Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)

Rosemary is a perennial, shrubby herb from the Mediterranean. It is widely used in cooking. The dark green narrow leaves are added to stocks, soups and stews as well as bread and savoury biscuits, while the stripped stems can be used as homemade skewers for barbecuing meat or vegetable shish kebabs.

It is also a symbol of remembrance, and a sprig is often worn on Anzac Day. Its blue, white or occasionally pink flowers are also appealing to pollinators.
It can be grown in the ground in well-drained soil or in containers such as a pot or trough. Rosemary grows year-round and new plants can easily be grown from a cutting. It can be grown as a single plant, allowed to cascade over a bank (select a prostrate variety), or as a low fragrant hedge. Flowers are seen mainly in spring and autumn.

There are many named varieties of rosemary in addition to the culinary species now classified as part of the Salvia genus as Salvia rosmarinus (syn. Rosmarinus officinalis). Plants are available at hardware and garden centres so check out local varieties to suit your garden. If you are unsure of the right variety, ask the horticultural staff who can help you out. Some to look for include:

  • ‘Mozart’ has deep blue flowers and at 90cm high is more compact than the species making it a good choice for containers or small spaces.
  • ‘Tuscan Blue’ is a tall grower with a spreading habit and blue flowers. It can reach 1.5m-2m.
  • Blue Lagoon’ is low and spreading with blue flowers. It can grow 60cm high and 40cm wide. Grow to cascade over an embankment or the edge of a container.
  • ‘Wendy’s White’ is upright with white flowers. Plants grow 1.2m high and 1m wide.
  • ‘Pink Remembrance’ is an upright grower to 1m with pink flowers.

Growing conditions

Aspect Rosemary needs a bright, sunny location with sun all day. Not only does sun encourage good growth, it also brings out this herb’s aromatic flavour.

Soil Rosemary does best with excellent drainage so mix in homemade compost and organic manure and/or Seasol Super Compost before planting. In areas with poor drainage, grow in raised garden beds (raised at least 30cm) or in large containers using a premium potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix. Rosemary prefers a slightly alkaline soil so add dolomite lime to the soil at planting.

Climate As rosemary grows naturally in the Mediterranean region it does best in climates with low humidity. In more humid zones it can be short lived. In tropical zones, grow Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary through the dry season or in containers that can be sheltered from excess rain.

This month in your garden - November 2019

General care

Watering Water while establishing. Once established rosemary is drought hardy. Water more frequently if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions or growing in containers.

Feeding and mulching They are not gross feeders so feed plants with a controlled release fertiliser such as PowerFeed Controlled Release All Purpose including Natives. They can also be liquid fed monthly with PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives while they are growing.

Rosemary like a warm, well-drained spot and also benefit from a mulch of fine gravel or eucalyptus mulch.

Pruning Picking for cooking regularly keeps plants controlled and compact. Lightly trim hedges to keep in shape.

Watch out Rosemary has few pest problems. Plants in highly humid locations or that are not well drained may die back.