Salvia rosmarinus, commonly known as rosemary, is a shrub with fragrant, evergreen in the family Lamiaceae grown for its leaves which are used as a herb. Rosemary native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary has naturalized throughout much of Europe and is widely grown in gardens in warm climates. Until 2017, it was known by the scientific name Rosmarinus officinalis, now a synonym.
It features slender, needle-like, gray-green leaves on erect woody stems. And it produces clusters of small, white, pink, purple, or blue flowers typically in the late spring to early summer, though it can bloom at other points of the year as well. Plant rosemary in the spring after any threat of frost has passed. The shrub has a moderate growth rate. It will reach its mature size and begin flowering in its second season.
Table of Contents
1 - 12 feet
2 - 4 feet
6.0 - 7.0
Growth Nutrition of Rosemary
Rosemary plant generally needs Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur and Magnesium in order to thrive and give sustainably high yields for over a decade. In most cases, the plant responds greatly to Nitrogen supply, especially when Nitrogen is applied after harvest. In this case, new growth is promoted.
Types of Rosemary
There are basically two types of rosemary:
Upright Rosemary Varieties
Creeping Rosemary Varieties
Upright Rosemary Varieties
Although upright rosemary varieties are often used for hedges and borders, these varieties have cherished aromatic properties. These varieties can grow between three to five feet in height with some varieties capable of reaching 12 feet high. Upright rosemary plants provide the most potent flavoring due to the sap known as black gold.
Creeping Rosemary Varieties
The creeping rosemary varieties are great to as ground covers since they choke out all weeds and provide an aromatic carpeting. You can use these varieties to trail over rock walls or cascade from window boxes.
Tuscan or Tuscan Blue: The Tuscan or Tuscan Blue rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a popular hedge choice in Tuscany with its pale blue-green leaves. It's planted along the borders of fields as hedges. It's highly fragrant and has many uses in the kitchen. It grows 4 feet tall.
White Rosemary: White rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis albiflorus) is a standout in the landscape for its upright bushy spread. Its strong fragrance makes it a favorite of bees and a good culinary choice. Use as a hedge, border plant or in herb gardens. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall.
Pine Scented Rosemary: Pine scented rosemary (Rosmarinus angustifolius) is a popular flavorful culinary herb choice. This rosemary has distinguishable pine scent with pale blue-green leaves with a feather-like appearance. The leaves are thinner and softer than typical rosemary and a chef favorite choice. Use as a border planting or herb garden. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall.
Golden Rosemary: Golden rosemary or Golden Rain (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Joyce de Baggio') provides a gold to the deep green leaf color. There are a number of cultivars that produce bright yellow to deep gold foliage that either stays true or deepens as the days get longer in the summer. Some varieties turn green in the summer. Use along a garden border or herb garden. It grows 2 to 3 feet tall.
Madeline Hill Rosemary: Madeline Hill rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Madeline Hill') is winter hardy. It's often advertised rated for -15°. This is a very fragrant choice with deep green leaves. Use as a hedge, border or herb garden.
Arp Rosemary: Arp rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Arp') has gray-green leaves and is one of the easiest to grow cultivars. It's often a first-timer choice. This rosemary variety is one of the most fragrant rosemaries and a favorite of chefs. Use as a hedge, border or herb garden. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall.
Blue Boy: Blue Boy rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Blue Boy') is considered a dwarf or miniature cultivar that is a popular choice for containers and pots. It can be used as a low border plant or an indoor windowsill herb container. It's a convenient indoor herb for cooking. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall.
Trailing Rosemary: Of the creeping rosemary varieties, none makes a more impressive display than trailing or creeping rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus' ). It is also called prostrate rosemary, and it makes an effective groundcover. A waterfall effect over a wall or fence is a great landscaping addition. It grows 18-24 inches tall, spreads 4-8 feet wide, and bears light blue flowers.
Huntington Carpet: The Huntington Carpet cultivar (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Huntington Carpet') is a popular choice since it has a dense center with very little dieback. Unlike most rosemary cultivars, Huntington Carpet isn't very woody. With dark green leaves, it makes a great choice for walls, banks, rock gardens, window boxes, and containers/pots. It grows 1-2 feet tall, spreads 6-8 feet wide, and bears small blue clusters flower (four seasons).
Irene: Irene rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Renzels' was first discovered by Philip Johnson, a garden designer, in a client's garden, when he observed how the cultivar was a spontaneous hybrid seedling. It's valued as a reliable groundcover. You can use this in erosion areas, such as banks or steep declines, and cascading over rock walls. It grows 1-2 feet tall, spreads 4-5 feet wide, and bears Blue-violet flower (December to March).
Lockwood De Forest: Lockwood De Forest (Rosmarinus Officinalis) was first discovered in 1930 in the Santa Barbara, California Garden of Elizabeth de Forest. It is native to the chaparral lands of southern Europe and North Africa. Small, two lipped lavender blue flowers appear along the heavy branches, densely clothed with rich dark green leaves. Lockwood de Forest is ideal for border planting and for placement along stone retaining walls. It thrives in well-drained soil in full sunlight.
Salem: Salem (Rosmarinus Officinalis 'Salem') is a fast growing, evergreen rosemary shrub which has an upright, rounded form. Salem has shiny, needle like leaves which bear small, blue flowers in early spring. It is also called the “Christmas Herb”, and is well known for its strong pine like fragrance. This rosemary can tolerate part shade but will get weak if it doesn’t get enough shade. Its fragrant branches can be used for dried flower arrangement or in cut flower bouquets. Salem can also be grown as a hedge in warmer climates.
Spice Islands: Spice Garden (Rosmarinus Officinalis 'Spice Islands') is a vigorous growing herb with sturdy and thick foliage. It is semi evergreen and is very fragrant with hints of clove and nutmeg. Its attractive, fragrant, narrow leaves remain dark green with gray undersides throughout the year. Its bright blue flowers complement the aromatic foliage. Spice garden has sticky foliage which gives out plenty of essential oil. It is sold in stores after being dried and ground. The flower prefers well drained, average to dry soil and a sheltered area.
Rosemary Mrs. Howard’s: Mrs. Howard’s Rosemary is a tender perennial which grows mainly in colder regions. It has large, wide, medium green leaves on thick trailing stem. Its taller stature separates this variety from other trailing rosemary plants. It produces light blue blossoms several times during the year. It gives off a fresh, spicy scent which makes it great for cooking. Grow Mrs. Howard’s in full sun and do not overwater it.
Rosemary Gorizia: Gorizia Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Gorizia') is named after the town Gorizia in Italy, where it was discovered. The large, broad leaves of this unique rosemary extend from thick uprightly stems blushed with reddish brown markings. Gorizia sports large, light lavender-blue flowers along the un-pruned stems. Its aroma is quite gentle, sweet and gingery. It is good to plant in a container and beddings. It grows 4 feet tall and wide.
Miss Jessopp Upright: Miss Jessopp’s Upright (Rosmarinus Officinalis Miss Jessopp Upright) is a compact, erect, medium sized evergreen shrub that comes with aromatic narrow, oblong leaves with silver underside. The plant bears two lipped light, blue flowers in summers which are highly fragrant. This rosemary was introduced by E.A Bowles in England and is named after Euphemia Jessopp. Its leaves are useful for flavoring roasted vegetables and meats.
Severn Sea: This (Rosmarinus Officinalis Severn Sea) variety was raised by Orman Hadden at West Porlock, England. Severn Sea is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, needle like leaves. The shrub produces bright blue, two lipped flowers in axillary clusters, creating a beautiful display. The medium grey, polished leaves are borne on the strong stems for a nice and bushy appearance. The plant is most suitable for container planting or can be placed in a hanging basket for a beautiful display. It is a draught tolerant, rabbit and deer resistant rosemary.
Collingwood Ingram: Collingwood Ingram (Rosmarinus Officinalis Collingwood Ingram) is a semi trailing rosemary with broad rich leaves that smell of camphor. The deep green glossy leaves contrast beautifully with its thick light, colored stems. It produces loads of blue flowers early in the season. It is very aromatic and requires full sun and well-drained soil to bloom properly. This annual flower should only be grown in full sunlight. Collingwood Ingram’s relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants.
Rosemary Hill Hardy: Hill Hardy is wonderful, cold tolerant rosemary. Its stiff and dark foliage is held on semi upright stems. It produces spiky leaves which adorn delicate small white flowers. The foliage has a soft yet assertive aroma. It is one of the hardiest varieties of rosemary.
Rosemary Mrs. Reed’s Dark Blue: Mrs. Dark has a bushy growth habit and a dark green foliage which makes this variety look more attractive than most of the rosemary plants. Deep, dark blue flowers adorn the light green stems. It is one of the most beautiful rosemary plants.
Rosemary Pink-flowered Majorca: Rosemary Majorca Pink (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Majorca Pink') is a tall, upright rosemary flower with lavender pink blooms. It produces long branches that twist around the plants and then cascade. The plant has thick stems along which dull green leaves are loosely placed. It is a delightful counter to the traditional blue rosemary. The leaves have a slightly fruity fragrance. Majorca is quite a fragile variety of rosemary and requires protection from frost.
Nancy Howard: Nancy Howard (Rosmarinus Officinalis Nancy Howard) is a pretty and fragrant rosemary plant which is distinguished by its white flowers which age to pink. The large deep green leaves contrast quite nicely with its stiff, white stem. Nancy Howard is an excellent rosemary flower for topiary. It is also adaptable to the seaside as it can easily withstand high wind and salt spray.
Gold Dust: Gold Dust (Rosmarinus Officinalis Gold Dust) is an evergreen, well branched shrub with aromatic 1 inch long, narrow, dark green leaves with golden edges. This unique rosemary was discovered by Stephen and Julie of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. It blooms in summer with deep blue coloured flowers and strongly scented foliage. It performs best in loamy soil and partial shade.
Athens Blue Spires: This (Rosmarinus Officinalis Athens Blue Spires) vigorous, cold hardy rosemary boasts of lovely, lavender blue flowers on a dense, upright habit. It was introduced by Allan M. Armitage of Athens, Georgia in 1999. Blue Spires has unique grey-green, needle like foliage. The flower is a disease, heat, cold and drought resistant plant and thrives best in poor soil if well drained.
Benenden Blue: Benenden Blue (Rosmarinus Officinalis Benenden Blue) is a small rosemary cultivar cascading with narrow, attractive, glossy green foliage. Benenden Blue grows up to 30 cm tall and produces small, sky blue flowers in abundance during spring, creating a beautiful display. Its leaves are narrow, linear, dark green and leathery and are highly aromatic. Benenden Blue is native to Mediterranean region and prefers light, sandy soil and sunny weather conditions. This rosemary is ideal for container planting.
Haifa: Haifa (Rosmarinus Officinalis Haifa) is a an extremely hardy rosemary which produces pale blue flowers across its trailing branches of dark green, needle like foliage. It is native to Europe and North Africa. It is widely used as a culinary herb and works well in borders, containers and gravel gardens.
Roman Beauty: Rosmarinus officinalis 'Roman Beauty' is a compact, slow grower with a semitrailing form, growing just 12-16 inches tall and spreading 18-24 inches wide. It grows more upright than trailing rosemary but still creates a cascading effect in the landscape or in container gardens. It has violet-blue flowers and fragrant gray-green foliage.
Golden variegated rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis 'Aureus' has green needlelike leaves with gold flecks. This rosemary is an upright grower that reaches 2 feet tall and spreads equally wide. It has pale blue flowers in spring.
Barbecue rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis 'Barbecue' is a selection developed for its excellent flavor and aroma. It can grow 4 feet tall and will develop beautiful blue blooms.
When to Plant
Rosemary is best planted in the spring once the weather has warmed and there’s no frost in the forecast. Containers indoors generally can be started at any time of year.
Selecting a Planting Site
This plant needs a sunny spot that has soil with sharp drainage. Make sure no taller trees or shrubs in the area are so close that they will shade the rosemary. Rosemary also grows well in containers both outdoors and indoors, as long as it can get enough light.
Spacing, Depth, and Support
Space rosemary shrubs at least 2 to 3 feet apart. Plant seedlings and nursery plants at the same depth at which they were growing in their previous container. Seeds should be just barely covered with soil when planting. A support structure is typically not necessary for this shrub.
How to Grow Rosemary From Seed
Rosemary seeds can be difficult to germinate, and they often do not grow true to their parent plant. If you wish to try growing from seed, plant several more seeds than plants you hope to grow. Start seeds around three months prior to your area’s projected last frost date in the spring. Scatter them in a tray filled with moist seed-starting mix, just lightly covering them with the mix. Cover the tray with plastic wrap to trap in moisture, and make sure the mix doesn’t dry out. Place the tray on a heat mat to keep the soil between 80 degrees and 90 degrees. As soon as seedlings appear, remove the plastic wrap, and place the tray in bright light. Once seedings are around 3 inches high, they can be moved to individual pots or outdoors if the weather is warm.
How to Grow Rosemary in Pots
Growing this herb in a container allows you to bring it indoors during cold weather. You also can keep containers on a patio or deck near your kitchen for easy access while cooking. Select a pot that’s slightly larger than the plant’s root ball. Make sure it has drainage holes. An unglazed clay container is best to allow excess soil moisture to evaporate through its walls.
Rosemary Plant Care
Rosemary prefers full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. A south-facing window is ideal for indoor growth, and grow lights are often necessary to provide supplemental light. Bring indoor plants outside in warm weather to allow them access to natural sunlight. Inadequate light can cause leggy and weak growth.
A well-draining sandy or loamy soil is best for rosemary. It doesn’t tolerate heavy clay and wet soils well. A slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is ideal.
Rosemary shrubs have good drought tolerance once they are mature, and it’s better to underwater rather than overwater them. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out between waterings, and then water so that the soil is evenly moist but not soggy.
Temperature and Humidity
This shrub likes warm weather and moderate humidity levels. Most rosemary varieties can’t survive temperatures below 30 degrees, but they have good heat tolerance. They prefer temperatures between 55 degrees and 80 degrees. Moreover, high humidity can lead to rot and fungal issues, especially if there isn’t enough air circulation around the plant.
Rosemary is not a heavy feeder. Mixing compost into the soil at the time of planting can help to give the shrub a healthy start. Then, using a balanced liquid fertilizer, following label instructions, will continue to promote quality growth.
Rosemary shrubs self-pollinate and attract bees and other pollinators to the garden. Bring indoor plants outdoors in warm weather when their flowers are open to allow the blooms to naturally pollinate.
Rosemary can be harvested at almost any time of year, though spring and summer are when it grows most actively. And the leaves are most flavorful and aromatic just before the plant blooms. To harvest, use pruners to cut off 4- to 6-inch stem tips.
Use fresh rosemary sprigs or leaves in cooking as you like. Or hang the stems upside-down in a dry, cool, well-ventilated area for drying, which should take a couple weeks. Once the stems are dry, strip off the leaves and keep them in an airtight container in a pantry.
Pruning and Propagating Rosemary
Prune rosemary as necessary to shape its growth after the plant is done flowering. But don’t prune off more than a third of the plant at a time, as this can stress the shrub and leave it vulnerable to diseases and pests.
If you would like to propagate your own rosemary plant, the best option is to start with a cutting. Not only is this an inexpensive way to get a new plant but taking cuttings from a mature plant can help to promote more branching and bushier growth. The best time to take a cutting is in the spring or summer. Here's how:
Cut a piece of healthy stem that’s a few inches long. Choose new soft wood growth for best results.
Remove the leaves on the lower portion of the stem, leaving at least five leaves.
Dip the cut end in rooting hormone.
Plant the cutting in a moist soilless potting mix in a small container that has drainage holes.
Place the container in a warm spot that has bright, indirect light. Mist the cutting daily, and make sure the growing medium doesn’t dry out.
In about two to three weeks, gently tug on the stem to check for roots. If you feel resistance, you’ll know roots have developed. After that, the cutting is ready for transplanting.
Potting and Repotting Rosemary
Use a light, well-draining potting mix when growing rosemary in a container. Plan to repot every year into one container size up, using fresh potting mix. The best time to repot is in the spring. Gently loosen the plant from its previous container, and situate it at the same depth in the new one, filling around it with soil.
Bring rosemary indoors well before any frost is predicted in the fall forecast. Keep it in a warm room and away from any drafts or drying air from heat vents. Continue providing it with at least six hours of sunlight per day via a bright window and/or grow light. And slightly back off on watering, though don’t allow the soil to fully dry out. Once frost is out of the forecast in the spring, the plant can go back outside.
Pests and Plant Diseases
High humidity and poor air circulation can result in powdery mildew—a white, powdery fungus—on rosemary plants. Powdery mildew typically won't kill a plant, but the disease will weaken it. To prevent powdery mildew, make sure the plant's soil isn't too wet, and provide a few feet of space around it for air flow. Also, be on the lookout for aphids and spider mites, especially on indoor plants. Use an insecticidal soap as soon as you spot an infestation to prevent it from spreading.
Benefits of Rosemary
Benefits of Rosemary for Stress:
Rosemary oil’s antistress properties make it useful for stress management. Inhaling rosemary essential oil decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) while increasing dopamine (a neurotransmitter). This helps in the reduction of stress and prevention or cure of mental disorders.
Benefits of Rosemary for Mental Fatigue:
Aromatherapy with rosemary essential oil can relieve mental weariness and exhaustion.
Benefits of Rosemary for Opioid Withdrawal:
Rosemary can help with the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Because of its anti-inflammatory and psychostimulant properties, rosemary has been shown to help with opioid withdrawal symptoms such as muscle jerks, convulsions, and musculoskeletal discomfort.
Benefits of Rosemary for Enhancing Memory:
Rosemary’s memory-enhancing qualities can help you improve your memory.
It boosts the production of specific molecules in the brain, improving memory and cognitive performance.
Benefits of Rosemary for Arthritis:
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, rosemary has been utilized as an anti-arthritic agent.
It works by inhibiting the mediators that cause inflammation, allowing arthritic symptoms to be managed.
Benefits of Rosemary for Gum Inflammation:
Rosemary has long been used as a toothpaste ingredient because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory characteristics, which aid in treating gum problems, including gingivitis.
It lowers gum inflammation by inhibiting the activity of oral bacteria.
Benefits of Rosemary for Hair Loss:
Topical application of rosemary oil on the scalp can increase hair growth by boosting blood circulation in the scalp.
Benefits of Rosemary for Menstrual Bleeding:
Rosemary induces uterine contractions, which can aid in increasing menstrual blood flow.
Increased contractions cause greater uterine blood flow during menstruation.
Benefits of Rosemary for Indigestion:
Due to its digestive properties, rosemary is beneficial for treating indigestion.
It helps to manage dyspepsia by improving meal absorption by promoting digestion.
It reduces flatulence by preventing gas production and assisting in the outflow of excess gas from the gastrointestinal system.
Benefits of Rosemary for Diabetic Kidney Disease:
Rosemary can aid in preventing diabetic kidney disease, also known as diabetic nephropathy, which is frequent among people with diabetes.
Rosemary has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities due to its components.
These antioxidants aid to protect kidney cells from free radical damage, reducing inflammation and kidney damage.
Benefits of Rosemary for low Blood Pressure:
Rosemary’s anti-hypotensive properties can aid in the management of low blood pressure.
The plant can be used to flavour food and beverages.
Rosemary leaves can be used fresh or dried as a herb in cooking or in salads.
Rosemary is a key ingredient in many pasta sauces, pizza recipes, and vinaigrettes.
Rosemary is most often used to season meats, especially lamb, pork, and chicken.
Chopped rosemary can be added to bread or biscuit dough, and the flavor will infuse throughout during cooking.
Herbal tea can be made from the rosemary leaves.
The leaves and flowers can be used to extract rosemary oil which is used as a seasoning or as a scent in soaps and household products.
Rosemary is used as a decorative plant in gardens.