Rosemary is a big winner in the kitchen and the garden. Delicious in all sorts of recipes, it also has a whole heap of health benefits.
And luckily, it’s easy to grow rosemary from cuttings indoors and outdoors so we can quickly add rosemary to a new herb garden at little or no cost.
Rosemary does not need a lot of fussing and faffing to flourish as it is a very resilient herb. However, lots of us try to grow rosemary outside its natural Mediterranean climate so there are some simple tips we need to follow to compensate for the weather and help it on its way.
In this post I’ll take you through all the simple tips you need on how to grow rosemary from cutting both indoors and outdoors to ensure it flourishes. These rosemary growing tips have helped me grow rosemary successfully for many years in the far from Mediterranean climate of south London.
I’ve also included must know tips on how you can enjoy the health benefits of rosemary in very simple natural remedies and all the ways rosemary can help your garden too.
How To Grow Rosemary From Cuttings In Water
The quickest and cheapest way to propagate rosemary is to grow rosemary from cuttings in water. All you need do to grow rosemary from cuttings is:
- Cut 4 or 5 stems of new growth from the rosemary bush of a friendly rosemary growing neighbour when they are pruning in early spring.
- Take cuttings 15 – 20 cm / 6 to 8 inches long if you can.
- But most importantly choose cuttings with with light green – whitish new growth rather than grey – brown old woody stems.
- Remove rosemary needles from the bottom of your cuttings.
- Then simply pop your cuttings in a jar of water.
- Put your jar of rosemary cuttings in a sunny spot indoors and within one to two weeks your rosemary cutting will have roots.
- Give your rosemary cuttings 3 or 4 weeks in water to build up some healthy roots and then transfer the rosemary cuttings to a pot and follow the tips below on How To Grow Rosemary In A Pot.
It really is as simple as that.
How To Grow Rosemary From Seed
Growing rosemary from cuttings is unquestionably the quickest way to grow rosemary but if you can’t get hold of rosemary cuttings and don’t want to fork out to buy rosemary plants you can grow rosemary from seed.
Key tips for growing rosemary from seed are :
- Rosemary seeds germinate slowly & can take up to 4 weeks, so start sowing rosemary seeds indoors 2 months or so before last frost, so you can make the most of them in spring and summer.
- Rosemary seeds aren’t the most reliable germinators so sow more than you will need in small modules.
- Sow in well draining soil with a bit of sand and grit mixed in.
- Only lightly cover the seeds with soil.
- Water lightly as rosemary does not like damp conditions.
- Keep rosemary seeds in a warm spot.
- Cover your rosemary seed modules with plastic to warm up further and encourage quicker germination.
- Once seedlings peep up they need plenty of light.
When seedlings are 7-10 cm / 3-4 inches transfer to bigger pots and grow on either indoors or outdoors.
How To Grow Rosemary In A Pot
Growing rosemary in a pot can be a good idea even if you are growing rosemary outdoors. By growing your rosemary in a pot you will able to:
- Bring rosemary plants indoors in winter if you have persistent sub-zero temperatures throughout winter
- Give rosemary the soil it grows best in
- Water rosemary correctly
- And stop rosemary from taking over your herb garden!!
You can help drainage by adding in some grit, stones or bits of old broken pot at the bottom of the container and by raising your pot or container on some old bricks or something similar.
Rosemary is drought resistant and will grow in poor soil so even grown in pots it needs little watering and feeding but check the tips below on How To Water Rosemary and Rosemary Plant Care for more details.
How Big A Pot For Rosemary?
A thriving rosemary plant can grow to 5 or 6 feet high and wide so it isn’t going to be happy in a tiny pot. But one of the big reasons for growing rosemary in a pot is to keep its size under control!!
If your rosemary will be able to stay outside in winter – because temperatures are not persistently sub-zero or are rarely lower than -4c/25f – a 60 cm / 24 inch pot will allow a rosemary plant to flourish so you can enjoy the health benefits of rosemary in your kitchen without it taking over.
If you will need to bring your rosemary plant in over winter, a 30cm / 12 inch pot will be fine. It really won’t flourish in anything smaller.
Rosemary Varieties For Smaller Pots
If you don’t have space for a big pot, it’s worth looking for the low growing rosemary varieties listed under Buying Rosemary Plants. You may not be able to find cuttings for these varieties, in which case buying a plant may be a better option in the long run.
How To Grow Rosemary Indoors
Rosemary is very easy to grow indoors in a little kitchen herb garden if you don’t have any outdoor space.
If you suffer with harsh winters you will need to grow rosemary indoors over winter as rosemary doesn’t tolerate temperatures below -4/25 degrees. An occasional blast as we in get in London is fine, a long hard winter is not.
The most important tips for growing rosemary indoors are:
- Make sure the pot drains well so your rosemary plant doesn’t get soggy.
- Only water lightly when soil is dry.
- Keep your rosemary plant in a warm, sunny spot.
- But try to give it some ventilation as constant humidity in the kitchen can cause mildew.
One good way to grow rosemary indoors is to grow new rosemary plants from cuttings in water every other year or so, so you constantly have small vigorous plants with nice young rather than woody growth.
If you grow rosemary indoors in winter but grow it outdoors in summer you need to remember to acclimatise it gradually to both transitions :
- In spring gradually expose rosemary to the cold
- In autumn gradually reduce the outside light your rosemary plant gets.
How To Grow Rosemary Outdoors
Rosemary is a sunshine loving, drought tolerant herb but it is possible to grow rosemary outdoors successfully in a wide range of climates.
I have been growing rosemary outdoors in London for more than 10 years over many a cold, damp English summer. And I grow my rosemary in soggy London clay. My only problem is actually that my rosemary is too vigorous and given half the chance takes over the garden.
So if you want to grow rosemary outdoors you need to think about how to contain it either by growing rosemary in a pot or giving it a contained bed to itself, which is what I do. If you are short on space look out for the low growing rosemary varieties listed under Buying Rosemary Plants.
Remember if you are planting outdoors rosemary you grew from cuttings, you need to transition the rosemary cuttings over a week or so to get them used to the cooler temperatures outdoors.
Where Does Rosemary Grow Best
Rosemary will grow best in a sunny spot with plenty of light but a bit of shelter so it’s not getting blasted by cold winds.
Having said that, rosemary is remember vigorous. It can spread to over 1.5m / 5 ft high and wide so you need to plant your rosemary somewhere that can handle a big plant that won’t over power everything else.
For many of us growing rosemary in small gardens the right place structurally is not going to be the sunniest spot. In my experience, that’s fine. My current rosemary plant only gets later afternoon sun – not the minimum 6 or 7 hours often recommended – & does well.
What Soil Does Rosemary Grow Best In
Rosemary does however need the soil to drain well as it hates sitting around with soggy roots. Rosemary may struggle in soggy, clay-heavy soil but the ground in my little bit of south London is a mixture of clay and grit – delightful, huh? – and the grit makes all the difference. So if you are gardening on clay, adding some grit or sand should help.
If you’re transferring to a pot rosemary you’ve grown from cuttings, you may well find the cuttings do better in some rough garden soil rather than potting compost.
What Herbs Can You Plant With Rosemary
When starting a herb garden, it’s easy to imagine we can shove all sorts of herbs in cheek by jowl but we can’t.
Some herbs love water whilst others like rosemary can’t stand getting soggy. And some herbs are bullies and will grab every last inch of the herb garden for themselves growing over and suffocating smaller and slower herbs.
Rosemary is wonderful but it is the herb garden’s biggest bully!
So don’t even think about putting rosemary in a pot or small bed with delicate little thyme or oregano without giving them plenty of personal space. Even lavender will suffer – I learned the hard way – from rosemary’s bullying ways unless you keep it under sized.
If you’re not growing rosemary outdoors in a pot, I would strongly recommend putting it in it’s own bed with space to grow to 1.5 metres or you could use it as hedging to help repel cats from your garden.
How To Water Rosemary
Rosemary is pretty drought resistant and you’re far more likely to harm it by over watering than under watering as it so hates getting soggy roots.
So typically the key rules for watering rosemary are:
- Don’t water outdoor rosemary plants that are not in pots
- Lightly water rosemary in pots indoors or outdoors when the surface soil is dry but don’t let your rosemary dry out completely.
However, if its been windy, surface soil can be dry when the rest of the pot still has enough water, so it’s worth giving the soil a good poke with a knitting needle or something similar and if it comes up moist leave it.
If you’ve grown your rosemary from cuttings you will need to water a little more when your transfer the cuttings to a pot or bed and keep the soil lightly moist.
Rosemary Plant Care
Rosemary doesn’t need much plant care as it will grow well in nutritionally poor soil. Some gardeners recommend regular feeding if you’re growing rosemary in pots but personally I’m not convinced rosemary needs it and if you’re trying to garden more organically or garden on a budget it’s a good idea to cut out fancy feeds where they are not necessary.
I think the most important tips for rosemary plant care are :
- Keeping on top of pruning
- Rosemary beetle control.
- Supporting rosemary plants.
Pruning & Harvesting Rosemary
When To Prune Rosemary
The general rule for pruning rosemary is to avoid pruning when there’s still a danger of frost or just before the frost risk returns in fall.
Pruning in very late winter or early spring lets you tidy up all the old growth from last year to keep the size of the rosemary under control and to encourage the lower parts of the plant to stay productive and not go woody.
New rosemary plants grown from cuttings will not need pruning until at least the second year after taking the cutting.
How To Prune Rosemary
Typically you can prune a rosemary plant in early spring by a third as long as you are not cutting into the woody unproductive stems as they will not usually provide new growth.
Harvesting rosemary once your rosemary plant is established, is straightforward. Just take what you need. Harvesting will help it flourish.
But when you’re growing rosemary from cuttings wait until you have at very least 8 to 10 inches of growth before harvesting and leave 6 inches of growth intact on each stem you harvest.
Common Rosemary Pests
The most common rosemary pest is the rosemary beetle. Rosemary beetles can do lots of damage fast so you need to keep them under control.
Rosemary Beetle Control
The first key step in rosemary beetle control is to recognise both the adult and the larvae:
- Adult rosemary beetles are small rather handsome black beetles with iridescent stripes. They are about the size of a ladybird.
- The rosemary beetle larvae are the same light grey-green colour as new young tips on the rosemary plant, which gives them some camouflage.
Rosemary beetle larvae appear as soon as it starts warming up in late winter and early spring. As the rosemary puts out new growth, the rosemary beetles devour it. So you need to get rid of them early.
The good news is, it is very easy to get rid of rosemary beetles organically without spraying toxic pesticides that hurt other wildlife everywhere.
Getting Rid Of Rosemary Beetles Organically
The shiny adult rosemary beetle is easy to spot and pick off manually and despite their camouflage if you inspect new growth on your rosemary you’ll see the larvae pretty quickly too. They’re very sedentary so easy to pick off.
As long as you spend a little time early in spring and whenever you’re cutting rosemary for cooking or natural remedies, picking the beetles off you really can keep them under control without any spraying.
If the beetles have got out of hand, I find nimble fingered kids are brilliant at spotting and removing them and can have your problem sorted for half an hour or so’s worth of pocket money.
You can also get small birds to help you. If you put a support post of some sort in the middle of the rosemary bush – which will help to stop the plant falling outwards as it ages – small birds will use it as a perching post from which they can feed on the larvae.
If you are growing rosemary from a neighbours cuttings, do check for adult beetles and larvae. You can even the cuttings a very gentle rinse with a little dish soap to remove any eggs which are slim & bronze in colour.
Rosemary Plant Diseases
Rosemary plants are pretty resilient and the only two common diseases they struggle with are a result of dampness and moisture, these being:
- Powdery mildew
- Root rot
Powdery Mildew On Rosemary Plants
Rosemary plants grown indoors – whether from seeds or cuttings – are most vulnerable to powdery mildew. Your plant will look like its covered in fine white dust and if its not treated needles and stems may die and drop.
To prevent powdery mildew try to keep your rosemary plants well ventilated. This can be a bit of a balancing act as rosemary doesn’t like the cold but if you do see mildew you will need to give it more ventilation.
You can treat powdery mildew on rosemary naturally without forking out for artificial fungicides and there are tips here on treating powdery mildew on rosemary with both bicarb (baking soda) & chamomile.
Root Rot In Rosemary
Rosemary can suffer from root rot because the plant just gets too wet either from over watering in summer or too much rain in a wet climate.
Typically signs of root rot are dying brown needles and then stems and a failure to put out new growth. If your rosemary does show signs of root rot don’t despair, there are some very useful tips here on how to revive rosemary with root rot.
And don’t give up on rosemary if you’re gardening in a wet climate. There aren’t many climates damper than the UK’s and I have managed to grow rosemary successfully outdoors for many years.
Health Benefits Of Rosemary
The health benefits of rosemary are wide ranging and you can easily enjoy these benefits with fresh rosemary from your garden.
Traditionally rosemary has been used as a:
- Simple natural antibiotic for skin infections
- Natural antihistamine for allergy relief
- Natural headache relief
- Quick natural sunburn remedy
- General pick me up
- Memory booster to clear the mind
- Gas, bloating & heartburn treatment
- Stress relief remedy
- Dandruff and flakey scalp treatment.
Unfortunately, many of the health benefits of rosemary have been used to market rather dodgy pyramid selling schemes for essential oils.
But we can actually enjoy most of these benefits just by drinking tea made with freshly picked rosemary or cooling the tea for use as a wash or rinse. It truly is as simple as that.
Growing rosemary indoors or outdoors will give you instant access to all of these natural remedies. And regularly including rosemary in your cooking is a brilliantly simple way to restore gut health generally.
What Is Rosemary Good For In The Garden
Rosemary can be a very useful plant to grow in your garden for all sorts of reasons as in addition to its delicious flavour and health benefits it:
- Is an evergreen that will provide year round structure
- Attracts small birds & gives them cover
- Provides late winter, early spring food for pollinating bees & butterflies
- Repels mosquitos
- Can be used in cat repellent herb border if you’re being plagued by neighbourhood cats using your back garden as a bathroom!!
Rosemary is also pretty drought tolerant so with other drought tolerant herbs like lavender, thyme & oregano can flourish when water supplies are low and be a much more eco friendly option than thirstier plants.
There are ideas here for including rosemary in a drought tolerant garden.
Buying Rosemary Plants
If you haven’t the patience to grow rosemary from cuttings or seeds or can’t find a friendly rosemary growing neighbour from whom you can take cuttings, you can of course buy rosemary plants.
My biggest tips for buying rosemary plants and for buying any other herbs is to buy the best quality plants you can. I have learned the hard way that cheap plants can be a false economy as their failure rate is so high.
If you’re looking for rosemary plants in the UK it’s always worth checking out the RHS shop (affiliate link). All the herb plants I have bought from the RHS have done brilliantly. They are not the cheapest but good rosemary and lavender plants are an investment that looked after will last for many years and pay for themselves in the kitchen and natural remedies.
The RHS typically has a good range of rosemary plants including