot in water and insecticidal soap to kill the ants. There are also baits and other insecticides registered for use on ants, but you must get one labeled for edible plants as I assume you are going to harvest some rosemary. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Don

I live in Niagara Falls, NY and have a roesmary plant in a container. When can I put it outside? I hear to avoid drafts,
outside it will certainly receive wind. If inside in my window the temp is 80 and outside its 37 will the temp change harm
my plant when I take it outside?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Don,
I would take your rosemary outside as soon as the threat of freezing weather is over. Taking a plant from comfy, warm, indoor temperatures to cold temperatures can harm the plant so do so gradually. Let it sit outside during the day and bring it in at night for a while. It shouldn’t be too much longer! Looks like your nighttime temperatures are on the rise. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Dina

Hello! Great information. I have a large Rosemary plant that has survived 3 winters in Pittsburgh, PA. This Spring, however, the top 2 inches are drooped over dead, and the bottom looks like a dead Christmas tree. The main part of the plant however has a bunch of new growth on it. I see tons of buds on it. Should I trim it back? IS it doomed? Looking forward to your advice.
Thanks!
Dina

Danielle Carroll

Hello Dina,
How cold were your temperatures this winter? Rosemary is dependably hardy in USDA zone 8 and southward, which means in areas where the temperature does not go below 10 to 15 degrees. In zone 7, it should be planted in a protected location. You can prune your rosemary back in late spring – summer. Just do not cut back into the dark and woody stems which are not going to sprout new growth. You may want to prune back the top couple of inches. Your plant may have been cold damaged. Let’s hope it pulls through! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Cassandra

I am in an apartment right now and my balcony gets about 4-5 hours of sun a day. Will this be enough to keep the plant healthy?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Cassandra,
Rosemary really likes the sun – usually needing at least 6 – 8 hours. I do not like to discourage anyone, though. If you try it, be sure and turn the pot so all sides receive nature’s light! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Denise

Hello again,my rosemary plant is beginning to turn yellow,can you tell me where I went wrong.Ihope I can save it.

Danielle Carroll

Hi Denise,
Rosemary is a really easy to care for plant once established. If you are growing in a container, make sure the container has plenty of drainage…overwatering or ‘wet feet’ is just as common as underwatering. The same is true for rosemary planted in the ground – drainage is key! How much sun is your rosemary plant receiving? Make sure it is in an area that gets full sun. Add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil at or before planting, and reapply in the spring. Hope your rosemary recovers!
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Denise

Hello….I am having a problem with the rosemary plant I purchased a couple a days ago. The soil is a little green on the top. Can you tell me what to do because I plan on planting them in the ground after it is tilled. Thanks so much and I hope they can be helped.

Mary Beth

Hi Denise,
That’s not a problem. If the soil has been too moist in a greenhouse or in the store, oftentimes that will form on the top. You can scrape it off lightly or rough up the top layer of soil and it will disappear. Nothing to worry about! Be sure to plant your rosemary in a spot with great drainage. Happy growing. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Jan

I have my rosemary in containers and everyone I buy eventually dries up, starting on one side, looses needles then dies. I have in sunny window, water weekly, fertilize. What is cause and what am I doing wrong?

Danielle Carroll

Sorry to hear you are having problems with your rosemary, Jan.
Are you bringing the rosemary indoors to overwinter? (zone 6 and colder usually do if they want to overwinter the plant). In areas where it is likely to be hurt by winter, plant in a protected spot such as near a south-facing masonry wall and away from the prevailing winter wind; also mulch to protect the roots. If you are bringing indoors, be sure and keep the rosemary away from drafts and/or heating vents. Rosemary prefers to be outdoors where it can soak up the full sun it needs. Make sure your container has plenty of drainage holes. Wet roots are just as bad as dry roots. For containers, water when the top couple of inches of soil has dried. Keep in mind rosemary is a large herb, and will need a large container (at least 12 inches in diameter and larger as it grows). Hope this helps.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Lioness

I bought one of your rosemary plants at a large hardware store. It is in a 6″ pot and is 6″x4″ high. It seems mostly healthy but the ends some of the branches are becoming limp. There is no change in color however. Right now the soil is VERY damp from keeping it on the porch outside when we had hard rains- it didnt get directly wet somehow picked up a lot of moisture….. I was wondering if this is the cause or it could be not enough light. I live in zone 8 so can i plant this out yet or do i have to keep it sheltered for now? We still do have temps down 30 degrees on occasion this time of year but the days are warmer – 50s. Your reply is so appreciated.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Lioness,
You are right, your rosemary needs more light. Your rosemary can be planted outside. It is winter hardy in zone 8. Won’t take it long and you will be harvesting for cooking.
-Danielle

Cee Cee

During unseasonable heavy rains, it there a way to protect large container plants from excess water? I can’t move them.

Danielle Carroll

Hi Cee Cee,

Making sure your containers drain properly is the most important thing. If containers have proper drainage, excess water will drain freely. Use a good potting mix too! This can make a big difference. Heavy soils in containers may pack down, limiting drainage. Bonnie Plants has a great article on potting mixes for containers here.

Happy Gardening,
Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Chris Cowley

I received a Rosemary plant for Christmas. The tag says it is a Venti Rosemary from The Pinery and that it will grow to 20 to 40 feet tall. Seriously? That tall? I have a fairly sandy and well drained site for it where it will get some filtered afternoon shade. I live near Ft Worth, Texas.

Mary Beth

Hi Chris,
You’ve “stumped” me…I looked up the Pinery’s site to read more about it. I wonder if perhaps tag was misplaced for another conifer they sell? Here’s a link to their site. They should be able to help you with more details, as it appears “Venti” is specific to their nursery. Let us know! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Karen Spivey

So glad I found this site! I’ve lost 2 indoor Rosemary plants and I’m determined not to lose the one I have!

Amy L.

I have just purchased a clearance rosemary bush from a large hardware store, 1/4 of the plant is dead or dried up. the plant was indoors for a period of time with no sunlight(just artificial lights) after cleaning up the dead/dried branches i put the plant into the most sunny area of the house I could. I checked the soil (it was dry) and gave the plant just a bit of water. Am I on the right track? is there anything more i can do to help revive this plant? there are 3 other plants like this and they are on sale VERY cheap. I guess I’m wondering if they are worth saving. Thanks for your help!

Mary Beth

Hi Amy,
Sounds like you want to play nurse and rescue a few plants! This is very common with gardeners and I don’t want to dissuade you. I can tell you that we strive to provide the freshest, healthiest plants for your garden and want you to start with every advantage. The problem with “rescuing” plants like this is that they could harbor disease or pests and you bring them into your garden as hosts to spread to others. For instance, the rosemary could have just needed TLC and water, but by the time it has weakened, it may be invaded by spider mites – something you do not want to share with your other plants. Experienced gardeners will bring home plants–even healthy ones–and keep them in a separate area from others for a week or so to evaluate prior to planting. I find, personally, that’s it’s much easier and safer to start with a healthy, fresh plant, especially something as common as rosemary. If price is an issue, buy a smaller transplant and care for it well — it will outgrow a larger “patient” in no time! However, for the guy you already brought home, you can either harvest the rosemary to use fresh or dried now, or keep doing what you’re doing and see if it rebounds. A little fertilizer and great drainage are good for rosemary. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Sage

How can I make my soil more acidic for my rosemary plants? I can grow cuttings and some plants do ok but some just dont flourish and than they die. my soil and water are alkaline. I live in florida. thanks

Mary Beth

Hi Sage, great name! :) I think it might not be that you need more acidic soil, but less water-retention and sandier/better draining potting mixture. Rosemary is very temperamental with moist soil conditions and will die out or die back. Make sure that your potting mix is cut with sand and the pots or cells allow for great drainage. Hopefully that will help! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

cynthia Magowan

I have trailing rosemary growing in 2 locations…equal water and sun. One group is lush and green the other is yellowish and not nearly as vigorous? Can you help. Do the yellowie ones need fish emulsion or some other food? any idea?

Mary Beth

Hi Cynthia,
From the Extension agent via our Ask An Expert service: “Yellowing is commonly from a nitrogen deficiency, which can be caused by overwatering. In your case, one plant’s soil may drain better than where the other is planted. Nitrogen is leached out of the soil with the water. I recommend using a liquid fertilizer specifically for herbs and vegetables. Once rosemary is established, it is fairly drought tolerant. I recommend cutting back on the watering.” Hope this helps you! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

ariel

I really want to grow Rosemary next spring but I live in zone 5. Is there a way where I can plant Rosemary in the ground and still have it grow and thrive?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Ariel,

Try growing rosemary in a container and bringing the container inside during cold weather. Plant in good, well-draining potting mix. When you bring the plant indoors, place it where it gets as much natural light as possible. I think you’ll find more success in a container than in the ground if you want a perennial rosemary plant in your area. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Mary Beth

Hi Raymond,
See our earlier post on the very same question. Black tips mean too much water and the roots are not pleased! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Yvonne, Yes, rosemary can be propagated via a cutting, though you take the cutting from the soft tissue and not the hard stem. You can learn more in this article from the Extension service. Happy growing! Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Mary Beth

Hi Yvonne,
Do you mean to ask if you can root or propagate rosemary from a hardwood cutting? For most home gardeners, we recommend the best start for success is using our transplants, or starter plants. If you would like to attempt multiplying your existing rosemary plants, you can try to propagate from cuttings. Here’s more information from a colleague in Extension service. Good luck! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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