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Rosemary – A How to Grow Guide

Rosmarinus officinalis is a woody, perennial herb plant with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves typically it has blue/purple flowers but we have varieties with white and pink flowers which generally appear in late Spring and early summer and if you prune after flowering a second flush later in the year can appear.

Rosemary is one of the most popular Mediterranean herbs. It is a very aromatic herb with the ability to evoke memories of a Lamb Sunday Roast.

Rosemary is a fabulous plant to have in your garden, as it is an excellent culinary herb as well as an exceedingly attractive addition to the border or in a container. Whether you are looking for a substantial upright variety, or a compact creeping plant, we have a wide variety of rosemary plants for sale to suit any garden, all available to buy online with our UK mail order service.

Apart from the common variety Rosmarinus officinalis there are a large number of other variants that range from Creeping to Upright, including Ginger, Blue, White, Pink and variegated.

When and Where to plant

  • Rosemary is easy to grow outside in the garden, it also does well in pots, but needs a little more care. It is sensitive to over-watering, developing brown tips on its needle-like leaves. The brown leaves will grow out if you allow the plant to dry out between watering and to be just moist when you do water.
  • Grow only well drained soil, add plenty of grit and it does not require a nutrient rich soil, being from the Mediterranean it needs a position in full sun.
  • It flowers in spring/early summer, after which it flushes with new growth.
  • Rosemary is an evergreen and can be harvested all the year round for culinary and medicinal purposes. The flowers are also edible.
  • If Rosemary becomes pot bound, the first sign is yellowing of the lower leaves. Re-pot into a larger pot with fresh growing medium and it will soon recover.

History and Herb Usage

The name "rosemary" derives from the Latin for "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea", and the origins of this are said to be because it needs no water other than the humidity carried by the sea breeze to sustain it. It is a must for any herb garden used by cooks and apothecaries alike for culinary and medicinal purposes

The leaves of the Rosemary plant are extremely aromatic, and can be finely chopped and used to flavour a variety of dishes, especially stuffing, stews and in with a roast as it will tolerate a long cooking time. Many cooks simply cut sprigs of rosemary and place with roasted meats, especially lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. Beautiful when chopped and added to roasting potatoes, or to tomato based dishes.

The leaves of plant can be made into a tea to aid digestion, or dried to add to dishes later.

You can also use the leaves in an infusion for bath water too, to aid relaxation of muscles whilst stimulating the mind. It is of course distilled into an essential oil and added to many cosmetic products. The Rosemary herb plant is said to help memory and indeed in the language of flowers it is used to denote remembrance. It is said also to prolong life!

Pruning and Maintenance

If left unpruned Rosemary can become straggly and untidy so should be pruned after flowering to keep it compact. As a guide, prune after the first main flush of flowers. Regular picking of the leaves especially the tips of the branches for cooking acts as an ongoing pruning regime and helps keep the plant bushy and compact.

Even if pruned annually, older Rosemary plants can still become woody and leggy You can try to revive an old plant by either taking cuttings from the younger growth or by layering the plant. If you can bring a branch down to ground level and scratch the bark back on the woody stem just until you can see green underneath as close as you can to the new growth then pile compost onto the woody stems up to the level of new growth keep well-watered and hopefully in a month or so it will root and you can use this to replace the plant you have or move to a new area.

How to Plant a Rosemary Hedge

(See How to Plant a Lavender hedge