Rosemary is a wonderfully fragrant and useful herb. It’s an evergreen perennial shrub, and a member of the mint (Labiatae) family. Its Latin name Rosmarinus officinalis means ‘dew of the sea’, as in the wild it grows within reach of the sea spray. It’s particularly suited to Mediterranean cooking, and great with meats (particularly lamb, so I’m told) stews, breads, aromatherapy and even tea.
Choosing a rosemary plant
First off, most rosemary plants are clones or ‘cultivars’, which means they’re grown from cuttings. See the post of how to take cuttings from rosemary as this is how you’re getting started. Personally, I’d recommend buying a plant from your local garden centre. They grow quite slowly, so buy the largest one you can afford. I would buy a shrubbery plant as these make fuller houseplants.
Check that there aren’t roots coming through the bottom of the pot when you buy it, as this means the plant has already outgrown the pot.
Run your hand across the needles. It they’re brittle and fall off, don’t buy it. A healthy plant will have supple, springy spines.
How to grow rosemary indoors
As it’s from the Mediterranean, it prefers a sunny position in your home. A sunny south facing windowsill would be perfect. Rosemary will grow well in a window box, but be aware that some types can grow quite high. Be careful in the winter, as rosemary will not tolerate a frost.
A rosemary plant in a pot can make a full, attractive houseplant, that can thrive for years with little care. However, you do have to remember two golden rules. Your plant needs:
2) A well drained soil.
If you’re growing it in a pot indoors, place it near the window to make sure it gets enough sunlight. Rotate the plant about one a week to make sure all sides get some sunlight – this will keep the leaves healthy.
Pot up your new plant with some all purpose plant fertiliser.
Check the new growth on your plant, and aim to harvest about half of the new growth every year. This should keep the plant healthy. You can dry rosemary by leaving it in a warm dark location (like an airing cupboard), or just use it fresh.
It’s easy to overwater rosemary. Check if your plant needs watering by sticking your finger in the soil to a depth of about one inch. If your finger comes out dry, your plant needs watering.
Rosemary plants don’t like to be disturbed or re-potted too often, so don’t re-pot rosemary plants until they are ‘root-bound’. This happens when the plant gets too large for the pot, and the roots are tightly wound in the bottom of the plant pot.
- Fertilise about three times during the summer, but not during the winter.
- Pinch the top of your rosemary plant after potting to encourage new leaves and a bushy growth.