Rosemary has been cultivated for centuries for its many uses. In ancient times it was thought rosemary enhanced the memory. Today it symbolizes remembrance. In the kitchen, the leaves are considered an essential herb for flavoring a variety of culinary dishes.
Rosemary has also been a historical component of the medicinal herb chest due to its antibacterial and other properties. It is also used in cosmetics, potpourris, and cleaning products. The sprigs of rosemary are great in floral arrangements, wreaths, and other crafts such as topiaries.
In the garden, rosemary is a fantastic, evergreen shrub for a hot, sunny spot. After a year of regular water, rosemary is extremely drought tolerant, and low-maintenance. Upright varieties grow between 4-7’ tall and wide and are ideal for an aromatic hedge. Typically rosemary has blue flowers that are quite showy and attract honey bees and butterflies. Most varieties bloom in the spring, but some such as ‘Prostrata’ bloom throughout the growing season. There are a few white and pink flowering varieties now available, as well as golden forms like ‘Golden Rain’.
Trailing rosemary is a great evergreen for spilling over walls, containers, and hanging baskets. ‘Irene’ and ‘Huntington Carpet’ are some of the lowest growing varieties.
Rosemary is reliably hardy in zones 8-10. Some varieties such as ‘Arp’ and ‘Hill Hardy’ are rated to zone 7. In areas below zone 7, grow rosemary in a container and pull into a well lit protected area for the winter. You can also grow rosemary indoors in an unobstructed south facing window or under a grow light. Repot your indoor rosemary once a year in spring.
There are countless varieties of rosemary and all can be used for cooking. Your sense of smell is the best tool for choosing the tastiest one for you. However, some preferred varieties include: ‘Tuscan Blue’-flavor with lemony notes and pine flavor, ‘Gorzia’-a bold rich flavor, ‘Spice Island’-a complex flavor with a hint of clove and nutmeg, and ‘Salem’- a mellower rosemary flavor. Below we have listed some of our favorite varieties we will carry this fall and winter.
‘Arp’- The most cold hardy, (-10°F) growing 4’ tall and wide. Light blue flowers in the spring. Its habit will be open in hotter areas and compact in cooler climates. The grey-green foliage scent has overtones of lemon.
‘Foresterii’- Very dark, tight foliage with a clear scent. Dark blue flowers. Grows 2-3’ tall and wide. Originated in Washington D.C.and is often selected for its good looks. Zones 8-10.
‘Red Flowered’- This variety has pink flowers with reddish markings. It is a compact variety with narrow foliage. Grows to 2’ tall and 1 ½’ wide.
‘Roman Beauty’- A stunning newer cultivar with contrasting silver undersides of the leaves. Semi-upright growing 12”-18” tall and wide. Great for containers. Zones 8-10.
‘Salem’- A semi-upright, mounding variety great for low hedges. Fast growing to 3-4’ tall and wide. Medium blue flowers in spring. Nice, soft flavor.
‘Shimmering Stars’-An extremely floriferous variety with pink buds opening to blue flowers. Grows 3’ tall and mounding to 3’ wide. Spicy flavor. Hardy to 0-5°F.
‘Tuscan Blue’- A delightfully large, columnar variety growing 4-6’ tall and 3’ wide. One of the darkest blue flowering varieties. Excellent flavor! Zones 8-10.
‘Huntington’s Carpet’- A fast spreading variety with light blue flowers. Grows 18” tall and 4-6’ wide (long) and keeps a dense center.
‘Irene’- Profuse large violet-blue flowers set this trailing variety apart from the others. Lighter foliage and a tight, low-mounding habit reaching 12” tall and 4’ wide(or long). Discovered in California, and is commonly used to drape over walls. Zones 8-11.
‘Prostratus’- The classic creeping rosemary which twines around large rocks and spills over baskets. Multiple bloom cycles make this a perfect container plant. Grows 10”-12” tall and 2-3’ wide. Zones 8-11.
Culture: Full sun in well-draining soil with poor to moderate fertility. Drought tolerant after a year of watering to establish plant. Most varieties grow in zones 8-10. Deer resistant!
Maintenance: Prune heavily after flowering to keep a full shrubby plant.
Propagation: Best by cuttings spring through summer and early fall.
Pests and Diseases: Root rot if planted too deep or in poorly draining soil. Prone to mildew if in too much shade or crowded. On rare occasions, aphids and caterpillars can be an issue.