Rosemary: Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Rosemary Plants | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Grow Rosemary Plants: The Complete Guide

Photo Credit
Botanical Name
Salvia rosmarinus (aka Rosmarinus officinalis)
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Bloom Time
Flower Color
Hardiness Zone

Sign up for our daily newsletter to get gardening tips and advice.

No content available.

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Rosemary Plants

Print Friendly and PDF

Rosemary is an attractive perennial shrub with fragrant leaves. It’s also a popular culinary herb with a wonderful aroma and piney taste, which goes well with meat, soups, and potatoes. Learn how to plant, grow, prune, and harvest rosemary correctly!

About Rosemary

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is a compact small to medium-sized woody shrub; there’s also a trailing variety. This shrubby herb is a type of sage and grows well with other Mediterranean herbs, such as lavender and thyme. It has lovely blue flowers as well, attracting pollinators!

Drought-tolerant, rosemary grows best in warm areas, similar to its native shores of the Mediterranean Sea. In these conditions, rosemary can grow into a shrub 5 to 10 feet in height. Rosemary grows so vigorously in ideal conditions that it needs yearly pruning to keep it bushy.

This herb can be grown in the ground or in a pot. If you live in Zones 7 and warmer, it grows easily as a perennial evergreen shrub that lives for many years. Rosemary is hardy down to 15 to 23°F (-10 to -5°C), so it may need winter protection. In colder areas, rosemary should be grown in a pot and brought indoors for the winter.

When growing rosemary as a culinary herb, it’s best to harvest in the spring and summer when it’s actively putting on new growth. Rosemary grows as a compact woody shrub. While all the leaves are technically edible, we usually only eat the tender leaves that form at the tips of new branches.


Plant in full sun in fast-draining soil; rosemary won’t tolerate being constantly wet. Ideally, the soil should be relatively fertile (mix in compost prior to planting to increase nutrient levels).

When to Plant Rosemary

  • Plant rosemary is in spring well after frosts are gone, once the soil is starting to warm up (around 70º or 21°C). In warmer climates, plant in spring or fall. 
  • Most gardeners start rosemary from young plants bought at a nursery. This plant does not germinate easily from seed and seedlings are slow to grow.
  • However, if you have access to an established rosemary plant, rosemary is very easily started from cuttings. 
  • If you wish to grow from seed indoors, just be aware it will take several years to grow the plant large enough to start harvesting. 
  • Start seeds or cuttings indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost. (See your local frost dates.) 

How to Plant Rosemary

  • Rosemary grows well in the ground or in containers. Remember that rosemary does not like wet roots, so if your soil is heavy or wet, plant in a pot or a raised bed. Also, rosemary does not transplant from ground to container well, so start in a pot if you plan to bring it inside (especially for colder climates).
  • Before planting in the ground, mix in several inches of organic matter such as compost, to create nutritious, fertile soil.
  • In a pot, use a container mix as rosemary needs a lighter-weight soil mix. 
  • Space starter plants 2 to 3 feet apart; rosemary does not like being crowded.
  • If starting seeds or cuttings indoors, keep the soil moist while seeds germinate and roots develop. Seeds can take a long time to germinate (2 to 3 weeks), so don’t give up right away! Plant outside once the plant is 4 inches tall.

Rosemary flowers

  • Keep the soil uniformly moist, allowing it to dry out between waterings. Be consistent; be careful not to overwater.
  • Rosemary shrubs growing in the ground do not need fertilizer, but a potted plant will run out of nutrition more quickly, so feed with an all-purpose balanced fertilizer after flowering.
  • Mulch the shrubs to keep plants insulated in winter, but keep mulch away from the crown of the plant to avoid rotting.
  • Prune annually before new growth begins in the spring and prune out dead wood. Don’t prune the rosemary too heavily. 
  • If you leave rosemary unpruned, it can get very woody, leggy, and straggly. After about five years, it’s best to replace.
  • Be sure to get cuttings or divide the plant for next season if it won’t survive winter in your area.
  • During the winter, bring potted rosemary plants inside. Learn how to overwinter rosemary indoors.


  • While rosemary is an evergreen which can be harvested at any time, it’s best to harvest young stems and leaves for the freshest taste. The plant puts on soft new tips in the spring and summer.
  • The leaves and stems get tougher and more woody as they age. The older tips are best for infusing things with flavor or scent, rather than eating.
  • Even the flowers are edible, with a slightly sweeter flavor! Add to salads or dishes as a garnish.
  • Snip off stems, while keeping an eye on maintaining an attractive shape to the plant. Don’t harvest more than a third of the rosemary at any one time.
  • To dry rosemary, hang it upside down in bunches to dry in a dark, warm place. Once stems are dry, strip the leaves from them and store in a sealed jar.
Gardening Products
Wit and Wisdom
  • In the garden, plant rosemary near beans, cabbage, carrots, and sage. Learn more about companion planting with herbs.
  • Rosemary tea is said to enhance one’s memory. Wear a sprig of rosemary in your hair to improve your memory.
  • In the language of flowers, rosemary symbolizes remembrance.
  • A sprig of lavender or rosemary under your ironing board cover will release its fragrance with the heat.

The Many Uses of Rosemary

Enjoy this video showing the rosemary plant—and its many uses as a helper in the garden, kitchen, and healing home!

  • Aerial blight
  • Bacterial leaf spots
  • Several types of root rot
Cooking Notes

Rosemary is wonderful with roast lamb, pork, chicken, pasta, stews, soups, vegetables (such as carrots), and sauces.

After drying, rosemary makes a lovely tea to aid digestion. You can also use it to infuse vinegar or olive oil or use it to flavor butter. 

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

2023 Gardening Club