Growing Rosemary:
Good For All Edible Landscapes



Even yours? Sure!

Here's why I think everyone should be growing rosemary:

  • Almost all of it is edible
  • Rosemary is a versatile plant for your garden design
  • It tastes great!

What should you know about rosemary plants?

  • Plant type: Woody evergreen perennial herb
  • Plant size: 1-4 feet tall, 2-5 feet wide (depending on variety)
  • Edible parts: leaves, flowers; stems can be used as skewers
  • Fruit color: n/a
  • Flower color(s): lavender, pale blue, pink, or off-white, depending on variety
  • Stem colors(s): young stems are medium green, mature stems are gray-brown
  • Leaf color(s): dark green, gray-green, yellow-green (depending on variety)
  • Leaf type: flat needle, 1-1 1/2 inches long and 1/8 to 1/4 inches wide
  • USDA zones: This is a Mediterranean plant, listed as 7a to 10b, but some varieties can be overwintered outside with protection into zone 5.
  • Growth type: dense; upright or spreading depending on variety
  • Uses: divider-type flowering hedge (suitable for formal and informal hedging), topiary, bonsai, flowering shrub, herb garden, can be espaliered along a fence or wall, xeriscaping, container gardening. Attracts beneficial insects.

There are two types of rosemary: creeping rosemary (also called prostrate rosemary) and upright. The only difference is in the shape they most like to take when growing.

If you want to try growing rosemary bushes for a hedge, or to create a rosemary bonsai or topiary (for example, a rosemary tree), you'll probably want an upright- growing plant.

Specifics on growing rosemary

Buy rosemary plants from a supplier or start rosemary cuttings yourself rather than try to find rosemary seed, as germination of rosemary seeds is often difficult. If you have a local supplier, you're also more likely to find a variety that can survive in your climate.

To root rosemary cuttings, take a six-inch cutting and strip off all but the top two inches of leaves. Stick the cuttings in a jar full of water.

In a week or two you'll see roots forming (this is a great project to do with small children). When the roots are an inch or two long, move your plants to their own pots. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.

Once new leaves start growing (about 2-3 weeks after potting up) you can move them outdoors.

Rosemary plants do well in most types of soil and sunlight, but they do need about 6 hours a day of sun. They tend to be susceptible to powdery mildew, so don't overwater or crowd plants together.

If you're growing rosemary hedges, place plants at least two feet apart. Clip any obvious straggler branches short, but don't otherwise prune that first year. The second year you can begin shaping the plants how you want them.

Rosemary shears well, and makes a nice formal hedge.

If you are keeping your rosemary in pots, you must bring them indoors if the temperature falls below freezing.

Of course, established plants in the ground can and do withstand colder temperatures (how cold depends on the variety). My rosemary is doing just fine (if a bit frazzled!) after being subjected to 4 degrees F (-15 C) this winter and has survived several ice storms (which are supposed to kill them) without any protection other than mulching.

My rosemary bush in March

You'll notice in that picture that the upper leaves have browned. That seems to be the typical response to freezing. The leaves are still supple, but come off the plant more easily than usual.

I planned to clip the browned ends off those branches and use them first, but I never got around to it, and here is the same plant a few months later:

My rosemary bush in May

It seems to be growing just fine!

If you're growing rosemary and plan to overwinter it in the ground, it's wise to plant as early in the year as possible after the danger of freezing has passed so your rosemary plant has plenty of time to become established before winter hits.


Share your rosemary bushes here!


Uses for rosemary

To harvest rosemary, cut off the amount you want with clippers or garden shears.

Rosemary can be used for rosemary tea, rosemary vinegar, or in stews, soups, and baking.

It is also a fragrant addition to cut flower centerpieces (the pastel flowers are fun at baby showers!) and the flowers are edible.

Click here to share your best rosemary recipes!

Would you like to learn more about growing rosemary with a friendly group of people who love edible landscaping as much as you do? Join the Tasteful Landscape community -- it's free! Just fill out the form and follow the instructions on the next page:


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