How to grow and harvest rosemary, a must-have superfood
02/20/2021 / By Rose Lidell / Comments
How to grow and harvest rosemary, a must-have superfood

If you love cooking with herbs, you can grow rosemary and other herbs in your home garden so you always have access to fresh ingredients! Even if you don’t have a full-sized garden in your home, you can also grow rosemary in a single pot.

How to grow rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is both a versatile ingredient and a beautiful ornamental plant. It is a perennial evergreen shrub that prefers sandy soil. Rosemary needs soil with a soil pH of 5.0 to 8.0 or acidic to slightly alkaline. The herb blooms from January to April when grown as perennial and in late spring to summer if you grow it in a pot.

This herb grows as a perennial in zones 9 to 11 and it is grown as an annual elsewhere. The herb bears beautiful Blue, pink, or white flowers.

If you live in a warm climate, you can plant rosemary at any time. But if you live in climates with cold winters, you need to plant rosemary in the spring after the soil warms up and at least a couple of weeks after the last frost date.

If you’re cultivating rosemary as a perennial in warm climates, newly planted seedlings will reach mature size and begin flowering in their second season.

To grow rosemary you need sun, good drainage and good air circulation. When growing the herb in a frost-free area, rosemary can be planted in the ground year-round until it grows into a lush, bushy shrub.

Gardeners in cold-winter climates can grow rosemary in the ground as an annual. Alternatively, you can keep it in a container that you have to bring indoors ahead of the first frost.

  • Light – Rosemary requires six to eight hours of full sunlight each daily. For an indoor herb garden, rosemary must be placed in a south-facing window for bright light. Don’t let it get too hot.
  • Soil – Plant rosemary in sandy, well-draining soil. Make sure its roots don’t stay wet.
  • Water – Water rosemary when the soil is completely dry, but don’t over-water the shrub. Leaving the soil soggy for rosemary growing in containers may cause root rot.
  • Temperature and humidity – When planted outdoors, rosemary can tolerate high temperatures and humidity but most rosemary varieties are hardy only down to 30 F. If temperatures dip below 30 degrees, rosemary plants spend the winter indoors. Use terra cotta pots to keep rosemary plants dry. Check rosemary plants regularly so they don’t bake and completely dry out while left outdoors in summer.
  • Fertilizer – Fertilize rosemary with a fish/kelp emulsion in spring will help it get off to a good start for the season. Periodic foliar sprays with the emulsion will keep rosemary shrubs healthy.

Rosemary varieties

When growing rosemary for cooking, opt for “Miss Jessup,” “Spice Island,” or “Tuscan Blue” varieties. These large plants can grow up to four to six feet tall when grown in the ground and they have large leaves that are very fragrant and hold their flavor when cooked or dried.

For rosemary grown in pots, consider growing “Blue Boy” since it’s a small bush with proportionally small leaves that grow in clusters. Alternatively, “Golden Rain” stays compact and small with new foliage that has light yellow markings that darken to green.

Potting and repotting rosemary

When growing rosemary in containers, move pots back outdoors once the frost has passed. Like other potted plants, the soil in a rosemary pot will degenerate through watering and root growth.

Re-pot at least once a year. Note that spring is the best time to re-pot rosemary.

When the rosemary plant looks like it can’t get enough water, it may have outgrown its pot. Transplant it into a larger one.

To maintain the size of your rosemary plant, root prune it by slicing off a couple of inches of the roots from the bottom and sides of the root ball then replant it in the same pot. Trim some off the top at the same time to lessen the workload of the roots and the stress on the trimmed plant.

Harvesting rosemary

You can harvest rosemary at almost any time but it grows most actively through spring and summer. Rosemary leaves are most flavorful and aromatic just before the plant blooms.

Use a garden pruner to cut off four- to six-inch branch tips and strip the leaves from the stems. Avoid hard pruning because this will stress the plant. Limit pruning to more than one-third of the total length of the branches.

Common pests and diseases that affect rosemary

When growing rosemary indoors, you need to monitor the humidity level. High humidity and poor air circulation may cause powdery mildew on rosemary plants.

Powdery mildew is a white, powdery fungus that develops if the surrounding air is humid and there isn’t enough air movement.

Too little humidity will desiccate the leaves and kill your rosemary plant.

Powdery mildew won’t kill rosemary immediately but it will weaken the plant. To balance the humidity, mist the leaves regularly but let the soil dry a little between watering. You can also keep the plant in sunlight and run a fan for several hours daily to create a breeze.

Pests like aphids and spider mites can target rosemary during winter. Catch these pests immediately to prevent a total infestation. Spray rosemary repeatedly with organic insecticidal soap and follow package directions to protect your plant from aphids and spider mites.

Cooking with rosemary

Rosemary is often used to season lamb and pork dishes. Detailed below are some of the other uses of this versatile herb:

  • Add chopped rosemary to a frittata, an omelet, or scrambled eggs.
  • Add rosemary to olive oil and spread the mixture on toasted bread.
  • Give soups a flavor boost by adding sprigs of rosemary.
  • Add rosemary to melted butter and pour it over boiled potatoes and vegetables.
  • Make homemade stuffing using rosemary.
  • Mix rosemary with garlic to make a seasoning for lamb or chicken.
  • Wrap rosemary leaves around chicken, pork, or lamb before roasting.
  • Use rosemary to season roast fish.
  • Add rosemary to tomato-based sauces for pasta and soups.
  • Use rosemary to flavor breads and biscuits.
  • Add rosemary to lentils and stews.

Rosemary lemon chicken

This recipe pairs delicious and healthy chicken with rosemary and lemon.

Ingredients for 6 servings:

  • 4-6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skins on
  • 2 pounds of potatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound of carrots, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2-3 lemons zested and sliced thinly
  • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, with extra for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon zest (Use the lemons above and zest before slicing.)
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line an edged baking sheet with foil.
  2. Combine the garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Rinse the chicken thighs and pat them dry.
  4. Chop the potatoes and carrots in 1-inch chunks and put them in a large mixing bowl. Toss the ingredients with the 1/3 cup of olive oil and two to three tablespoons of the seasoning mix from step two. Evenly coat the potatoes and carrots .
  5. Sprinkle both sides of each chicken thigh with the remaining seasoning mix and arrange them on top of the carrots and potatoes. Tuck two to three slices of the lemon under the chicken.
  6. Drizzle the tops of the chicken pieces with olive oil.
  7. Place the tray in the oven and bake for one hour or until the potatoes and carrots are tender when pierced with a clean fork. Use a meat thermometer to check the chicken’s internal temperature. It should be at 165 F.

Grow rosemary in your home garden so you have access to a versatile herb and a beautiful ornamental bush.


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