Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Grow and Care for Rosemary

updated Jun 6, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Credit: Morinka/Shutterstock

Herbs are one of those things that everyone wants to grow, but not everyone has the space. But as long as you have light and a little space, you can grow plenty of herbs indoors, such as mint, basil, or even rosemary. Rosemary is a fragrant and delicious herb that is frequently used for cooking as well as decorating. It can be used fresh or dried, depending on the desired flavor profile.  The best part is that you can grow it indoors if you can fulfill a few key requirements and a little bit of discipline.

One of the most important things you have to remember? You cannot ignore your rosemary plants while growing them indoors. You have to treat them in a totally different fashion than you would if they were sitting on your patio or balcony, which means treating them with the proper care and attention. Read on to learn more.

Credit: Kristin Prough

About rosemary plants

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean, and can be an outdoor perennial in zones 7 through 10—in the U.S., that includes California and the Southeast. Rosemary is an evergreen that can be grown from seed or from cuttings.

To use rosemary in cooking, simply use a pair of pruning shears or scissors to snip off a branch; you can use it fresh or dry it for later use.

Choosing the right soil for your rosemary

The soil you use for rosemary is just as important as the care you give it. Rosemary grows naturally in a Mediterranean climate. In other words it likes to grow in dry, sandy soil. If you’re feeling lucky you can try to use a typical potting mix from a garden center, but I would highly recommend using a sandy cactus mix. You can often find it pre-mixed at garden centers, but you can also mix your own by adding equal parts of sand to your basic potting soil. 

Credit: Kristin Prough

How to pot rosemary

Rosemary needs a container that can drain. This is non-negotiable—it will not grow in a container that holds water. Because of this. it’s best to plant your rosemary in a terracotta pot, which is porous enough to also allow moisture to wick from the sides. Terracotta pots also have drainage holes in the bottom that allow the excess water to flow into the drainage tray. This brings us to another important part that may be key to keeping your rosemary happy indoors. A lot of pros put a layer of rocks in the drainage tray and then keep it filled with water. The rocks keep the plant from soaking up the water, but the water in the tray will evaporate… and rosemary leaves love humidity!

Keep away from glazed pots if you’re a novice; they let too much water sit around the roots, which can lead to rot.

What kind of light your rosemary plant needs

Rosemary needs a ton of light, both indoors and outdoors. When growing it inside, it needs as much bright, direct light as you can give it. Put it in your best, bright, sunny window for the best results. 

How often to water your rosemary plant

If you plant your rosemary in a terracotta, there’s a slim possibility that you could over water it. If you have it planted in some other container, your chances increase. Only water your rosemary when the soil has completely dried out. This could be a wide span of time, even up to two or three weeks in-between waterings.

Now, this is where the curve ball comes in. Yes, rosemary likes to have dry “feet,” or roots. But it’s also what some people call an “upside down plant.” This means that it likes dry roots, but also loves humidity and absorbs a lot of moisture through its leaves. That’s where the water in the drainage tray comes in, as well as a good misting once or twice a week.

That regular misting could make all the difference to your rosemary surviving indoors.

How to fertilize rosemary plants

It’s best to only fertilize rosemary during the growing season that starts in the spring. Follow the instructions on your favorite fertilizer and continue once a month or so through fall. If you’re keeping an organic garden, make sure to use organic fertilizer.