Types of rosemary: trailing, creeping, upright & hardy rosemary varieties


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
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Rosemary is generally thought of as the simple culinary herb. What most people don’t realise is that there are many surprisingly diverse cultivated varieties of this Mediterranean native.

Small rosemary plant growing in a garden
Rosemary is a wonderful herb that is easy to grow

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is a wonderfully aromatic herb in the plant family Lamiaceae. This is the same family that the other typical Mediterranean herbs, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and sage (Salvia officinalis), belong to. There are many types of rosemary that are available in the market now, from upright to trailing growth forms, floral displays in blues, pinks, whites, or purples, as well as some that are more aromatic than others. This article will introduce you to the most popular varieties so that you can choose the right one for your garden.

Upright-growing types of rosemary

When most people think of rosemary, they think of the classic upright-growth form. These small shrubs can reach up to 1.5 m. Here are some of the best upright rosemary varieties.

  • Salvia rosmarinus: The traditional common variety of rosemary found in garden centres can grow vigorously up to 1.2 m tall with dense green foliage, light blue flowers, and a strong aroma.
  • ‘Albiflorus’: Rosemary cultivar growing up to 1.0 m in height and width. It shows beautiful white flowers and short, dark green foliage.
  • ‘Blue Tuscan’: With its vividly blue flowers and large, tender foliage, and reaching a height up to 1.5 m, this variety makes a wonderful specimen in the garden. It is also excellent for use in the kitchen.
  • ‘Gorizia’: Growing up to 1.5 m tall, this makes an excellent shrub in your garden. It has very pale violet-blue flowers and dark green foliage.
  • ‘Heavenly Blue’: As a very compact grower, only reaching up to 0.5 m tall, this variety is perfect for borders in your garden or for growing in a pot. It has pale blue flowers and lovely green foliage.
  • ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’: With light blue flowers and a strong aroma, ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ rosemary is a delight in the garden. It can grow very tall and sturdy into a well-shaped shrub with dense foliage.
  • ‘Rex’: A very robust variety that can grow up to 1.2 m tall. It has dark blue flowers set on dark green foliage.
  • ‘Roseus’: This upright rosemary produces lovely pink coloured flowers that contrast nicely with its green foliage. It can grow into a small shrub up to 1 m tall. It has excellent aromatic foliage for use in the kitchen.
  • ‘Salem’: The variety makes an excellent hedge and can grow up to 1.2 m tall. It has dark green foliage with pale, but striking blue flowers. This variety needs protection from hard freezes as it is only moderately winter hardy.
  • ‘Spice Island’: Possibly the most aromatic rosemary, ‘Spice Island’ is sure to please. It has silver green foliage and grows up to 1 m tall.

Tip: Learn how to preserve your rosemary after harvesting it in our detailed article on storing, freezing & drying rosemary.

Trailing and creeping rosemary varieties

Prostrate forms of rosemary can grow in small mounds along the ground and even trail over the edge of a wall or pot. These make lovely border plants in flower beds or beautiful cascades of flowers trailing over the edge of a retaining wall. The following are some of the best creeping and trailing rosemary varieties.

  • ‘Blue Rain’: This variety is a wonderful trailing rosemary, great for growing at the edge of a wall, or even in a hanging basket, as it produces many downward trailing branches. It has grey-green foliage with medium-blue flowers.
  • ‘Boule’: A lovely mounding and trailing rosemary with lilac-blue flowers and bright green foliage. It is considered semi-prostrate as mounds can reach 0.6 m tall. This is a robust variety that is relatively cold-hardy for a Mediterranean herb.
  • ‘Capri’: As a very short, creeping rosemary, ‘Capri’ makes an excellent groundcover. It has bright green foliage and small, pale blue flowers.
  • ‘Majorca Pink’: Reaching only just over 0.5m tall, this variety is a very compact grower. It is considered a semi-prostrate variety as it can also slightly cascade over the edge of a wall or pot. It has pink flowers and verdant green foliage. It is only moderately winter-hardy so it needs to be grown in a protected location for areas with hard freezes in the winter.
  • ‘McConnell’s Blue’: As a low growing, creeping rosemary, ‘McConnell’s Blue’ makes an excellent groundcover. It has light green foliage with an abundance of pale blue flowers.
  • ‘Santa Barbara’: This mounding creeping rosemary tops out at 0.3m tall, but can easily spread outwards 3 times its height. It has pale blue flowers and is reasonably cold-hardy.

Tip: For everything you need to know about propagating your own rosemary, look no further than our detailed article Propagating rosemary: cuttings, layering & seeds.

Hardy types of rosemary

Hardy rosemary varieties can tolerate hard frosts and colder temperatures. Some can tolerate temperatures as low as -20° C. Here are a few popular cold-hardy rosemary varieties.

  • ‘Alcalde’: ‘Alcalde’ cold-hardy rosemary is an upright variety that grows up to 1 m tall. It has pale blue flowers and olive-green foliage.
  • ‘Arp’: This hardy upright rosemary can grow up to 1.2 m tall. While it is hardy in cold temperatures, make sure you plant it in well-drained soil. As with all rosemary varieties it will not tolerate waterlogging. It has grey-green foliage with light blue flowers.
  • ‘Athens Blue Spires’: A very tall upright variety that is also very cold-hardy. It can grow up to 1.5 m tall and has sky-blue flowers with grey-green foliage.
  • ‘Barbeque’: As a hardy, upright rosemary, ‘Barbeque’ makes for a chunky shrub up to 1 m tall. Its wonderfully aromatic, bright green foliage is great for cooking.
  • Blue Lagoon’: This variety is known for its bright blue flowers. ‘Blue Lagoon’ rosemary is quite cold-hardy and can grow up to 1.2 m tall.
  • ‘Blue Winter’: This is one of the most cold-hardy rosemary varieties. Its upright growth habit forms shrubs up to 1 m tall with blue-green foliage and light blue flowers.
  • ‘Hill Hardy’: Growing up to 1.2 m tall, this hardy variety has light blue flowers and grey-green foliage.

Now that you have seen how diverse rosemary is, do you want to learn more about rosemary plant care? Then find out all you need to know in our in-depth article on the subject.

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