Keeping Potted Rosemary Healthy All Year


In the language of herbs, the rosemary plant is known for remembrance. And if you’ve ever smelled the fresh piney scent of rosemary, it’s not likely something you’ll forget. Most herb gardeners grow this must-have plant in their gardens during the spring, summer and early fall. But what do you do with a healthy rosemary plant over the winter if you live in the north? 

Growing rosemary in a northern garden isn’t like growing other perennial herbs, such as thyme and parsley, that can be overwintered and will come back in spring. In the United States, rosemary is grown as a perennial in warmer climes (zones 6 to 10). In fact, rosemary hedges grace the walkways of Charleston, South Carolina and many other Southern cities, year round. But in the north, the rosemary plant is either treated as an annual or moved indoors into containers before the first frost.

Rosemary is an evergreen perennial herb that’s a member of the mint family and is native to the Meditteranean. If you’re like me, you like to use rosemary all year for cooking and crafting. Plus, it makes great hostess and teacher gifts. Rosemary graces the garden centers during the holidays shaped like a Christmas tree.



Keeping Rosemary Healthy Over the Winter

I have to confess, I didn’t always love getting a holiday rosemary plant or potting up my garden plants and bringing them inside for the winter. They were always dead by February! Even the growers of holiday rosemary plants know most of them will die, so they put on their tags, “after the holidays, dry and use in potpourri.” After trial and error, and a little research, I found a few simple tricks to keep my rosemary alive all winter. Now I use it in potpourri because I want to, not because I have to.

First, herbs don’t like wet feet and rosemary is no exception. If you're dealing with a holiday plant that's still in its decorative wrapper, remove the wrapper immediately. The wrapper does nothing but trap water. You can hold onto the wrapper and use it if you're entertaining. But once your guests are gone, remove the wrapper again.


It’s usually a good idea, no matter the species, to remove decorative wrappers from your plants.


This plant is definitely root bound!

If you see roots sticking out of the hole at the bottom of an already potted rosemary, your plant is root-bound and it needs to be repotted. Whether you're repotting or potting garden-grown plants, make sure to add pebbles at the bottom of the pot and to mix the soil with sand. Good drainage is key!



All the ingredients to repot this root bound rosemary – a new bigger pot, pebbles, sand and soil.


Mix a liberal amount of sand into potting soil – good drainage is a key to success.


Pebbles in the bottom of the container provide even more drainage.

Rosemary is drought-tolerant so water sparingly, but don’t let it get too dry. Water only when the soil feels dry to the touch about an inch down. 

To be honest, the biggest key to winter rosemary keeping success is cool temperatures – not freezing, just cool. Rosemary does not like indoor heat. In winter, my plants live near a sunny window in my basement where it’s cooler. If the temperature outside is above 40/45 degrees, I faithfully put my rosemary outside; especially if it’s raining. The rain and cooler temperature mimic the rosemary's native environment. I swear by this trick! The cool, moist weather has revived my plants more than once. Just remember to bring your plant back inside at night if the temperature is going to go below freezing.

If you follow these rules, your potted rosemary should last through the winter and for years to come. Your rosemary can happily live in its pot year-round; if you put it outside starting in the spring. You can even plant it directly in the garden and then dig it up once winter comes again.

Rosemary in the Chicken Coop

Rosemary is a pest repellant and can be great to keep away coop pests like mosquitoes, flies and ants. You can plant rosemary around the coop or hang it in bundles inside the coop.  

Rosemary is good for respiratory health, not only for chickens but for humans too. I sprinkle dried rosemary in my nest boxes and offer it free choice to my chickens.


About Rosemary


Rosemary has leathery, needle-shaped leaves and blue to purplish-pink flowers. Depending on your variety, it can grow from one to six feet. Tall, long branches are often used for grilling. And the plant can be clipped to fit your needs. 

Rosemary is a kitchen staple that pairs well with poultry, pork and fish; especially in Italian and Mediterranean dishes. It can be used in herbal bread, vinegar, oil and butter as well as home crafts like potpourri. 

In the garden, rosemary plants prefer full sun in an area with good soil and good drainage. Rosemary doesn't grow well from seed, so it's better to buy it as a plant. 

Healthy rosemary plants don't get many pests or diseases, but plants that are in distress can be susceptible to scale, whiteflies, mealybugs and spider mites. Root rot is easily prevented by making sure your potted plants don't sit with a saucer full of water. 

Lore

Since rosemary is the herb of remembrance, it's said that in ancient Greece, students would wear rosemary wreaths and necklaces to help them succeed in their exams. Today rosemary is used in herbal bouquets to convey this meaning to its receiver. In my house, my kids give their teachers a rosemary plant at the end of the year with a little note conveying hope their teachers will remember the fun times they had during the school year. 

What's your favorite way to use rosemary? Do you bring it inside in the winter?


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