Rosemary, or “rosmarinus officinalis” (dew of the sea) is a perennial herb which grows throughout the year. Its distinct flavor is good on many dishes, and is especially used in Mediterranean cooking. It thrives in dry, sunny climates with well-draining, sandy soil and needs watering only when the soil is about ready to dry out once it is established. Patience is required, as it takes around two years for rosemary bush to mature completely.
When planting rosemary, it saves a lot of time if you start with cuttings rather than seeds. The seeds have an extremely low germination rate, and while the plant will grow from a seed effectively… it is very time consuming. Plant the seeds in April if you are going that route and plan on being very patient.
If you choose to use cuttings, make sure that it is from a new growth and cut to around eight centimeters. Fill a pot with compost and place the cuttings on top, then place the pot in standing water. When the compost has drawn enough water to moisten itself, put a clear glass or plastic top over it for maximum warmth. After about two months, your rosemary plant should be ready for replanting to its permanent home.
Rosemary is extremely resilient, however you will still want to make sure that it is protected during the winter months, especially severe frosts. Planting it near protective trees or shrubs will help keep the bush safe from severe winter weather, as well as avoiding areas too close to frost exposure.
If you plan on bringing your rosemary plant indoors for the winter, one suggestion would be to keep it in the original, well-draining pot and plant it outdoors during the warmer weather. When the colder weather comes, uproot the pot from the garden and bring it indoors. Make sure it is in a room with southern light exposure and lots of good air circulation.
If you are transplanting from indoors to outdoors without a pot, make sure it is being planted in an area with a lot of sunlight and that there is a deep enough hole to give the roots plenty of room to grow. The soil itself should be damp and loose with compost mixed in for mulching. Plan the position you want your plant in and carefully move it into the soil, moving the roots a bit to encourage growth.
This particular plant responds very well to mulching… so keep compost on hand as well as chips of bark or small rocks and place the mulch at the base of the plant. This will keep the water from evaporating too quickly. A high nutrient liquid fertilizer (equal parts fertilizer and water) should be used sparingly if at all. Don’t worry about fertilizing them in the winter months, as this particular plant tends to be dormant throughout this time.
Pruning the rosemary bush once a year will keep the leaves from spreading too much. It is best done just after the first flowering of the year, or around the first month of summer. The trimmings can be spread about your garden as a deterrent for bugs.
Once your rosemary plant begins producing, you can start snipping the stems and leaves for use in cooking. Rosemary goes very well with lamb, chicken or pasta dishes, and can be used directly from the garden… just put the rosemary in stem and all and let the food simmer. Or you can crush the rosemary upon cutting thus immediately releasing its aroma and flavor. The leaves can also be dried and crushed to store for seasoning. However you cook with it… rosemary is a versatile herb that will add an extra kick to many dishes.
Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2010 HousePlantsForYou.com