Rosemary – All About This Plant That Has Needle-like Leaves?

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a perennial woody garden herb with fragrant blue, white, purple, or pink flowers. The herb is native to the Mediterranean region. It’s popular for both culinary seasoning purposes and as an ornamental plant.

The herb doesn’t only complement various dishes, but you can also grow it effortlessly anywhere in your perfect mini kitchen garden. This evergreen plant survives well throughout the winters without much effort. Here is a detailed article on what the rosemary plant is and how it’s used?

Common NameRosemary
Botanical NameRosmarinus Officinalis
Plant TypePerennial Evergreen Shrub
Size (Fully Grown)3 To 5 Feet (0,91 To 1,5 meters) Tall And Wide
Sun ExposureFull Sun
Soil TypeSandy
Soil pHFrom 5.0 To 8.0
Flower ColorBlue, White, And Pink
U.S. Hardiness Zones6, 7, 8, 9, And 10
Native AreaMediterranean

How Many Rosemary Varieties Are There?

Rosemary is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. Like most other herbs in the mint family, rosemary has several varieties as well. The plant varieties vary when it comes to different purposes, such as cooking and growing condition differences.

These varieties have a different taste when used, and they also carry a specific fragrant flavor and odor that you can feel when it’s cooked or dried. Below we have included some popular rosemary varieties to let you know about your choices.

  1. Arp
  2. Irene
  3. Haifa
  4. Albus
  5. Pinkie
  6. Salem
  7. Aureus
  8. Roseus
  9. Blue Boy
  10. Blue Rain
  11. Gold Dust
  12. Severn Sea
  13. Ken Taylor
  14. Pyramidalis
  15. Spice Island
  16. Tuscan Blue
  17. Golden Rain
  18. Majorica Pink
  19. Remembrance
  20. Benenden Blue
  21. Lockwood De Forest

Origins And History Of The Rosemary Plant

As we already discussed, rosemary belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. We can often find it growing under the sun in dry scrub and rocky cliffs, usually by the sea.

This excellent plant got its name from the Latin word “ros marinus,” which means the ‘dew of the sea,’ indicating its natural habitat along the Mediterranean coast and the dew that gathers in its flowers at night. The plant is also sometimes called Anthos, derived from the ancient Greek word that means ‘flower.’

The Romans brought Rosemary to England when they invaded in the first century. The fragrant and colorful herb made its way to China during the late Han Dynasty and was naturalized there. These days people mostly use rosemary for culinary but even medical purposes, and thanks to its taste, it is a global herb.

How To Recognize Rosemary?

Rosemary is an aromatic bushy branched evergreen shrub. Rosemary thrives in climatic conditions where it gets a lot of light and heat. It can grow up to 6,5 feet high (about 2 meters), and the plant can even live 30 years.

Leaves And Stems

The leaves are evergreen, somewhere between 0,8 to 1,6 inches long (about 2 to 4 cm) and 5/64 to 13/64 inches broad (about 2 to 5 mm), and they are needle-shaped and narrow. They are shiny green in color from the top and white below, curving downwards with dense, short, woolly hair. The angular, woody stems are densely covered with leaves.

Flowers

Rosemary flowers in spring and summer in temperate climates, but it also tends to flower outside its regular flowering season. This is why the plants can be in constant bloom in warm temperatures, even in early December and mid-February.

The flowers can be light blue, deep blue, pale violet, white or pinkish. The flowers appear in groups of two or more at the upper ends of the plant. The flower’s shape reminds a bit like the upper and lower lip of a mouth, also called Labiatae.

How To Grow Rosemary?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s incredibly easy to grow rosemary, and you can even do that in a pot in your mini kitchen garden. The plant can withstand droughts, surviving a severe lack of water even for long periods.

Although the seeds are often difficult to start with a low germination rate and relatively slow growth but once cultivated, the plant can grow for about ten years as long as you provide it the minimum care.

To grow rosemary successfully, you need to provide it the basics such as sun, good drainage, and good air circulation. Those are the things that almost every plant needs. If you live in an area where you don’t experience frost even in winters, you can grow it in your outdoor garden year-round, where it will grow into a lush, bushy shrub.

You can grow rosemary as an annual, but another way is to place it into a container, which you bring indoors before the winter comes.

Light

Rosemary needs a full sun growing environment, which means around six to eight hours of sunlight per day. So, if you want it to prosper indoors, please place it in a direction that receives plenty of sunlight. You can also use grow lights for this, but don’t let the plant get too hot.

Soil

Grow rosemary in sandy, well-draining soil that is dry and airy. The preferred soil pH is slightly acidic to neutral. In numbers, that is 5.0 to 8.0. The plant is native to the Mediterranean’s rocky hillsides and does not do well if its roots stay wet, so keep good care of proper drainage!

Water

Rosemary only needs water when the soil is getting dry, but if you grow it in your outdoor garden ground, it will need less water. So, if grown in a container, for example, it needs regular watering. Be careful, though, not to over-water it and avoid making the soil soggy as this can lead to root rot.

Your rosemary may not show any visible signs of thirst, so it’s essential to regularly check out the soil to see if it’s dry.

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Temperature And Humidity

Rosemary is a hardy plant. It can tolerate high temperatures and a wide range of humidity when it’s grown outdoors. The plant thrives in climates between 50 and 80°F (about 10 to 27°C), though its ideal temperature is 60 to 70°F (approximately 15 to 21°C). But be careful because most rosemary varieties are hardy to only 30°F (about -1°C).

Fertilizer

Rosemary is not a heavy eater, but fertilizing the plant in the spring will give the plant a good start for the season.

Propagating Rosemary

You can propagate rosemary by planting cuttings taken from older plants. But, we would suggest that you start with a nursery-grown plant. Rosemary can take years to grow, so expect to pay more for a mature plant than for a small rosemary start.

When germinating from seed, usually 2-3 seeds are enough for propagation. Just make sure they are fresh and planted in perfect conditions. Place them on top of your soil, press slightly, and finally, cover the pot and place it in a warm, dark place. Once the seedlings emerge, it’s time to remove the cover and move the pot to a sunny location.

When propagating rosemary through cuttings, you can go with stem cutting as it is a more straightforward method than germinating from seeds. To do this, cut new growing stems around ½ inch long (about 1,27 cm) from the developed plant. Use scissors or a knife and snip off the bottom leaves and dip the stems into the soil. After all this, the only thing you need to worry about is providing it enough sunlight, warmth, and water.

Different Uses For Rosemary

Rosemary is a beneficial herb that carries a delightful fragrance and produces beautiful ornamental flowers. You can use the plant for decorative purposes or as a culinary herb; it’s all up to you! But before you make up your mind, here are few common uses for it:

One everyday use for fresh rosemary leaves is pizza topping, but using it in a pasta dressing or seasoning is also an excellent option. Some people even use the rosemary branches over the barbecue coals because it adds more flavor to the grilled dishes. You can also use dried rosemary leaves to make a powder that is an excellent spice for your cookings.

Even though rosemary is widely used in the culinary world, it’s also used for medicinal purposes to make several drugs and stimulants. It’s also grown because it works as an insect repellent in gardens.

Another great way to use rosemary is home decoration. You can do this by making bouquets that work as an excellent decor element in your house or apartment.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Rosemary?

Although rosemary is a safe herb with many health benefits, large consumption may result in stomach and intestinal irritation and kidney damage. With this in mind, do you have a medical condition that requires you to be cautious about the things you eat? If you said yes and want to know if rosemary is safe to eat/consume, read on!

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

To keep the long story short, I don’t recommend you to eat rosemary during pregnancy or while you’re still breastfeeding because the plant is possibly unsafe.

The reason for this is because it might affect your menstruation or even the uterus, which might, in a worst-case scenario, cause a miscarriage.

Children

It’s completely safe to give your kids food that you’ve spiced with rosemary. In fact, rosemary adds a great flavor to different stews and soups. Also, it’s a plant that boosts your kid’s immune system. That’s a win-win situation! Your kids love the food their parents make for them, and they stay healthy.

Besides, using herbs and different spices is an excellent way for your child to know about different tastes.

People With Allergies

Some of the allergic reactions to rosemary include skin rashes, sneezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing, to name a few. So, if you face any of the symptoms mentioned before, you might be allergic to rosemary.

People With Diabetes

I have good news for people who have diabetes! The reason for my excitement is because studies show that rosemary has the same qualities as diabetes meds. All this means that it lowers your blood sugar and is, thus, an excellent addition to your diet if you have diabetes.

Pets

I think this is what every pet owner wants to hear. Rosemary is entirely safe for your pets! The best part is that this plant is even suitable for dogs. But remember that even though there haven’t been any reported toxicity cases, high doses pose a risk to kidney or liver problems.

But, cat owners shouldn’t be afraid about rosemary because cats don’t even seem to like this plant’s scent.

Featured image credit – © Maren Winter – stock.adobe.com

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