With its distinct scent, rosemary is a pleasure in the garden. Its bright green needles will add a pop of color to any outdoor space. If you want to learn how to grow and use rosemary, look no further. Here are five tips to help beginner and experienced gardeners get started growing rosemary.
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.
5 Tips for How to Grow Rosemary
1. Plant rosemary from cuttings or transplants
Although growing rosemary from seeds is notoriously tricky, propagating rosemary from a cutting is simple. Place a 4-6 inch cutting from the end of a stem, and plant in moist vermiculite or sand. Once the cutting roots then transplant into a container or the garden.
When choosing transplants, choose vigorous plants with healthy leaves. Remove the transplant from the container to ensure it is not overgrown or rootbound before purchasing.
2. Plant rosemary at the right time
The best time to plant rosemary will vary depending on your location. It is generally recommended that you wait until the last frost has passed before planting.
- PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists vegetables, fruit & herbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
- HARVEST GUIDE: Photos show what may be ready to harvest that month.
- Planting dates are for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).
3. Plant rosemary in the right location
Well-draining soil is essential for rosemary; it is susceptible to root rot and other conditions caused by too much moisture in the soil. Root rot causes a plant to turn yellow and wilt and eventually die.
In all but the hottest climates, rosemary thrives in full sun. When growing rosemary in the low desert of Arizona, it will tolerate full sun but does best with a little afternoon shade.
In mild winter areas (zone 7 and higher), rosemary is grown as a perennial and can grow large (several feet wide and tall). Give rosemary room to grow. Avoid planting rosemary in raised beds with other plants if possible.
Terra cotta pots are a good choice for growing rosemary in containers. The porous nature of terra cotta allows the plant to dry out between waterings which helps prevent root rot.
4. Care for rosemary as it grows
- Feed rosemary each spring as new growth appears with an organic fertilizer.
- Water newly-planted rosemary every 3-5 days until established, and then let rosemary dry out between waterings (being careful not to overwater).
- Pinch off 1-2 inches of the end of a stem to help the plant become bushier.
- Trim the plant (never by more than 1/3) after it flowers in the spring.
- In mild winter areas, rosemary lives year-round and can tolerate a little frost. In severe winter areas, move rosemary indoors during the winter if possible.
5. Harvest rosemary – but not too much!
Harvest individual sprigs as needed. Young stems have the freshest flavor. Rosemary flowers have a more subtle flavor than the leaves but are edible and make a beautiful garnish. Never harvest or prune more than 1/3 total of a rosemary plant, as it may not recover from the heavy harvest and die.
Rosemary has the most flavor when used fresh, and because it grows well year-round, I rarely preserve it. However, you can preserve it by drying, freeze-drying, or freezing. Strip leaves from rosemary before drying and storing.
To strip leaves from the stem, hold the tip and pull it upward through pinched fingers.