A sun-loving shrub whose scent evokes the Mediterranean, rosemary has needle-like leaves that can be picked all year round. Fresh or dried leaves can be used to flavour meat, soups and many other dishes, while sprigs steeped in olive oil give it a distinctive flavour. Tea made by infusing chopped leaves in boiling water is said to help digestion.
Jobs to do now
- Protect plants in pots and young plants in the ground
Month by month
Rosemary is best started in the spring from ready-grown plants. Plant in a sunny, sheltered position in well-drained soil – plants hate wet roots in winter. Alternatively grow in 30-60cm containers filled with soil-based or multi-purpose compost.
Plants are fairly drought-tolerant, but water regularly during dry summers, especially if plants are grown in containers. Feed plants in containers with a balanced fertiliser after they have finished flowering.
It can be a good idea to give your plants some protection in hard winters and in particularly cold areas. Protect container-grown plants by raising onto pot feet. Apply a thick mulch around plants in the ground and cover the branches with sheets of horticultural fleece.
To keep plants compact, cut back stems after the blooms start to fade or plants will become leggy.
Late frosts can damage growth, leading to it dying or being distorted.
Remove any damaged growth and protect the bed with a double layer of horticultural fleece if frost is forecast.
Small yellow hemispherical scales appear on the leaf underside and along the midrib. They suck sap and secrete honeydew which encourages sooty mould.
Use biological controls in the greenhouse.
Both the small oval beetle with metallic green and purple stripes, and its greyish white larvae are a problem. The pest can be found in great numbers on plants, where it will quickly strip stems of leaves.
Check plants regularly and pick beetles off by hand.
Rosemary is evergreen, so can be harvested all year round, but the soft new growth in summer has the best flavour. Snip off shoots as required, aiming to keep an attractive shape to the plant.
The leaves can be used fresh or dried for later use.
To dry rosemary, hang up sprigs in a warm, dark, well-ventilated place. When fully dried, strip off the leaves and store in an air-tight jar.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.