Plant Profile: Rosemary

There are many legends about rosemary’s wonderful powers. Some say it can protect you from evil, others describe its magical love charms, and some even claim it can improve your memory. The truth of these claims is debatable, but there are three things we do know about rosemary: it can keep insects out of your garden, it’s strong, woody flavour complements a variety of dishes, and it grows perfectly in a Minigarden.

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Description

Rosmarinus officinalis

Difficulty: Easy

Rosemary is an evergreen herb, which means it can survive throughout the winter without losing its leaves. It has needle-like leaves and white, purple, pink or blue flowers.

If grown outdoors, rosemary can reach heights of 90-120 cm. Rosemary reaches a smaller size if planted indoors or in containers, which makes it the perfect plant for our tabletop planters.

Rosemary is drought-tolerant, though it prefers high humidity and dry soil.

Conditions

Temperature: Rosemary is a hardy plant. It can thrive in temperatures between 50 and 80F (10-27C), though its ideal temperature is 60-70F (15-21C). If you’re overwintering your rosemary, make sure you protect its root area with leaf mould. In the case of severe weather, cover its roots with fleece.

Soil: Soil should be dry and airy. Light and fast-draining soil with a pH of 6.0-7.5 is the best choice for this herb.

Sun: Rosemary loves bright sunlight, and ideally should receive 6-8 hours of light per day. Try growing your rosemary near a window, or under fluorescent or halide lights.

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Propagation

Rosemary can be propagated by germinating new seeds or by planting cuttings taken from older plants.

Germinating from Seed: Usually, 2-3 seeds are enough for propagation – just make sure they’re very fresh and planted in near-perfect conditions. Place them on top of your soil and press slightly. Make sure your seeds have contact with the soil without being buried. Cover the pot and place it in a warm, dark place. Make sure the soil is not dry and that there’s enough air circulation for the plant. Once seedlings emerge, remove the cover and move the pot to the sunny location.

Cutting: Stem cutting is an easier method of propagation than germinating from seed. Simply cut new growing stems that are approximately ½ inch long from the developed plant. Snip off the bottom leaves and dip the stems into your soil. It usually takes 2-3 weeks for cuttings to root. Don’t forget to provide enough sunlight, warmth, and water.

Care

Water: If grown in a container, rosemary needs to be watered regularly. Make sure the soil is dry on the top – overwatering may cause root rot and lead to plant death. Rosemary doesn’t show any visible signs of thirst or lack of water, so check your plant regularly to see if it’s dry. Rosemary grown in the ground will require less water.

Pruning: The best time of year to prune rosemary is in the spring and summer, or up to six weeks before the first frost. Pruning helps keep your rosemary plant healthy and productive in three ways:

  1. Reducing the size of the plant. Trim the plant by up to 1/3 of its size to encourage new growth.
  2. Keep your rosemary plant picture perfect year round.
  3. Encouraging thicker, bushier growth. Cutting 1-2 inches off the branches will force your rosemary to split and create more foliage. This technique is ideal for those who grow rosemary for cooking purposes or in smaller spaces.

Common Diseases

Downy Mildew

Downy Mildew RosemarySymptoms: Yellowing leaves; white-gray fuzzy or downy growth on the leaves.

Perpetrator: Fungus

Cause: Cool humid weather; very high humidity, and wetness on leaves.

Treatment: Good air circulation both on the top of the foliage and on the plant’s root base. To boost your plant’s immune system, use organic Minigarden Bug Off Blue Fungus & Mold Prevention.

Spider Mites

Spider MitesSymptoms: Small white dots on the leaves; stippled, yellow, and dry foliage; visible webbing.

Perpetrator: Spider mites.

Cause: Bad air circulation; very dry conditions.

Treatment: Make sure your plant has good air circulation, and spray your rosemary with organic Minigarden Bug Off Red Pest Prevention or insecticidal soap.

Harvest

When: Harvest rosemary before it flowers. This is when your plant will contain the highest concentration of oil. Cut stems in the morning before the heat of the sun reaches its peak.

How: Cut stems from the developed plant. The woodiest stems will provide the best harvest.

Uses

Rosemary is used as a decorative plant and as a culinary herb. Fresh and dried leaves are traditionally used in Italian cuisine.

Using Fresh Rosemary: Fresh rosemary leaves are perfect for pizzas and pastas. Simply pinch the leaves from the stem and sprinkle them over your dish. Rosemary has a strong flavour, so you won’t need a lot.

You could even try placing a bundle of fresh rosemary branches over the coals in your barbecue to add more flavour to your favorite grilled dishes.

Together with basil, parsley, thyme, and other herbs, rosemary is an essential part of bouquet garni.

Preserving Rosemary: Wash the harvested herb before drying it, then simply leave the stems in a single layer on the counter. You can also hang and dry rosemary in tied bouquets or pull the leaves off the stems and leave them to dry on a cookie sheet in a single layer, though it is easier to pull the leaves off a dried stem. You can either leave dried rosemary leaves as they are, or grind them into powder.

Dried Rosemary
Dried rosemary is the perfect seasoning for roasted meats, poultry, and fish. It’s also used in soups, rubs and cream sauces, and salad dressings.

Gather Ye Rosemary

Rosemary is one of the hardiest, most versatile herbs you can grow. It grows phenomenally well indoors, so you can enjoy rosemary’s fresh, woody flavor year-round. Try growing it in a Minigarden Basic!

Download our free printable rosemary plant profile:

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Learn more about other herbs you can grow:

Plant Profile: Basil
Plant Profile: Thyme


Susan Austin is Sales Director for Minigarden North America. She can be reached at susan@minigardening.com.