Growing Rosemary – Set It and Almost Forget It

I love growing Rosemary! The narrow leaves which actually look like needles have a spicy, resinous fragrance. They are hardy, forgiving, and don’t require a lot of attention. This plant is close to ‘Set It and Forget It’ in the amount of attention it needs.

Contrary to popular belief, for the most part Rosemary can be grown outdoors all year. This is a hardy perennial evergreen and can with stand winter temperatures above 5°F or -15°C. In the Northeast and Northern Plains states it may need to be taken indoors during the winter or given protection.

My Rosemary plants are outdoor plants. They occasionally get a little frost bite on their tips when the temperature drops below 20°F. When this happens I wait until after the last hard spring frost and then prune the dead tips off. This also spurs new growth. This is also the time I will give it a little fertilizer.

You can cut the plant back each spring, and new growth will come from the bottom. Some gardeners like to do this to keep their Rosemary maintained. I only cut off the damaged branches.

I have several of these aromatic plants of different varieties, as they are used for culinary, medicinal, ornamental, and aromatic purposes. They can be moved around, dug up, and transplanted to a new area and will do fine if done with a little care.

I have a Rosemary Officinalis shrub that is 3′ tall and 12 years old and is surrounded with strawberry plants. They were planted at the same time and are companion plants. No, I don’t dig it up each fall and put in the greenhouse. It stays in the garden year-round and does quite well. The temperature does get down to zero occasionally but only lasts a few days and we do have intermittent snow throughout the winter.

Two years ago, the Rosemary plant was dug up and transplanted. The key is to dig deep and get as much of the root ball as you can without disturbing it. The herb garden it was in was soon to become the foundation for a house so it had to be moved along with the strawberries growing at its base.

I have a backhoe so it was easy to dig up the plant and move it. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to plant it for a few days. I had put a wet gunny sack (burlap like material) around its base and root ball. To be honest, I was so involved in learning how to dig a foundation with the tractor that I completely forgot about my Rosemary plant for 3 days.

When I was ready to plant it, I used my little Mantis tiller to dig and prepare the hole. Why the tiller instead of the backhoe – because I wanted to till, pulverize, and sift the soil as I dug the hole. Little tillers like the Mantis tiller are great for this type of work.

I live in the Pacific NW and the ground is rocky and turns into clay after digging down a good 18 inches. The little tiller does a great job of digging the hole and tilling up the soil at the same time. The hole was dug twice as wide and deep as the Rosemary’s root ball. Next a layer of my potting medium was placed in the hole and watered. After the water was absorbed the Rosemary plant with its companion strawberry plants was set in the hole and positioned to look its best for its placement in the yard. A little more water was added and when absorbed my potting medium was placed in and around the root ball, tamped in, and watered again.

You may think I overwatered the plant, no. The plant’s root ball was quite dry and needed the water that was put in the hole; this wasn’t overwatering. If the root ball had retained a fair amount of moisture, I wouldn’t have used as much water in the hole.

Rosemary prefers a light, sandy, well-drained soil and full sun. Full sun I have; the light sandy soil, I have to make. This is can be accomplished by mixing sand and compost into your soil and mixing it into a fine granular or pulverized medium.

You can do this with by:

  • Buying a planting medium of that type
  • Mixing the sand, compost, and soil together

I like to place the soil along with sand and compost in the front loader of my tractor or a large wheelbarrow and then use the little tiller to mix it up into a nice granular potting medium. This was used to plant the Rosemary.

I also pruned it back a little bit just to shape it. The Rosemary plant never suffered any transplant shock due to having its entire root ball dug up and protected until I had a chance to plant it. I should also note here that this was done in November which is the perfect time to move the plants as it is less traumatic on them. Fall is the time to move them; however cuttings and layering can be done in either the spring or fall.

My plant is thriving and likes its new home.

Rosemary also likes a PH around 5.0. I place a ring of coffee grounds about 5 inches from the main stem of the plant. This keeps the PH just right and also works as a slow release fertilizer and keeps the slugs off my plants.

Don’t be afraid to move your Rosemary around. Keep it pruned and it will put out new growth. Depending upon where you live give it extra protection in the winter. You can also grow Rosemary in a pot planted in the ground and in the fall dig up the pot and move it to a protected area. You can also plant trailing Rosemary in a hanging basket and move it to a protected area as needed.

I have a friend in Montana who covers their 5 foot tall plant with burlap and places several flakes of straw around the base of her plant before the first snow. She covers it with a blanket when the temperature and wind chill is extreme. She says this works and she hasn’t had any problems in 5 years.

The main problem with growing Rosemary is overwatering. Go easy on the water unless you live in the south or have a severe drought. This is one of the herbs which doesn’t seem to be affected by pests or diseases.

If you haven’t tried growing Rosemary, try it you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to grow and what a wonderful addition it makes to your landscape and garden. This is as easy as it gets.

Please visit Growing Rosemary for an in-depth look at this wonderful herb. Happy Gardening!