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Growing a Rosemary Plant

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) looks beautiful in raised garden beds, containers, or hanging pots. You can grow rosemary indoors and even move potted rosemary inside and outside throughout the year, as needed. No herb garden would be complete without the rosemary plant. Learn how to plant and grow rosemary for culinary and medicinal benefits and utilize it as an aromatic and beneficial companion plant in the garden.  

Fresh rosemary in a bundle on a wooden counter.

Why I Love the Rosemary Plant

When I think of growing rosemary, I think of the big, Easter Sunday leg of lamb roasts that my mother used to cook for our special holiday dinner. Yum! Rosemary’s savory, woodsy aroma adds flavor to any savory meal, especially in combination with other herbs or ingredients (like sundried tomatoes in a no-knead bread).  

The delicious taste and medical uses of rosemary make it a perfect plant to add to a cottage garden. The tall green sprigs add texture and beauty along with insect-repellent qualities. It’s a great option for companion planting in the vegetable garden

Rosemary pairs well with growing oregano, growing sage, lavender, or growing thyme in a container garden.  

Be sure to check out these other herb posts on how to grow cilantro and how to grow basil, or learn more about growing dill

Rosemary flowering.

Varieties of the Rosemary Plant

Rosemary commonly grows as an upright evergreen shrub with delicate green needles. However, a few varieties fall in the “creeper” or “twisted” category. Most people plant rosemary for culinary, landscaping, or ornamental purposes, but its medicinal purposes shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Sadly, this perennial herb does not withstand our extreme cold weather well. Fortunately, some cold-weather varieties will do better in colder climates than others, and for the rest of us who are just too cold for perennial rosemary, we can just grow them like an annual or bring them indoors in winter. Make sure to choose one that will do well in your climate. 

 Upright Varieties

  • Arp Rosemary – This cold-resistant variety grows well in zones 6 through 10. It flowers in the summer with pale blue flowers. Its gray-green needle-like leaves make a great culinary herb with a lemony scent. This variety will grow to approximately three feet tall and three feet wide.
  • Benenden Blue Rosemary – Bred for its thick clusters of dark blue flowers and its dark green foliage. It grows well in well-drained soil and warmer climates (zones 8-10). This variety is used for both ornamental and culinary purposes.  
  • Foresteri Rosemary – This shrub boasts delicate blue flowers and green, needle-like leaves. It grows well in zones 8-10 and is especially drought-resistant. 
  • Rosemary Girardus– This variety grows much denser foliage than other varieties and still blooms light blue flowers in summer. It’s used solely for culinary delights and grows well in zones 8-10. 
  • Roseus Rosemary – This unique variety produces pink flowers contrasted with dark green foliage. It makes a great shrub or hedge growing three feet tall and tastes amazing. Grows well in zones 8-10.
  • Hill’s Hardy Rosemary– This cold hardy variety can grow in zones 6-10. It blooms large blue flowers and can mature to 40 inches tall and 48 inches (four feet) wide.
  • Blue Boy Dwarf Rosemary – As the name suggests, this is a smaller variety of rosemary that only grows six to eight inches tall and up to 18 inches wide, making it ideal for container planting. The blue flowers stay in bloom longer than the other varieties of Rosemary. Perfect for warmer climates and zones 8-10.
Creeping rosemary growing over a rock wall.

Creeping or Trailing Varieties

  • Kenneth’s Prostrate Rosemary – This creeping variety grows quickly but blooms late summer or early fall. Used as a tall ground cover, the branches billow over one another and can spill over landscape features like rocks or hillsides. Best for zones 8-10.
  • Boule Rosemary – Boule rosemary grows best in coastal areas. It offers small green foliage and small blue flowers. It is best used as a ground cover or in containers to spill over the sides. You can use it in culinary dishes, but with its small size, it’s more commonly planted for landscaping purposes. 
  • Majorca Pink Rosemary – Pink flowers and slightly cascading green foliage give this rosemary variety a unique appeal. It can grow in arches and spread as a beautiful ground cover or hedge. It thrives in hardiness zones 8-10. It can also be used in culinary endeavors, as both the leaves and the flowers are edible. 
Rosemary growing indoors.

Health Benefits of Rosemary

It’s important to note that I am not a certified medical practitioner or an accredited veterinarian, and this post is not intended to diagnose or treat but is for informational purposes only. Please contact your medical or animal care professional before introducing new herbal remedies into your wellness routine.

Historically, rosemary became known as a memory aid and was used hundreds of years ago. People use rosemary as a culinary herb but often do not realize its amazing health benefits. 

  • Carnosic Acid – Rosemary contains high levels of antioxidants in the form of carnosic acid, which slows the growth of cancer cells and can help prevent tumors from forming. (Source)
  • Cognitive Health – Studies show that rosemary stimulates mental health by improving concentration and memory. (Source)
  • Immune Health – Rosemary contains antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties in carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid. These properties strengthen and support the immune system. (Source)
  • Anxiety and Stress – Rosemary can improve sleep quality and reduce stress and anxiety. 
  • Phytochemicals – Rosemary contains beneficial phytochemicals that can improve your overall health, especially eye-health, respiratory health and liver function.
  • Metabolic Health – Rosemary contains high levels of manganese (Source), which supports metabolic health and helps your body heal quickly due to its ability to help it form blood clots. (Source)
  • Carminative – Rosemary is a carminative herb, which means it aids in digestion and helps relieve gas. (Source)

To gain these wonderful health benefits, use rosemary oil in aromatherapy, dried in teas, powdered in homemade herb capsules, or fresh or dried in homemade herbal tinctures

Leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary.

Ways to Prepare Rosemary

Known worldwide for its savory, citrusy, and evergreen taste, rosemary is a staple in many kitchens. Popular uses of rosemary include sprinkling it on poultry, game, lamb and fish. 

It’s also delicious on roasted vegetables, potato dishes and in soups or stews. The beautiful needle-like sprigs also work well as a decorative garnish. 

We use rosemary to make flavorful, creative sauces, as a fun addition to our easy homemade lacto-fermented mayo and our homemade vinaigrette dressing (that doesn’t separate!).

Rosemary also adds character to loaves of bread or on top of Italian-style foods. We love using it in our five no-knead bread dough recipes and our pizza pepper poppers

Rosemary even graces our breakfast table in our flexible frittata recipe! The culinary uses of this herb truly are endless!

Want to start adding rosemary to your recipes before your harvest? We value supporting trustworthy homesteaders that provide quality products and recommend our affiliate, Farmhouse Teas because they fit these criteria. They carry organic, dried whole-leaf rosemary, among many of my favorite culinary and medicinal herbs. You can still fill your pantry if you don’t yet have rosemary growing in your garden.

Watering rosemary in a pot.

How to Grow 

Once you establish your rosemary plant, you can easily care for it. It needs full sun, well-draining soil, and warm temperatures. 

Resistant to deer and rabbits, its only downfall is its inability to withstand cold temperatures. For this reason, some people grow it in containers that they bring indoors during winter. 

But, some varieties are more cold-resistant than others. Look at the varieties carefully before choosing the BEST vegetable seeds for your garden, and read the seed packets before purchasing. Although rosemary is a perennial, meaning it grows back every year, in some cold climates, people treat it as an annual.

Transplanting rosemary into the garden.

Planting

  • Seeds – Rosemary does well when started indoors. So learn when to start seeds indoors and how to start seeds indoors. You can also start rosemary plants from clippings. But, it’s also easy to buy plant starts from the garden center. If you plant it in a pot and over-winter it indoors, you’ll only need to buy it once. (Here’s more on how to winterize plants in pots.)
  • Sun – Plant rosemary in an area of your garden that receives full sun and heat. It likes at least 6 hours of sun a day. It can tolerate some shade, but the more light, the better. Rosemary enjoys a south-facing location. 
  • Soil – Rosemary prefers light, sandy, well-draining soil. Amend your soil, especially if it’s higher in clay. Rosemary also prefers soil low in acidity with a pH range of 6 to 7. 
  • Companion Planting – Rosemary does well when planted near other herb plants like lavender, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and sage. You can plant marigolds, strawberries, and brassica plants near rosemary as well. It’s not advised to plant it near tomatoes, garlic, onions, cucumbers, pumpkins, basil, or mint. 
  • Spacing – Plant rosemary plants two to three feet apart (dwarf varieties can be planted closer together). 

Growing

  • Water – Rosemary doesn’t like to have wet feet. Don’t overwater rosemary plants and allow them to dry out between waterings. All the varieties of rosemary like well-drained soil and can withstand a drought. Do not allow your rosemary plant to become waterlogged.
  • Fertilizing – Fertilizing rosemary with an organic fertilizer, homemade bonemeal and/or soil amender once a growing season is ideal. However, rosemary is also very hardy and does well in soil that is low in nutrients. 
  • Pruning – Unless you plan on using your rosemary for a bonsai subject, you really don’t need to prune it. You can cut it back if it takes over an area of your garden. If you do cut it back and don’t plan to use the harvest, share it with friends. They can start new plants from the clippings. If you live in a climate where rosemary is a perennial, you may need to prune it once a year to keep it from getting unruly. 
Fresh rosemary on a wooden counter.

Harvesting

  • Cutting – Continually harvest the new growth in the spring and summer. The tender green sprigs are best for culinary and medicinal purposes. 
  • Final Harvest – Since rosemary is one of the crops that will NOT survive a frost, you may want to harvest it completely in the late summer and replant in early spring. 
  • Overwintering – You can add a cold frame over your rosemary or surround it with a heavy layer of mulch to give it a better chance at surviving the frost and returning the following spring. Just be sure to also allow for air circulation to prevent powdery mildew from developing.
  • Storing – You can store fresh rosemary in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Wash, dry, and store your rosemary in a plastic ziplock bag with a damp paper towel inside. This ensures freshness. 
Rosemary salt in a jar.

Preserving

Many preserving methods work with rosemary. Choose the method that best meets your budget, time, and intended uses. 

  • Freeze Drying – Using a freeze dryer to preserve rosemary helps retain its strong flavor profile. Learn the difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated foods here.
  • Freezing – You can learn how to freeze herbs like rosemary in olive oil or water in ice cube trays.
  • Drying – Hardy herbs, like rosemary, do well with just air drying in the house. Learn how to dry fresh herbs by bundling up rosemary sprigs and hanging them in a well-ventilated area. You can also dry rosemary by dehydrating it in a dehydrator or an oven. Dehydrate herbs on the lowest possible heat setting. 
  • Preserving in Salt Rosemary salt tastes delicious and offers a great option for preserving your rosemary harvest. Learn the two ways to preserve herbs in salt.

There is something deeply rewarding about growing herbs. The experience becomes even more fulfilling when you can harvest and use the herbs you grow, especially when you can preserve them for use throughout the year. 

We want to offer you this convenient, free, downloadable PDF on preserving culinary herbs. By expanding your knowledge of herbs, you can experience the wonder and joy of growing, harvesting and preserving your herbs to enjoy all year long. 

A basket of basil, thyme and rosemary.
A man and wife smiling.

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Josh and Carolyn bring you practical knowledge on how to Grow, Cook, Preserve and Thrive on your homestead, whether you are in a city apartment or on 40 acres in the country. If you want to increase your self-sufficiency and health be sure to subscribe for helpful videos on gardening, preserving, herbal medicine, traditional cooking and more.

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