Rosemary is a woody-stemmed plant with needle-like leaves that can commonly reach 3 feet in height, eventually stretching to 5 feet in warmer climates unless clipped. In zone 8 and farther south, rosemary makes a good evergreen hedge. In zone 7 and colder, try growing rosemary in a container you can bring inside in cold weather. You can even train rosemary into topiary shapes. Plants are tolerant of salt spray, making them a good choice for pots on the beach. With the right soil and water conditions, rosemary can grow into a large evergreen hedge in warm areas. Placed along a path or border, it wafts a soothing aroma to those who pass by.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Set out rosemary in spring, planting seedlings 2 to 3 feet apart; you can also plant in fall in zone 8 and south. Plants are slow growing at first, but pick up speed in their second year. While rosemary tolerates partial shade, it prefers full sun and light, well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil at planting, and reapply in the spring. Or, use a liquid fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘N Feed® Tomato, Fruits & Vegetables Plant Food at planting and periodically thereafter. Keep the soil uniformly moist, allowing it to dry out between waterings. Mulch your plants to keep roots moist in summer and insulated in winter, but take care to keep mulch away from the crown of the plant. In the spring, prune dead wood out of the plants.
Whiteflies, spider mites, scale, and mealybugs can all bother rosemary, as can powdery mildew and root rot, particularly in humid regions. To prevent mildew and rot, be sure your plants enjoy good drainage and air circulation. In zone 7 and northward, extreme cold will kill the tops of the rosemary plant. In areas where it is likely to be hurt by winter, plant in a protected spot such as one near a south-facing masonry wall and away from the prevailing winter wind; also mulch to protect the roots. In zone 8 and farther south, rosemary needs no winter protection.
While rosemary blends well with other herbs, use it lightly on its own in lamb, pork, chicken, and veal dishes, as well as in soups and stews, vegetables, and sauces. Rosemary provides a wonderful flavour in breads and makes a good marinade with olive oil, wine, and garlic. Rosemary’s aromatic qualities also enhance a bath, bouquet, wreath, or sachet.