The Secret to Keeping Rosemary Alive Indoors

The Secret to Keeping Rosemary Alive Indoors

Growing rosemary indoors can be tricky, especially if you live in an area with cold winters. But fear not! With the right tips and tricks, you can keep your potted rosemary alive and thriving inside your home. So let’s dive into the secrets of successfully growing rosemary indoors!

How Not to Kill Your Rosemary Plant

I’ll never forget the disappointment I felt when my first attempt at growing rosemary indoors ended in failure. I had brought the plant inside before winter, thinking it would be fine, only to watch it wither away within a month. It turns out, my “STUN treatment” (Sheer Total Utter Neglect), which worked for my other houseplants, was not suitable for rosemary.

Fortunately, I learned a valuable lesson from a wise farmer at the local farmers’ market. She handed out pamphlets titled “How NOT to Kill Your Rosemary Plant,” and it opened my eyes to the specific care requirements of this delicate herb.

If you live in USDA growing zones 7-10, where rosemary is a perennial landscape staple, you might find it odd that growing rosemary indoors can be a challenge. However, in areas like ours, where USDA hardiness zone 6b prevails, rosemary rarely survives freezing winters outdoors. So whether you want to bring your potted rosemary inside for the winter or have a year-round windowsill herb garden, the care tips remain the same.

Rosemary’s Native Climate

Understanding rosemary’s native climate is crucial in providing it with the right conditions when indoors. Rosemary is a Mediterranean-native plant that thrives in dry, well-drained soil and under hot, sunny temperatures. Unlike other plants that rely on soil moisture, rosemary has adapted to extracting moisture from the sea-sprayed air. By imitating this practice, you can give your herb plant a better chance to thrive.

Lavender and sage, as well as thyme and oregano to some extent, share similar characteristics with rosemary and can also benefit from these care suggestions.

Pick the Right Pot and Soil

Choosing the right pot and soil is essential for the health of your rosemary plant. Select a pot that matches the size of your plant, ensuring there is enough room for the roots to grow. The pot should have a drainage hole and a drainage pan. Use a well-drained potting soil, such as organic cactus soil mix mixed with worm castings to provide the necessary nutrients.

Create Proper Drainage

Rosemary is often referred to as an “upside-down plant” because it prefers dry roots and absorbs moisture through its foliage. To ensure proper drainage, place a layer of gravel or small rocks in the drainage pan, allowing the pot to sit on top of the rocks rather than in the pan. This prevents the potting soil from coming into contact with water in the drainage pan.

Let the Light Shine Through

Rosemary needs full sun, whether grown indoors or outdoors. When inside, make sure your plant is placed in a bright, sunny window to provide it with the necessary sunlight.

How to Water Rosemary

Finding the right balance of watering is crucial for the well-being of your rosemary plant. While rosemary doesn’t like wet feet, it still requires adequate hydration. Indoors, water the soil every two weeks (if dry), and make sure to keep water in the drainage pan with the rocks. As the water evaporates from the pan, the plant absorbs the moisture it needs.

Since indoor air is usually drier than outdoor air, mist the foliage with water once or twice a week using a spray bottle. This mimics the natural moisture absorption that rosemary is accustomed to. If your plant seems to be struggling, you can even cover the foliage with a plastic bag temporarily to increase moisture retention and ease the transition from outdoors to indoors.

Fertilizing Rosemary Indoors

Fertilize your rosemary plant in the spring, about a month before you plan to move it outside for the summer. Use a fish fertilizer diluted as directed in the regular watering schedule. Repeat this process 2-3 times before moving the plant outdoors.

Sizing Rosemary to the Pot

Each spring, assess the size of your rosemary plant and repot it in new soil if necessary. Rosemary will only grow as big as the pot it’s in, so if the above-ground plant reaches the same height as the pot, it’s time to either move it to a larger pot or prune the roots. Pruning the roots helps prevent overcrowding, which can lead to poor nutrient and water absorption, ultimately causing the plant to wither.

Refresh the Soil Annually

After each season, your rosemary plant will have extracted all the available nutrients from the soil. In the spring, repot the rosemary with fresh potting soil and take the opportunity to check and prune the roots if needed.

Root Pruning Container-Grown Rosemary

If your rosemary has outgrown its pot, root pruning can help maintain its size and growth in the same container. Gently remove the plant from the pot and check if the roots are tightly wound around the perimeter. If they are, it’s a sign that it’s time to prune the roots. Use sharp garden scissors to trim about 2 inches of root matter from the bottom and sides before repotting the plant with fresh soil. Keep the pruned plant in the shade for a few days to allow it to acclimate to the changes.

Growing rosemary indoors may seem like a challenging task, but once you understand its needs and follow these tips, it becomes a straightforward and rewarding experience. Plus, the taste of fresh rosemary in your dishes, even in the middle of winter, is unmatched!

Tips Tree Planting is your go-to resource for all things gardening, including tips on growing and caring for herbs like rosemary. Check out our website for more helpful information and advice!

Cover image source: Tenth Acre Farm
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Book image source: Tenth Acre Farm
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