Rosemary: profile, flowering & origin


I study organic agriculture and am very connected to plants and nature. At home, we run a small organic farm with a few animals, various crops and some forest. The production of healthy food in harmony with nature inspires me anew time and again.

Favourite fruit: apple, pear and plum
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Rosemary is a popular herb known for its powerful aroma and for enhancing Mediterranean dishes. Discover everything there is to know about rosemary’s properties and origins.

rosemary branches
Rosemary leaves have an intense fragrance

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a staple in many herb gardens. Not only does this herb have many uses in the kitchen but it also brings a delicious Mediterranean flair to your cooking. Read on to learn more about rosemary.

Rosemary: origin and characteristics

Rosemary hails from the Mediterranean, but it is frost-hardy and grows well in the UK in sunny spots with well-drained soil. Rosemary is derived from the Latin name, Rosmarinus, meaning “dew of the sea”. Historically, the popular herb was used not only as a spice, but also as an incense in cultural ceremonies. Rosemary has also long been used medicinally.

rosemary bushes speckled with flowers
Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean [Photo: Daniela Pelazza/]

Rosemary belongs to the Lamiaceae family and grows to a height of 0.5 – 2 m. The aromatic, evergreen, woody and branching shrub has narrow, elongated leaves that look like pine needles. The leaves are deep green and are covered with a thick epidermis, a kind of wax layer. The underside of the leaves have dense hairs that give them a paler appearance. The downward-rolled leaf margins protect the shrub from drying out. Rosemary flowers bloom in pseudo whorls on the branches. They come in blue, purple, pink or white and are about 1 cm big. After flowering, reddish-brown rosemary seeds emerge from seed pods. These seeds are often unreliable and slow to germinate. Rosemary shrubs also develop a deep, extensive and strongly branched root system.

lavender coloured rosemary flowers
Rosemary leaves are aromatic, thin, and reminiscent of pine needles [Photo: Maren Wulf/]

Tip: Rosemary comes in a wide range of varieties. Find out more about the most popular rosemary varieties in our other article.

When does rosemary flower?

In the UK, rosemary flowers from late spring to early summer. If you cut back your rosemary bush after the first flowering, it is possible to encourage a second flowering in July and August. In its native Mediterranean regions, rosemary blooms in October. If your rosemary bush appears to be in good health but refuses to bloom, it is most likely owing to overly warm winter temperatures. The herb truly requires a cold stimulus to generate blooms.

rosemary branch with blue flowers
Rosemary’s beautiful blue flowers delight us in late spring to early summer [Photo: Hobby M H/]

Is rosemary perennial?

Rosemary plants are perennial. Nevertheless, they must be well protected from frost in winter. In the bed, it is best to mulch your rosemary herbs with straw or put down fleece for extra cold protection. If you prefer to grow potted rosemary, place it in a cool, bright place for the winter and water the plant from time to time. Find out more about overwintering rosemary here.

rosemary bush in snow
Rosemary bushes are green year-round, even in winter [Photo: hotblacksea/]

Tip: Are you wondering how to prune and harvest your rosemary plant properly? Well, look no further, we have summarised everything you need to know about pruning and harvesting rosemary in this article.

Is rosemary bee-friendly?

Rosemary bushes are bee-friendly. They produce medium levels of nectar and pollen, providing a good food source for bees and other pollinators. If you cut back your rosemary branches significantly after the first flowering, it will even flower a second time and once again serve as an enticing bee pasture.

bee drinks from rosemary flower
Rosemary flowers also provide nectar for bees and other pollinators [Photo: Sara Mountain/]

Rosemary-like plants

Definitely do not confuse rosemary with bog-rosemary (Andromeda polifolia). It is not botanically related to Rosmarinus officinalis, but the leaves of the two plants are strikingly similar. All parts of the bog-rosemary are poisonous, so it is especially important to spot the difference. To be extra sure, crush some leaves between your fingers since only true rosemary exudes the authentic, rich rosemary aroma.

Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) is another plant that looks like rosemary. Here, too, it is mainly the similar leaf shape that leads to confusion. Luckily, curry plant is not poisonous and is also used as a spice.

bell flowers on rosemary imposter
Bog-rosemary is poisonous and must not be confused with rosemary [Photo: Grigorii Pisotsckii/]

Is your curiosity sparked? Would you like to grow your own rosemary? Learn everything about planting rosemary and caring for rosemary in our specialist articles.

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