Rosemary: An Evergreen Herb for the Garden and Kitchen

Rosemary is a culinary favorite! An easy-to-grow shrub originating from the Mediterranean, it is hardy and drought-tolerant once established. Rosemary is a beautiful plant for a foundation piece in the garden. This perennial produces tiny flowers in shades of blue or sometimes white and needle-like leaves that emit a delicious fragrance when brushed against. 

 A Staple Perennial Bush and Must-Have Herb

Rosemary prefers a full-sun location in zones 8-11, but it can do well in zones 6-7 with winter protection. This is a great backdrop or foundation plant for the garden as it will provide year-round interest, invite lots of pollinators to the garden, and require minimal care once established. 

This perennial can also thrive in nearly any soil type (excluding hard clay soil which may cause root rot). Rosemary can also be grown in pots to keep it closer to the kitchen to be used as a fresh herb. For culinary use, cut fresh growth back in the early morning, but don’t cut into the woody stems of the plant as most Rosemary do not regenerate, or grow back, on old wood. Note that the flavor of the Rosemary will change throughout the seasons with a milder taste in spring and a more bold, concentrated flavor in the warmer summer months. 

Planting and Care

Rosemary prefers to be planted in the spring. When planting, dig a hole twice as wide as the nursery pot, and add a generous heap of organic compost. Place the plant into the hole, ensuring the root ball is in line with the soil level. Place the soil back around the plant and tamp it down, ensuring the plant is upright. Water till a large puddle forms and let it slowly soak in. Water again when the topsoil is dry. Once established this perennial is drought-tolerant and needs little supplemental watering, if any.

Rosemary is not very demanding when it comes to supplemental nutrition. It wouldn’t mind an all-purpose fertilizer in spring when the plant is just waking up, but this is not necessary for a successful and healthy plant.

For an established plant, prune Rosemary in spring to cut back any dead or dying wood. Then prune again after flowering to shape the plant, cutting back by a maximum of a third of the plant. Do not cut back into woody branches as these will likely not regenerate new growth. A prune in spring will produce a second flower flush, and a subsequent prune is welcome. You can cut back the plant off and on throughout the summer, but stop pruning in August to allow the plant to prepare for winter. If your Rosemary becomes too woody, it has likely not been pruned often enough. This is usually obvious in older and well-established plants. This cannot be repaired, so it is best to replace the plant. A Rosemary bush can live for 10 years, though some last up to 20 years.

Rosemary is easy to propagate by taking a fresh cutting from a plant, stripping the lower leaves, and either placing in a jar of water in bright sunlight till roots form or by dipping in a rooting hormone and planting in a small pot in a sunny location. Roots should form in just a few short weeks. Replant as usual and enjoy your new plant!

Our favorite this season is: Tuscan Blue.