Growing rosemary indoors is a little tricky. If you experience cold winters, follow these tips to keep your potted rosemary alive inside.
This page may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
How Not to Kill Your Rosemary Plant
I’ll never forget the disappointment I experienced my first year of growing rosemary. I brought my beautiful potted rosemary inside before winter set in, only to have it die within a month. Like my other houseplants, I had given it what Mark Shepard of Restoration Agriculture calls the STUN treatment—Sheer Total Utter Neglect.
The plant had enjoyed this type of treatment outside, so I figured it would be the same for the indoor experience. I was apparently mistaken!
The following spring I headed to the farmers’ market to replace the unlucky herb plant. I’ll never forget what I learned from the very wise farmer. She gave everyone a pamphlet with their purchase: “How NOT to Kill Your Rosemary Plant”.
The fact that she even had a pamphlet like this made me feel a little better about my murder of that previous year’s plant! I wish I could track down that pamphlet today, but at least the information is still alive in my brain.
If you live in USDA growing zones 7-10, where the ever-flowering rosemary shrub is used as an anchor in the perennial landscape, you probably think I’m a little cooky. In our neck of the woods, however, USDA hardiness zone 6, rosemary rarely survives the freezing winters outdoors.
Best to keep it in a pot and move it inside for the winter. Still, others may keep rosemary inside as part of a year-round, windowsill herb garden. The care will be the same.
Want to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs in your front yard landscape without sacrificing curb appeal? Check out my mini guide, The Permaculture Inspired Edible Landscape.
Rosemary’s Native Climate
Knowing about this herb’s history can inform us of how to deal with it once we have it inside. Rosemary is a native Mediterranean plant, hailing from a region of dry, well-drained soil and hot, sunny temps.
Rather than getting its moisture from the soil, rosemary is accustomed to grabbing moisture out of the sea-sprayed air. If we can imitate this practice, our herb plant will have a better chance to thrive.
Incidentally, other Mediterranean herbs have similar characteristics and will do well using the following suggestions: lavender and sage specifically; thyme and oregano are a bit more adaptable but will thrive with these conditions.
Pick The Right Pot and Soil
Pick a pot that matches the size of your plant. For example, if the above-ground growth is around 8-inches tall, your pot should be at least 8-inches deep. The width should allow at least one inch of space between the roots and the side of the pot.
You can increase the size of the pot as it grows over the years. If you want to keep the plant a certain size, root pruning will help you keep it happy in the same size pot, year after year (read below).
Make sure the pot has a drainage hole and a drainage pan, and use a well-drained potting soil. I like to mix organic cactus soil mix with worm castings. (Hint: Make your own worm castings!)
Create Proper Drainage
Rosemary is called an “upside-down plant” because it likes dry roots and prefers to absorb moisture from the air through its foliage.
In addition to growing your plant in a pot with a drainage hole, you need to take an extra step: Add a layer of gravel or small rocks to the drainage pan, so that the pot actually sits on top of the rocks, rather than in the pan.
You don’t want the potting soil to have contact with water in the drainage pan.
Let the Light Shine Through
Rosemary needs full sun, whether inside or out. When inside, our plant sits in a bright, sunny window.
How to Water Rosemary
Outside, I water my plant about twice a week, which is pretty standard for outdoor container plants.
How you water this herb inside is crucial, however.
It seems like too much water is a bad thing because it doesn’t like wet feet, right? True, but not enough water for this picky plant can also spell doom.
Indoors, water the soil every two weeks (if the soil is dry), but always keep water in the drainage pan with the rocks in it. Because the plant likes to absorb moisture from the air, it will enjoy the water as it evaporates from the pan.
Indoor air is usually drier than outdoor air. For that reason, and because rosemary is an “upside-down plant”—liking dry roots but moist foliage—fill a spray bottle with water and mist the foliage once or twice a week.
If your plant seems to be struggling, you can actually cover the foliage with a plastic bag for a time to hold in more moisture and to reduce the shock of the transition from outdoors to indoors.
Fertilizing Rosemary Indoors
Fertilize your rosemary plant in the spring. Start one month before you plan to move your rosemary plant outside for the summer. For me, that means around April Fool’s Day. I use a fish fertilizer diluted as directed in the regular watering schedule.
I fertilize the rosemary about 2-3 times before moving it outside mid-to-late May.
Sizing Rosemary to the Pot
Each spring, evaluate your rosemary’s size, repot it in new soil, and prune the roots as needed.
Rosemary will only get as big as the pot it’s sitting in. Once the above-ground plant looks to be about the same height as the pot, it’s either time to move it to a bigger pot or prune the roots so that they aren’t too crowded.
If roots are left to grow, they will eventually take over the entire pot—becoming root bound. This prevents rosemary from absorbing enough nutrients and water. The foliage will look more lackluster over time and the plant eventually die.
Are you looking for strategies for your herb garden?
You’ll find loads of information in my award-winning book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.
Refresh the Soil Annually
After each season, your plant will have extracted all of the nutrients available in the potted soil mix, so in the spring you’ll want to repot rosemary with new potting soil. This is a good time to check the roots and root prune if necessary.
Root Pruning Container-Grown Rosemary
If your rosemary has outgrown its pot, you can prune the roots to keep your plant growing in the same pot. Gently wiggle the whole plant out of the pot (roots and all). Are the roots running tightly around the perimeter?
If so, it has outgrown the pot. Using sharp garden scissors, cut about 2 inches of root matter off the bottom and sides before repotting it with new soil. Keep the plant in the shade for a couple of days while it acclimates to the changes.
It may seem like a lot of work to keep a potted rosemary plant happy indoors, but it’s an easy procedure once you get the hang of it. Plus, the taste of fresh rosemary roasted potatoes in the middle of winter can’t be beat.
Have you kept your rosemary plant alive indoors?
Hm. I had an indoor plant near death that I just plunked into the ground this summer. It’s coming back around, as is the lavender that was also near death. In zone 7, dare I just leave it there? Can I cover it with Reemay or a cloche or something to nurse it through the winter?
Dare if you must! Rosemary can be hardy to around 20 degrees Fahrenheit if mulched, covered, and protected from the wind. If you leave it outside, I would mulch it deeply and then cover it with the Reemay, though Reemay usually only gives it about 10 more degrees of protection.
It won’t look very pretty when you uncover it in the spring, but hopefully at least it will be alive!
Lavender is a bit more hardy, but still a similar Mediterranean plant. I would treat it the same as the rosemary.
In our hard winter last year I lost my lavender and thyme plants.
Good luck 😉
Rosemary will generally live outside in Georgia zone 7. It should be planted in a micro climate, beside a building. Cuttings can be taken in fall, put in the soil and let it be, new growth will start in spring. I really love rosemary chicken made on the grill in summer. After you have finished grilling cut a few sprigs of rosemary and place on hot coals, this help repel mosquitoes.
Great idea to use rosemary on hot coals to repel mosquitoes!
Donna Samuels says
I am in Zone 6B-7A [Middle Tennessee area] … most years my rosemary does nicely outdoors…. I do have it in the sunshine plus alongside the house so that might help.
It sounds like you have yours growing in a little microclimate where it can grow year-round. That’s wonderful!
I live in zone 7. Once established, my lavender and rosemary are perennial. I do have them somewhat protected from the north by part of my house. Hope this helps!
Thanks for the saving Rosemary lesson. Just by luck I didn’t overwater mine indoors and also seem to have it in the right sized pot. It’s done well this winter and now I’m confident I can grow it year round.
In northwest Arkansas (formerly zone 6b, now zone 7) certain varieties of rosemary generally overwinter outside with no extra protection at all. ‘Arp’ is the most common variety here for growing outside but there is also ‘Hill Hardy.’ I generally plant several small plants in different parts of the yard, as one microclimate might mean survival while another doesn’t. The absolute low temperature (at least to a point) doesn’t seem to be the issue: I had three large plants, each 2-3 feet in diameter and at least seven years old, survive overnight lows below zero F. I lost all three of them last year, however, when we had an extended stretch of days that did not get above freezing day or night, which is unusual here. Lavender survived it fine, thyme was hard hit but some survived and rebounded. I had pruned a literal wheelbarrow-full of rosemary last summer, so had plenty dried, but wish I’d taken cuttings and overwintered some back-ups inside as I had to buy new starts this spring.
Thanks to both of you for the advice. I think I’ll leave both the lavender and rosemary in the ground, maybe covering it with Reemay once it gets really cold. They really are doing so much better than they were on my windowsill, and they’re in a fairly protected place.
Good luck with your lavenders and rosemary!
That’s a good idea to have multiple plantings around the yard in different microclimates – seems like you gave yourself the best chance to have some plants survive! We never know what’s going to happen when we roll the dice against the winter weather. Last year was my first winter with a lot of cold-killed plants.
Lisa M says
Oh no! I think I over watered mine a few years back when I tried to keep one indoors. I watered every 3-4 days. Now I know. Thanks for the info!
Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday last week! I hope you’ll stop by and link up again this week!
Ann @ LiveTheOldWay says
This is GREAT!!
This is great information. I just had to leave a comment to thank you. I live in Zone 5 and try to keep my rosemary alive indoors every year. I think I may just give it another try.
I hope it works for you 🙂
I’m also in Zone 5. I’d welcome any tips you might have if you ever return to this site.
Thanks so much for this post. We live in Colorado, so I knew we would have to have our plant indoors in the winter and it has not been doing very well. Great info to have. My husband’s grandparents lived on the coast in California and her rosemary plant was not really a plant it was more of a hedge. It was huge! Loved going to visit and get as much rosemary as I wanted. Thanks again.
I’m glad I’m not the only one to have marveled at the size of the rosemary in its natural habitat 🙂 Good luck with your indoor rosemary!
I am in zone 4 and have kept my rosemary alive for years. It lives on a partially shaded patio all summer and comes inside in winter. I have had good success since putting it in a self-watering pot, which keeps the soil a little moist but not wet. Because once they dry out they are done. Not forgiving. Then I top water when the top of the dirt gets dry. But not too much.
Thanks for the info on root pruning. I think mine are ready for that.
I also winter cuttings in water until they root and then in pots. Those go into the garden in spring and then they grow all summer (I sell culinary herbs at a,small farmers market) and I just let the big potted plants rest on the patio. We cut from the big ones for our own use all winter. I do not bother to dry any.
It sounds like you’ve found a great system. I have been meaning to root some cuttings to multiply my rosemary plant…a good project for the winter 🙂
Hi! Thank you so much for all of this great information! I’m from CT, and am preparing to bring my beautiful rosemary plant inside, but I have a few questions that I hope you can answer. I have tried to winter several rosemary plats over in the past, and got really lucky one year. The rest have all done great until February, then died from the inside out. Now, thanks to your post, I know a little more that should help me keep it happy! I was just wondering about a couple of things.
First: It’s time to re-pot my rosemary plant, and I’d like to put it in a pot that will give it ample space all winter. How much extra space should I give it beyond its current size to allow for root growth so it won’t become pot-bound over the winter (I don’t have an indoor space to re-pot or root prune)? I am also curious if the height I should measure to is the absolute highest shoot? The main plant is probably around 10″, but there are a couple of off-shoots that are 18″ from the ground to the tip (for today. I’ll be cooking with those ones soon!). Should I measure the main growth, or those off-shoots? It is currently in an 8″ deep (approx) terra cotta pot that is on the ground (I actually set the pot down into the garden soil by a couple of inches when I repotted it from its greenhouse pot this past spring, so my estimate of its height could be off), probably with roots peeking out of the drainage hole.
Second: A couple of my failed attempts to winter rosemary indoors were foiled by powdery mildew. Any tips on prevention? I’d like to be able to use the plant as an herb all winter, and most of the information I’ve found on powdery mildew recommends using fungicides that would essentially make it so the plant can’t be used as an herb any longer.
Side note: The plant will be wintering over in my bedroom, which is the only room in the house that gets a fair amount of sun without being completely dried out by our pellet stove. The temperature is usually around 62-65°F, and I run a warm-mist humidifier for a couple of hours a day, sometimes overnight, to keep the humidity level comfortable. I do have a few other plants, including cuttings from my mint crop, on the desk with the rosemary plant, but the rosemary’s pot is the tallest of all of them.
Thank you again! I am looking forward to keeping this rosemary thriving all winter!
Great questions. As far as re-potting goes, if you want your plant to be able to continue to grow indefinitely, then I would look for a pot that is at least 1- to 2-inches wider and deeper than the current pot. You can increase the pot each year as needed. Or, when it’s reached a size limit that you’re comfortable with, then you can go the root-pruning route to keep it at that size. Personally, I kept mine to a size where I can comfortably lift the pot to move it indoors and out. Also, it will grow less during the winter than during spring and summer.
Powdery mildew is tough to get rid of once it’s been spread in a particular area, such as indoor/houseplants. And most solutions–as you mentioned–make it so the plant isn’t edible. One solution you could try is a comfrey spray, which is known to fight powdery mildew. If it were my own rosemary, I would still consider the rosemary edible if the fungus had cleared up. To make a comfrey spray, boil 16 oz of water and pour it over .5 oz of dried comfrey. Let it cool for 5 minutes, then cover and steep for 15-60 minutes. Add to spray bottle and dilute with water. Maybe spray every couple of days for a couple of weeks and see if it helps. At the very least, it will be an excellent fertilizer!
Good luck, and have a great rosemary winter!
Anne Van Dijk says
thanks for this post. I will give this a try . (Killed a few already, but such a wonderful smell.) . It is still outside today and had 1 degree of frost a week ago, no damage. Will cuttings still work? Zone 3A here . I heard someone in town overwintered it outside, but that will not work out here on the prairie of course. .
Cuttings should still work inside. Let me know if you try it 🙂
bev baggett says
I have also heard that when having rosemary inside to put a fan on it just slightly. I have been doing that htis year and it is actually growing indoors. I live in upper Michigan so it has to come in. I have always killed it off but this year so far it is doing well. i do not water as often and it is in the best window and in the woodstove room, so it stays pretty warm and dry.
Angela @ mamarosemary.com says
This is wonderful!! Thank you for sharing. Will use these great tips to (hopefully, fingers crossed) keep my rosemary tree alive this year!
I hope it works for you! I’m such a nerd that I actually write it on my calendar so I don’t forget 🙂
I have a rosemary bush that I put outside in summer and bring in for the winter, probably 8 years now. I do let it dry out, it’s very dry inside so I do water it once a week, every day I make sure there is water under it ( it sits on a bed of rocks and mist it every day (like I mist my gardenia) It has done great!
It sounds like you have a great system 🙂
Laurel Bohler says
enjoyed the Rosemary article — would like to receive your weekly newsletter
I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and I hope you will sign up to receive the newsletter!
david cook says
Just love all the Article , the more you read the more you will lean can’t wait till I get the next E Mail. Thank You David Cook.
Thanks so much for following along. There are lots of good things to look forward to in upcoming newsletters 🙂
Cara Dailey says
I have always gardened on the wet, mild west side of Oregon. Then four years ago we moved to the dry, variable east side. I have yet to keep any of my herbs, except sage, alive over here. I have tried the potting-and-inside and the potting-and-leaving-in-the-garden-shed and the leaving-in-the-ground-and-praying, but so far I’ve had to start over each year. Next year, I’ll try your method 🙂
No two gardening situations are the same, are they? Just when you think you have it all figured out, try moving, LOL. We just moved to a new homestead this month, so I expect to learn many things all over again 🙂 I hope this method works for you…please check back next year and let us know!
I’ve been doing something similar this winter and have seen good results so far. Thanks for these tips!
I’m glad to know you’re having success with a similar method — that’s great to know. Thanks for the feedback 🙂
I just need to say: THANK YOU!! for this post!
I have struggled for a few years with my rosemary plants, everything I’ve tried has failed. And in reading your post I finally know where I’ve messed up. The pot is always in the drainage dish surrounded by rock, not *above* the rock.
Now I have hope for this year. Thank you!
Awesome! Let me know how it works for you 🙂
Oh, yeah – so that’s why I killed mine. Thank you!
Every year I would get a pretty rosemary ‘christmas tree’ and it would die every time. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I gave up. I think I may try it again, thanks to this post.
Good luck, I hope it works 🙂
Susan Ramssay says
Hi Lisa, I did the same thing you did. I live in dry Colorado and with the heat running, I figured plants need extra water. Who knew?? next year I’ll do the pebble tray and put the plant in my sunny East facing kitchen window.
I have a condo so there are no windows facing north or south.
Susan Ramssay says
Does the USDA or whoever, make a new zone chart each year? With global warming our summers have become really hot, and the winters a little milder. I live in Denver. kind of on the edge of 5 or 6 I think.
They released a new chart in 2012 to more accurately depict climate. But things are always changing 🙂
Mike Loeven says
I have been using a grow light for my rosemary plant since i dont have any direct sun in my apartment. does anyone know what the optimal on/off cycle should be in order to maximize productivity of the plant ?
I would stick to 12-15 hours of light per day. I like to make it as natural as possible, and turn lights on at 6:00am and off at 9:00pm, using a timer. If you’d like to reduce energy use, you could experiment to see what you can get away with and still have a healthy plant. I think rosemary would be pretty forgiving.
Frank Mosher says
Good article and good reply. I’m up in Nova Scotia, Canada, and I have tons of plants growing indoors under lights in the Winter. i.e. 5 bougainvillaeas, 20 Desert Rose (google this plant some time), herbs, and seeds “hatching” on heating pads. Converted all my fluorescent fixtures to the new 32W bulbs, everything on timers. As I am such a gardening nut, I can almost garden year round. PS. Have to watch out for Spider Mites on Rosemary. Cheers
Cam Jolly says
I had a grow light on my rosemary all winter for 11-12 hours a day. Rosemary winters in the bathroom (window is northern exposure), so it gets the shower moisture every morning plus a misting afterwards from a spray bottle. She was glad to get outside in April, I could tell she was getting tired of the fabricated environment!
She has limited patience, I guess…kind of mirrors my own excitement to see spring, LOL!
I have had the same Rosemary plant for about 3 years. It is in a pot and I bring it in, in the winter. I always repot it every summer and leave it outside. My Rosemary is not a bright shade of green, it is a dull shade, it is not dead and in the winter I water it lightly, keeping it moist in a sunny window. How do I get it to turn a bright green? Thanks!
That dull, gray-green color is a natural part of the aging process. The bright green foliage is for new growth. You’ll have to either harvest more often, or prune it back each year (spring and fall are the best times) by cutting about 5 inches off of each stem. Avoid the woody parts if you can, as they may not regrow.
If yours has grown mature and is too woody to cut back, you may have to start with a new plant and cut it back frequently to keep the growth tender and bright green. (I’m at a cross-roads with mine at the moment, too.) 🙂
I’m new to gardening, but am thoroughly in love with the idea of having my own kitchen herb garden. My predicament, however, is that I live in the Middle East, and I’m desperate to find a way to grow my herbs, to give them the light they crave, without subjecting them to the extreme temps outdoors. The home building styles here, along with glazing on the windows, are all to promote shade and keep the indoors cool. Any thoughts or ideas?
Most culinary herbs will need at least 4-6 hours of sun. If your building style doesn’t accommodate for that, your best bet will be to use a grow light. Good luck 🙂
I killed one too. Haven’t got another one yet. I kept it in a south facing window inside the whole time in my apt.
This is so valuable. I killed on last winter so when I was given one today that has been in a pot outside I found this site looking for instructions. In Vermont they can’t live outside. Root pruning tomorrow! Pebbles in a dish.. Shade for a few days.
I also live in Vermont and have lost count of how many I have murdered. This is very helpful, mine have dried out. So will purchase another 2 as I murdered someone’s rosemary that I was supposed to be taking care of for the 3rd time. Hoping for success.
I have 2 huge rosemary plants,( 3’x2′) that are at least 6 years old. I live in upstate New York on Lake Ontario. I bring them indoors every fall and keep them in a 3 season room until late spring. This year they were very rootbound and I transplanted them to larger pots,and trimmed the roots. They don’t look very happy,more and more shriveled every day. Do you think I am overwatering them?
It’s hard to say without seeing your plants, but here are a couple of guesses:
1) Typically we see that healthy plants have roots systems roughly the same size as their above ground parts. It could be that the root system of your plants is not big enough to support the size of the above ground growth. So this would mean you’d need an even bigger pot, or you’d need to prune the above ground part to match the size of the root system.
2) Hopefully you’re following my watering suggestion in this post to have rocks in your drainage pan so that the soil doesn’t get waterlogged, and that you’re regularly spraying the foliage with water to protect against the dry indoor air.
When you water, does it take a long time for the soil to dry out and the excess water to get absorbed? If so, you might be overwatering. If you water the plant and there is never any excess that comes out the bottom, then it might not be getting enough water.
This takes a bit of detective work, doesn’t it? 😉 Good luck!
Ronald Kulas says
I live in northern Minnesota, and I have transplanted Rosemary into a pot for the past 6 winters. Though I never completely killed one, the first 5 winters were experiments with near-death. Usually around February, my Rosemary would be severely stressed. I tried everything from using a very large pot, to watering less, to using enriched soil, to 18 hours of light; however, usually by January (after more than 2 months in a pot) my Rosemary would start to lose its fragrance, start to look less full, and then slowly – then faster – shed needles, etc. etc. This winter, however, has been a smashing success; and it think it is because I definitely did something different. I did the normal things I believed in: Large pot, enriched – not too heavy – potting soil, lots of artificial light (about 16 hours), lightly sprayed the plant each morning, watered it with distilled water every four days, and……planted the Rosemary as shallow as humanly possible without it toppling over – I almost could see the roots. The Rosemary has thrived like no other, and, man, is it fragrant (it is now mid-March). This plant is not only going to make it till spring, but it is going to look great when I put it back in the garden. I am certain that planting the Rosemary as shallow as possible was key.
JOY Toronto says
I live in Toronto, Ontario. I had routinely killed (murdered, to be exact) a couple of rosemary plants each winter when I brought them indoors. It is the darn powdery mildew – in spite of turning on a fan for hours and hours and doing all the things recommended like reduce watering, etc. This past winter I brought the replacement plants indoors again. They sit in a south-facing window sill. I trimmed off most of their branches and in desperation put a clear plastic bag over them (right down to the dirt level) and watered as usual. They seem to grow quite well because the plastic bag is full of leaves! It is early spring now in Toronto and in a couple of weeks, they are going outside. Yeah! They survived!
joan phillips in montana says
I mix sharp sand in the soil when potting up . I shear it back by about half in the fall before bringing the pot in. I dont do pebbles or extra misting – just water when the pot feels light. i water slow and thorough usually with the giant pot in the sink or tub – let it sit for an hour then pop it back onto its saucer for another week. The trick i have learned is to watch for mites around winter solstice. I put a small amount of dish soap on my hands like lotion and a tiny bit of water and massage that onto the rosemary stems – let sit for a half hour or so then slowly and thoroughly rinse off. May have to do that 3 times in a winter up here in montana. i cover the soil with tin foil and tilt the plant when rinsing so the salts do not go into the soil. This would be especially true for any Christmas rosemary plants. I would give them a soap massage ASAP because they bring in mites from the commercial grow houses. The chemical sprays mask the problem until the microscopic mite eggs start hatching.
Jill in upstate New York says
Which of these two locations do you think would be more suitable for rosemary? Upstate NY, zone 5a-5b.
1. On a shelf next to a south-facing window in a bathroom. There’s a radiator on the wall under the window.
2. In a cooler bedroom under grow lights. My plant stand is against an interior wall that has no radiator on it. I could easily set up a fan in this room.
I would lean toward #1.
Cindy @ Holistic Health Traditions says
I’ve killed two indoor rosemary plants in the last couple years and had no idea what I was doing wrong. Thank you so much for this info on keeping them alive! I’m going to give it another shot.
Norma Sutton says
Thank you so much for this post. I live in zone 7 and have killed 3 rosmary plants. I now realize it probably needs sandy soil, not our red clay. Maybe the next plant will make it if I amend the soil with some sand.
Although rosemary grown in a pot will enjoy the light, sandy soil, it is not recommended to mix sand into clay soil. The result is akin to concrete! Instead, just be sure to plant it in well drained soil that has been loosened and amended with compost or worm castings. Raised beds work well because the soil can be amended and it drains well.
Constance Barr says
Yesterday, after reading this article: http://www.askaprepper.com/scientists-find-smelling-rosemary-can-increase-memory-by-75/ …that’s 75% !! So, I ran right out and bought one that is in a plastic pot that’s 9″ tall and the plant is 13″ from the soil to the tallest sprig.
I live in Florida in the lowest part of central FL and the highest part of southern FL; don’t know what zone that would be, but the summers are usually hot and humid, and winters usually drier and cooler. So, it would be ok indoors as the A/C dries the indoors and I keep the temperature at 78 degrees summer and winter. After reading your article, I think it would be ok, as I made a grow light when I was propagating seedlings. Right now, it’s sitting in my kitchen but I’ll use rocks to set it on. Unfortunately, I get no sun on the south side of my house due to a covered patio and only limited sun on the east side and none on the north and west sides. So I think just following your advise, it should be ok, indoors, right ??
I’m not sure the rosemary will thrive for very long without sunlight, but the grow light might work. You might also try growing it outdoors. Find an area that does not stay soggy after a rain and it will likely grow year-round for you there.
Karen prescher says
The thing that has kept my plant alive, because we burn wood is i put a plastic bag over the plant at night. When i remove the bag the plant looks viberent and happy..the lighter the plastic the better..
Plastic bags are great for keeping in humidity!
Nancy T. Saner says
I have two well-established rosemary, and I cut them back in early December and make wreaths from the cuttings. The rosemary is fragrant, lasts long enough to make a lovely holiday wreath until the New Year, and when it is dried out, you can harvest the leaves, jar them, and have dried rosemary for various dishes. The rather severe trim the rosemary get keeps them from getting all top growth and leggy.
Great point! Regular, heavy prunings are essential for herb plant longevity. The more woody they become, the less productive (and delicious) they are.
I bought a nice rosemary plant in the produce section in November.. It was doing great in the window, then I brought it home.. its under an aero growlight watered it and the soil is still wet..and the plant is probably dead.. I kill em every year indoors.. outside it thrives.. I’m gonna get a new one and put it in a pot with these recommendations for inside.. my rosemary my 1st year here was in the mudroom and it did great.. now I have a deck.. mudroom is gone. I just keep trying.
Thanks for this great information. We had a Rosemary plant outdoors for years in Sacramento,CA, When we moved to North Ogden, UT (5b) we bought a plant and grew it outdoors for years. We are now in Oregon (8b) and I have managed to kill 3 Rosemary plants in as many years (gave up for a few years). Last year I bought another one and put it in a pot; for some reason it is still alive. I will follow your advice and see if I can keep it alive.
Hi Amy! I am enjoying your website and “Mini Permaculture Course” very much. Regarding rosemary–“Arp” is a very hardy variety of rosemary. I live in zone 6b in the White Mountains of Arizona, about 6200 foot elevation. I have had an “Arp” planted next to a chain-link garden fence for 3 years. It has survived 3 winters of snow (often completely buried in it) and temps as low as 9-degrees F. I hardly ever water it in the summer–maybe once or twice if it is abnormally dry (we have a lot of clay in our soil that holds moisture). It is otherwise “on its own”. It seems to thrive and is very healthy. The only thing I do in the winter is pile some pine needles around the root zone, but the plant is exposed.
I also have lavender and have found that the Lavandula angustifolia is the hardiest. Happily there are several cultivars of this plant and they all seem to do well with “neglectful” care.
Thanks for sharing these varieties with us!
Hi Amy, I have 7 rosemaries in pots. 6 of the are dying (the leaves are dried and I can’t decide whether the roots are healty or not) and 1 of them still alive and okay.
I live in tropical country (Indonesia, or Bali if you dont know lol), which is very humid here and it’s hot and sunny in here.
I pruned all of the dried leaves and moved them in to a new soil (sandy) which is good for rosemary (as I read) and watering them once daily till the water came out from the pot holes underneath. My question is; my rosemaries will regrow or not? If yes, how long it takes to regrow?
If your plants are still alive and you follow all of the instructions above, you should be successful.
I’ve had problems with mildew growing on the leaves when I winter indoors. Any idea why?
Sounds like a problem of overwatering. The tips in the article should help you set up the best watering routine.
Left my potted rosemary out all last winter in San Antonio. Got into the twenties/teens a few nights. Never watered it. It kinda died, but came back in the summer. Tough old bugger.
Holly Whiteside says
ZONE 6a – An Alternate Method
Forced-air heating is particularly rough on rosemary. I tried a number of things in my house, including keeping them in a very sunny window, far from a heat register, and watering nearly every day, but nothing worked, it would still dry out, until I started keeping them in the basement all winter, with hardly any light or water. Sounds crazy, yes?
Basically, I’m letting the plant go dormant, like I do with Christmas cactus and some other plants I bring indoors like Bay Laurel. It has enough water to stay alive (I water it well about once a month, no fertilizer) but not enough water or light to try to grow. It is also cool in the basement; about 55F. In the basement it is not subject to the dry air circulation. My old furnace recycled the air in the house and would get progressively more dry over winter. My new furnace brings in air from outdoors, so it does not get quite as dry. I might now be able to try your method with spraying, but I will try on a new, little rosemary from the grocery store, just in case.
In the early spring (March) I bring my rosemary to our covered porch, which is a little more protected from the weather and allows the rosemary a chance to adapt and get used to the outdoors. I can always bring it indoors for a few days if the weather dips colder. This also lets me bring it out of the cave earlier in the spring, so dormancy only goes for 3-4 months.
In the autumn, before bringing in the rosemary, I cover the soil with a bit of plastic (to keep it from getting muddy) and then give the plant a rigorous washing, including the undersides of leaves, with the spray setting on the hose. This dislodges any spiders, scale, or other critters that might wish to come in with it, as well as lets the leaves get moist.
I think the type of heating we have in a house really affects how the rosemary does indoors. I had about the worst setting a rosemary could want! I would rather be able to enjoy my rosemary upstairs, but I thought I would share my method in case it could help someone else with a similar challenge.
Thanks for sharing, will give this method a try. Quick question, when you say “very little light”, do you mean on a window sill or just any corner of the basement with no artificial light ?
too late, she’s toast. still smells nice, but is black and dead. two years old, she lived indoors one winter. but this year, one cold night and she croaked. Next year, try again! I had one in soil that didn’t get enough sun, that lived through one winter too. oh well. me and rosemary don’t always get along. I also live in zone 4-5. oh well!
Thanks for the great article, very helpful. I live in southern Quebec (Zone 5). I heard “Arp” Rosemary is hardy to zone 6 and am planning to leave it out over the winter under leaf mulch and a styrofoam cover. Should I mulch the entire plant or just the lower stalk/root? It will be buried in snow under the styrofoam cover so no light at all. Am I wasting my time trying ?
All these tips are so helpful. Ive never been able to keep rosemary or lavender alive, but i have some strong healthy plants from this summer, bring indoors in Tennessee. Gonna try these tips, and Ive feeling very optimistic they will make it this winter!
I am just reading now that I should have been putting my Rosemary in the shade to cut back on the daylight it will not be receiving over winter. I can’t do this now that we will be having freezing weather. Do I keep it outside during the day and shelter indoors for the next few weeks and hope for the best?
It may suffer a bit of a shock from the transition to indoors, but as long as you follow the other tips here, your rosemary should be fine.
Hi Amy I need to know why my rosemary leaves are curled inward I have it inside I have it on top of rocks and giving it humidity.
It may be displaying a bit of shock from being transitioned indoors and should recover. But curled leaves can mean many things. It could be herbicide damage if it was newly potted with potting soil that had herbicide contamination, which is unfortunately common. It could also be a pest problem.
Joanne White says
A friend just emaied me this post. Terrific article! I will try misting my Rosemary & see if that helps. She is resting in a dish of rocks & water which was something I read about recently. In my reading I discovered I pruned her too late in the fall & now she has weak, pale green new growth. Would it be better to leave the new growth alone or prune it off?
Not sure what’s wrong with my rosemary. I have some outside that is still alive, but has some leaves that are yellowed with brown tips. Most of the other leaves have white splotches. Not powdery though. Some kind if blight maybe? Finally, when I move the branches there are tiny white moths. Ugh! Still growing like crazy, but definitely not healthy. What should I do for this poor plant?
I now feel like you did when the farmer gave you the pamphlet. We have killed SIX indoor rosemary plants! I have gardened and had house plants my entire life, 53 years, and could not understand why I couldn’t keep a rosemary plant alive. Thank you for sharing!!
Thanks for the info on root pruning. I was looking for that. My rosemary seems to bloom after I bring it in each fall. I don’t do any thing much to it, and it seems to like it that way. I’m going to try pruning the top today and then I’ll root prune as soon as we start to get temps above 40 F. In the spring.