Why keeping rosemary plants alive indoors is really not that simple

Now, with this title I don’t want to discourage you to buy a rosemary plant. Please do! They are a great addition to any kitchen and I really believe that everybody should have at least one in or outside the house. But. I have discovered that you can’t exactly just buy a rosemary plant for indoors, water it every now and then, put it in the sun and expect it to live long. It really does not work that way. It is important to be well informed on how to keep rosemary for indoors if you don’t want it to die. And that’s what I’d like to help you with!

After about three weeks to a month of buying my beautiful, fragrant and delicious – yes, I have already tried it in several dishes – rosemary plant, it started to die very slowly. I didn’t understand why – after all, I have put it in a sunny spot in the living room where there is full sun for about almost all day and I watered it whenever the soil seemed to or had dried out. So I did a little research on what I was doing wrong. And I discovered that 1. rosemary thrives better when neglected than when getting too much attention, and 2. watering a rosemary plant really ain’t all that simple. So here are a few things you need to know when you are the proud owner of a rosemary plant.

How much sun does my rosemary plant need?

So first, the sun part I got right. Rosemary plants looove a lot of sun. Originally the plant comes from a mediterranean climate, where the soil is dry and where there is a lot of sun and high temperatures. So give rosemary you best spot in the sun and you’re set on that area. At least 6 to 8 hours of sun is recommended. And remember that sunlight is more important than heat.

How do I water my rosemary plant?

Now, when it comes to watering your rosemary plant, knowing that it originally grows in dry soil is key. It is not used to getting a lot of water through the roots. Rather, it takes the moist from the air. Therefor it is good to know that the air inside is often a lot dryer than outside.

So if you keep your plant indoors, help it a little bit by always having some water in a drainage pan under the pot. This water will evaporate when it’s in the sun, which makes the air around the plant moist. Your plant will be able to grab some moist from the air. You can also help out a little more by spraying some water on the leaves of the plant weekly or twice a week. Every two weeks or so, add a little bit of water to the soil, but make sure the soil is dry first.

What pot to put it in?

In order for your rosemary not to grow too big, pick a pot for your plant that is not deeper than your plant is high. (If your plant is 20 cm high, pick a pot that is max. 20 cm deep.) That way, you can easily keep it in check. All you need to do now, is prune the roots every now and then so they won’t grow too big. When your plant reaches the 20 cm from the example, either prune your plant or put it in a bigger pot.
The pot you pick is also very important when it comes to watering your rosemary. Make sure that you pick a pot made of terra cotta and/or one with drainage holes. Also make sure that you put your pot on something to lift the pot up from the surface that it’s standing on, because it doesn’t like to sit in water. If you choose a pot with a drainage pan, lay down a layer of small rocks so that all the water that gets into the soil can drain well to keep the roots of the plant how they like it: dry.

What about soil?

Since rosemary likes their roots dry, it is best to have soil that’s a bit sandy. Your rosemary plant will take all the nutrients from its soil in about a year. Therefor it is important that you change the soil of your plant every year, while repotting it (either to the same pot or a bigger one).

Pruning rosemary roots

Pruning the roots of your rosemary plant is important if you don’t want your plant to grow too big. If you keep your plant in a pot that is as deep as your plant is high, the roots will keep growing. This will eventually suffocate the plant since it cannot take up enough nutrients and water, which could cause your plant to die over time. Not good!

To prune the roots, just gently pull the plant up from the pot and check the condition of the roots. If they are tightly stacked together and wrapped around the plant, you need to put it in a bigger pot. If they are hanging down from the soil, cut of any excess root material to keep it in shape. Cut off a bit of the top of the plant when you do this, so that the plant is a bit smaller and doesn’t have to work as hard.

Changing your rosemary to a bigger pot

If you’re changing your rosemary to a bigger pot, cut off about 5cm off the roots with a very sharp pair of scissors. Then put some soil in a pot, place your plant inside it and keep adding soil on the sides and top of the plant until it is full. Place the new pot in the shade for about three days to let it acclimate. The best time of year to repot your plant is in spring, but any time of year will do. Either prune the roots or change your plant to a bigger pot at least once a year.

How to trim your rosemary plant

If you trim your rosemary, your plant will get a bit bushier. Trim it every now and then. If you want to be sure that you have the best flavour possible, trim your rosemary plant right when it starts to bloom. Never take more than a third of the plant at once and cut the branches just above a leaf joint.

Take about 5-7cm from every branch. You can use these branches for cooking, drinks, infusing oils, or freezing or drying it for later use. You can also use these branches to grow new rosemary plants. This might be a better option than growing it from the seed, which sometimes can be very tricky.

Possible problems with growing rosemary

Now what’s important to remember is that where the air is moist, but doesn’t have enough circulation, powdery mildew can develop. So make sure there is enough air circulation where you keep your rosemary. Keep the soil dry in between watering and if the problem is big you can even run a fan for a couple of hours, for a couple of days to create an artificial breeze.

Besides mildew, your rosemary plant might get some aphids and spider mites in the winter time. Just remove them by hand or by holding the plant under some running water to wash them away. You could also spray the plant with insecticidal soap regularly. Try to catch them before they take over the entire plant!

Keeping rosemary outside

And for those who are lucky enough to actually have a veggie garden: make sure to move your rosemary inside if winters in your area are harsh. It won’t survive freezing temperatures. Before summer, when it starts to get warm again, but at least after freezing temperatures are over, move it outside again. To do that, it’s good to start fertilizing your plant in the spring, about a month before you move it outside. Fertilize it about two or three times during this month.

Do you have a rosemary plant in your kitchen or veggie garden? Share your tips in the comments below!

 

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