Rosemary plant

Rosemary – Grow Guide

Discover how to plant, care for and harvest rosemary, in this useful guide.

Overview

An evergreen herb that looks lovely all year round, rosemary smells wonderful, has a great taste, and when it flowers in late spring bees love it, too. Grow one alongside a path, so every time you brush past the leaves release their aromatic oils. What more could you ask?
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Avg yield: Pick leaves as required

Growing rosemary through the year

Planting

Rosemary seeds can take an age to germinate, so buy young plants, which are widely available, or wait until after flowering and take cuttings.

Plant in spring or autumn. Although rosemary is frost-hardy, the combination of cold and waterlogging can kill immature plants. With this in mind, choose a well-drained soil in a sunny, sheltered spot. If you have a cold clay soil, dig in lots of bark, grit or leaf mould to improve drainage.

Tending the crop

Rosemary requires little maintenance during the year except cutting back after flowering to prevent plants becoming straggly and excessively woody. Save the trimmings to propagate new plants or to dry for cooking.

Rosemary does well in containers in a soil-based compost with plenty of broken crocks in the bottom for good drainage. Keep well watered during dry spells and feed with a general fertiliser during the growing season. In cold winters, bring plants under cover for protection.

Harvesting rosemary

Gently pull small sprigs away from the main stem. Unless you’re using them to flavour gravy or perk up a roast, strip the leaves off the inedible woody stems.

Storing rosemary

As rosemary is an evergreen, it’s available fresh all year. It dries well (on a baking tray in the airing cupboard) but doesn’t freeze.

Preparation and uses

Pop a few sprigs of rosemary in with your roast potatoes and meat, it goes especially well with lamb, or in casseroles, tomato sauces, baked fish or egg dishes.

Add it to vinegars or oils for extra flavour. Take care when using fresh rosemary in your cooking, it’s a pungent herb that will overpower delicate flavours.

Troubleshooting

A native of southern Europe, the rosemary beetle (below) and its larvae can quickly strip the foliage of a rosemary bush. These small metallic-green and purple-striped beetles can be found on the underside of leaves during early autumn to spring. Spread newspaper under an affected plant and tap the branches to dislodge pests. Wait until after flowering to apply an insecticide to avoid harming bees.
Gardening gloves

Plant a rosemary hedge

One of the best rosemary varieties for a hedge is 'Miss Jessopp's Upright'. Space the plants about 45cm apart. To promote bushy growth, cut back after flowering in early summer. Aim to keep the hedge around 60cm tall.

Rosemary varieties to try

  • ‘Benenden Blue’ – dark blue flowers and fine needles
  • ‘Lady in White’ – its upright habit makes it useful as hedging
  • ‘Majorca Pink’ – small pale pink flowers and upright habit
  • ‘McConnell’s Blue’ – blue flowers, grows well in pots
  • ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ – blue flowers and upright stems
  • Prostratus Group – pale blue flowers, arching, prostrate stems
  • ‘Sudbury Blue’ – highly scented foliage and blue flowers

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