Pick leaves as required
Rosemary is a versatile herb, providing evergreen interest all year round, fragrant leaves for use in cooking, and nectar-rich flowers for bees in spring. Grow rosemary along a path, so every time you brush past, the leaves release their aromatic oils.
Hailing from the Mediterranean, rosemary thrives in a sunny, sheltered spot in well-drained soil. It can struggle in heavy clay soils, particularly in winter, when the ground tends to be wetter. You can grow rosemary in pots, but bear in mind this perennial herb can grow quite big, and will need potting on in fresh compost every couple of years.
How to grow rosemary at home
Grow rosemary in well-drained soil in full sun. Young plants can suffer if their roots are sitting in wet soil in winter, so it’s a good idea to grow rosemary in a container for a couple of years before planting into the garden. Cut back annually to prevent the plant from becoming woody, and mulch in autumn with leaf mould, well-rotted compost or manure.
More on growing rosemary:
How to plant rosemary
Plant rosemary 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. Alternatively, grow rosemary in a pot.
Watch Monty Don plant rosemary and other herbs in a herb garden:
Caring for rosemary plants
Rosemary requires little maintenance during the year except cutting back after flowering to prevent plants becoming straggly and woody. Save the trimmings to propagate new plants or dry them for cooking.
Rosemary does well in containers in a soil-based, peat-free compost. Add crocks to the bottom of pots to aid drainage. Keep rosemary plants well watered during dry spells and feed with a general fertiliser during the growing season. In cold winters, bring plants under cover for protection.
Watch as Monty Don demonstrates how to propagate rosemary from softwood cuttings:
Harvest rosemary by gently pulling small sprigs away from the main stem. You can also use secateurs to remove large branches of rosemary, for roasting.
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 of rosemary
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. Unless you’re using rosemary leaves to flavour gravy or perk up a roast, strip the leaves off the inedible woody stems.
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.
Growing rosemary: problem-solving
A native of southern Europe, the rosemary beetle was once thought to be a severe threat to rosemary, but usually doesn’t cause too much damage. These small metallic-green and purple-striped beetles can be found on the underside of leaves during early autumn to spring.
If left to grow leggy, rosemary can become unproductive and unsightly. Watch Monty Don replace his leggy rosemary plants in this video clip from Gardeners’ World:
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 grow
- ‘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
- ‘Severn Sea’ – highly aromatic with medium-blue flowers
- ‘Sudbury Blue’ – highly scented foliage and blue flowers