Planting rosemary: where, when, how & companion plants


I love plants. I have a BSc. in Turf and Landscape Horticulture, an MSc. in Crop Production, and a Ph.D. in Crop Science, as well as over 20 years of experience in landscaping, gardening, horticulture, and agriculture. The central focus throughout my career, has been on caring for the soil, as healthy soil makes for healthy plants, and plants are integral to the sustainability of life.

Favourite vegetables: basil, garlic, onions and leeks
Favourite fruits: ripe figs, blueberries and dates

Rosemary, a wonderfully aromatic herb that can add beauty to your garden, patio, or terrace, or even adorn a sunny window indoors. Find out how to go about planting rosemary here.

A very large rosemary bush
With its aromatic leaves and beautiful flowers, rosemary is a wonderful addition to your garden, patio, terrace, or windowsill

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is easy to grow, aesthetically appealing and a very generous plant. Its Mediterranean appearance and fragrant scent evoke the Grecian isles, and its blue flowers in summer are a rare treasure to behold. Transformative in the kitchen and beneficial to garden ecology, rosemary is a must in any garden. Here is everything you will ever need to know about planting rosemary.

Rosemary is an incredibly versatile plant in terms of how it can be grown. When planting rosemary in your garden, remember that it can thrive and provide beauty all year long as long as temperatures do not drop below -1 °C. You can plant it in a pot on your windowsill, terrace or patio, but remember to bring inside during the colder winter months.

Where and when to plant rosemary

With the right location, growing rosemary in pots or in your garden is a snap. You can also plant it in window boxes to have a small rosemary garden outside your window. Be sure to choose a sunny location with plenty of direct sunlight. Rosemary thrives in soil that is low in nutrients and free-draining. Therefore, sandy, rocky, coarse soil textures will be best as large clumps of organic matter or dense manures that hold too much water will encourage root rot. As a result, it is important to amend your garden soil with perlite, expanded clay or gravel to increase its drainage. Planting in mounds or raised beds will also keep the roots from sitting in soggy soil. For a general growing medium, use a 1:1:1 homogenous mixture of sand, a light peat-free potting compost, like our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, and perlite, expanded clay or gravel to improve soil drainage. Our compost will supply rosemary with the low level of essential nutrients it needs to grow and establish itself in its new location.

Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
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  • Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
  • For aromatic herbs & healthy seedlings with strong roots
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Rosemary grows well in pots of all sizes; just make sure the pots or containers drain well. For large pots, greater than 30 l, add a 2 – 3 cm layer of gravel to the bottom to improve drainage. For smaller pots, this is not necessary if you use a free-draining soil mixture as described earlier. If you live in an area where temperatures dip below freezing, growing rosemary in pots might be your best option so you can move them to a warmer location over winter.

Rosemary can be planted in spring, summer or autumn. However, plant it in spring if you want to harvest it the same year. Even though rosemary can tolerate some cooler temperatures and an occasional frost, it is best to wait until after the last frost to plant out the rosemary in spring. Conversely in autumn, plant it early enough so the herb can become well established before the first frost and cooler temperatures of winter come.

Planting rosemary in the bed: step by step

Rosemary grows brilliantly in the bed provided the soil is sandy enough and free-draining.

Follow these steps to plant rosemary in your garden:

  • Choose a sunny spot; if possible, plant in a raised bed or along a rock wall
  • Mix in some expanded clay, perlite or gravel to improve drainage
  • Idea: collect some rocks and create a raised rocky bed for your rosemary plant
  • Dig a hole about 6 cm deeper than the depth of the rosemary container
  • Line the bottom of the hole with 3 cm of expanded clay or gravel to help with drainage
  • Using some of your prepared soil, plant your new rosemary in the soil at the same depth it was growing in its container
  • Pat down soil gently and water in
Rosemary in raised bed
Planting rosemary in a raised bed or along a garden wall is a great idea [Photo: SANLYN/]

How to plant rosemary in a pot

Rosemary can be grown in small and large containers alike. Unglazed terracotta pots can help with waterlogging as they allow water to evaporate from their sides as well as draining out the bottom.

Follow these steps to plant rosemary in a pot:

  • Choose a container with plenty of holes for drainage
  • If you are using a container larger than 30 l, line the bottom 3 cm of the pot with expanded clay or gravel to improve drainage
  • Make a planting medium: use a 1:1:1 homogenous mixture of sand, peat-free potting compost and perlite. If you have trouble finding perlite, you can also use expanded clay or gravel to improve soil drainage
  • Fill your container with your medium, leaving a planting hole for your rosemary
  • Plant your rosemary in the pot at the same depth at which it was growing in its previous container
  • Fill with your medium and pat down gently
  • Water in
planting rosemary in a pot
Rosemary thrives in pots [Photo: June Design/]

Tip: With either method of planting rosemary, water your plants in and watch that the plants do not settle below the soil surface. If they do, gently pull the plants up a little and pack the soil around them. This ensures the plants will stay high in the soil, preventing waterlogging.

Well established rosemary plants can become quite bushy and can easily take up a big part of the herb bed, so it is important prune rosemary properly. What is more, not only can you use these beautiful rosemary twigs in the kitchen, but also you can use the cuttings to propagate baby rosemary plants!

The best companion plants for rosemary

Rosemary makes an excellent companion plant in your garden. Its strong, aromatic odour can help to deter insect pests. An important detail to note is that many vegetables prefer richer soils. Rosemary can thrive in rich soils, but only if they are freely-draining. Herbs like lavender (Lavandula), sage (Salvia officinalis), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), oregano (Origanum vulgare), and marjoram (Origanum majorana) grow nicely together with rosemary in a pot or a raised bed. Brassica cultivars like cabbages (Brassica oleracea var. oleracea) and brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera) as well as other vegetables like onions and shallots (Allium cepa), carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) and beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) may all benefit from rosemary’s pest-deterrent properties. Growing rosemary with ornamentals like marigolds (Tagetes) and alyssum (Alyssum) can greatly benefit your garden by both attracting pollinators and deterring pests.

Rosemary with other herbs in bed
Rosemary makes a wonderful addition to your Mediterranean herb collection in your garden bed or pot [Photo: JoannaTkaczuk/]

Plants that have high nutrient and watering requirements or that are prone to mildew and other fungal pathogens will not grow well with rosemary. Some examples of these would be nightshades like tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) and potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), herbs like basil (Ocimum basilicum) and mint (Mentha) as well as cucurbits (Cucurbitaceae) like pumpkins, squash, gourds (Cucurbita spp.) and cucumbers (Cucumis sativus).

Now that your rosemary is planted, learn how to take good care of it in our rosemary plant care guide, which covers everything from watering to pruning and more.

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