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ROSMARINUS officinalis

Image of Rosmarinus officinalis

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Lamiaceae

Botanical Name

ROSMARINUS officinalis

Plant Common Name

Rosemary

General Description

An old European herb most commonly associated with Mediterranean cooking, rosemary is one of the great culinary plants for the garden. It also doubles as an ornamental with its needle-like foliage, ridged stems, and pale lavender flowers that appear in late winter or spring. Technically a medium-sized woody shrub, it's native to the chaparral lands of southern Europe and North Africa where growing conditions are somewhat arid and the ground porous and well-drained. It’s also adapted to the seaside where it withstands high wind and salt spray.

Throughout the year dark to gray green needle-like leaves densely line the woody stems of rosemary. Plants grown in moister climates have flatter broader greener leaves, and those grown in more arid climates have grayer, more slender leaves that curl under giving them a needle-like appearance. They are potently fragrant from afar offering a piney, minty scent. In mid-spring to early summer, small but appealing edible two-lipped flowers of lavender blue or white appear. These attract bees and small inconspicuous nutlet fruits follow.

Rosemary will prosper in locations with full sun and sharply drained average to poor soil. Established plants are quite drought tolerant, but newly planted specimens require average water until they set roots. Rosemary leaves and stems can be harvested any time of year. Refrain from hard pruning in spring until new growth appears. The leaves are traditionally used to flavor vegetables, pasta sauces and meat, particularly pork, lamb and chicken.

There are many cultivars of this versatile drought tolerant plant, including the tall 'Tuscan Blue', which has broader, lighter green leaves, and the creeping, less hardy ‘Prostratus.’ This is an ideal shrub for containers or seaside locations where growing conditions are challenging for many other herbs and garden plants. In warmer climes rosemary can be grown and sheared as a fragrant hedge or topiary. Plants may develop root and stem rot if grown in poorly drained soil or areas with consistently humid summers.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 6

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    7 - 11

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Herb

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    1'-5' / 0.3m - 1.5m

  • Width

    1'-5' / 0.3m - 1.5m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Spring, Late Winter

  • Native To

    Southern Europe, Mediterranean

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Blue, Lavender

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Exfoliating

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Hedges, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes