Overwintering Rosemary: Growing Rosemary Indoors

November 19, 2018
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Find out how to overwinter rosemary and grow rosemary indoors to keep this wonderful herb growing all year.

A reader’s question about overwintering rosemary reminded me that it was something I wanted to write about. I have had mixed results with rosemary plants over the years, but after killing a few I think I have finally gotten it right.

Every fall at least one person heading south for the winter will come to me with plants that they can’t bear to let die. I am a sucker for a beautiful plant, so if I have room I usually say yes. I have gotten some awesome plants that way—jasmine, streptocarpella, orchids, geraniums, begonias, and rosemary

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How to Overwinter Rosemary

The rosemary I have now is several years old. Last year it spent the winter on a cold windowsill at the library. The heat was on the fritz there last winter, but this plant sailed through the 50ºF nights with no problem. Occasionally I would wrestle it into the sink and spray water over the needles, but it usually just got watered when we noticed the lanky new growth drooping. I brought it home and it spent the summer outdoors, enjoying the bright sunshine, heat, and rainfall. Now it is back inside for the winter.

The three most important things to consider when overwintering your rosemary are light, temperature, and water.

Rosemary Plant Care: Temperature

I have had success wintering rosemary in a south-facing window in an unheated upstairs bedroom. Now we are lucky enough to have a greenhouse attached to the house. We keep it cold; the heat only comes on out there if it drops below 40ºF, and sometimes plants too near the glass freeze at night. The rosemary is thriving. 

Rosemary Plant Care: Watering

It can get a messy sprinkle of water on its needles weekly along with regular watering when the soil feels dry. Rosemary hates wet feet, so do not let yours sit in water. It needs well drained soil, and a clay pot can help keep the roots from rotting. Many people make the mistake of letting their rosemary dry out too much but a dry rosemary is a dead rosemary. Water when the soil feels dry.

Rosemary Plant Care: Light

That brings us to light. Rosemary needs the brightest light you have. I have had the best luck with south-facing windows but many people resort to growlights.

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If you are very lucky and your plant is very happy, it may even reward you with some blossoms!

Frequent clipping keeps it from getting too leggy, and when new growth starts this spring it will make for a bushier plant.

Growing Rosemary Indoors

The best part about keeping rosemary in the house is that you can stroke it every time you walk by and release that lovely fragrance into the air. Smelling it supposedly enhances cognitive function—clearly I’m not smelling enough of it! Rosemary can even reduce anxiety and stress and repel bugs.

Cooking with it is a treat also. Fresh rosemary goes well with potatoes, chicken, vegetable soup, and we stuffed our Thanksgiving turkey with it. Try some delicious recipes like Corn Bread with Rosemary and Pine Nuts and Rosemary Chicken with Spinach.

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Cornbread with pine nuts and rosemary

Rosemary is for remembrance, and Rosemarie, the woman who gave me this plant, is in my thoughts often.

Check our Rosemary plant care page! Plus, get more tips for growing plants indoors and getting your garden ready for winter.

Are you overwintering your rosemary this season? Let us know below!

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.

2019 Garden Guide

Reader Comments

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My Rosemary plant

I really enjoyed reading your article on overwintering a rosemary plant I've been looking for this advice for some time. I have been nurturing a rosemary plant for several years and have overwintered it twice the first year it got to sit in a south facing living room window which I did very well. In the spring it moved outdoors and repotted to a 24-inch pot and it has just blossomed. Well we're now into our winter and I've moved it indoors but unfortunately it no longer has a south facing window I have it in the coolest portion of the home with a grow light. The home has in floor heating and unfortunately I cannot cool the area down I believe the temperature to be in the mid too high 60s. I daily mist the leaves and give it a a small drink every other day. The soil is well drainage as an experienced a flooded floor the last time I gave it a really good drink. I now have a proper plant saucer! My question is I see a few leaves dropping daily upon closer inspection they appear to be older perhaps they were trapped in the plant from the summer. I have a grow light on the plant which I leave on throughout the day and turn off at night and as I first mentioned I do see fresh growth. Is there anything more that I can do to keep my precious Rosemary throughout the winter, should I periodically give it some food such as Miracle Grow or something like that how much should I trim it back if any?

It sounds like you are doing

It sounds like you are doing everything right. Just make sure not to overwater or let the plant sit in a wet saucer. The misting should help it retain leaves. I would cut it as I needed rosemary to use but don’t fertilize until it starts showing signs of lots of new growth in the spring.

Overwintering Rosemary

I think my plants are dead. But I transplanted them into well draining pots and brought them inside. I do not see any green. I wish I could show you a pic. The limbs and leaves are all brown. I brought them in because there has been entirely too much rain in our area. Should I give up on these plants and just start fresh?

It does sound like your

It does sound like your plants have given up the ghost. Before you throw them out and start anew, try cutting back some of the branches to look for any sign of life inside. If the plants are still living you can try cutting them back to rejuvenate them. If not then treat yourself to a fresh new plant!

Herbs

Rosemary grows year round in Zone 9. Frost and Freeze doesn't kill this hardy herb in Zone 9. However I did let a luffa plant grow wild one year and it smothered out the rosemary; that however killed my old beautiful Rosemary bush. Had to replant. I will almost find me another Eucalyptus tree.

Over-wintering Rosemary & other plants

I'm fortunate enough to have an extra bathroom that's not utilized for the bath/shower so when frost begins I bring my temprature-sensitive plants into the tub, lined with heavy plastic. When they need watering I just turn on the shower for a few minutes. I have a 'grow light' hanging from the curtain rod for light. However Rosemary will mostly endure outdoor temperatures here in Western NC as we usually have moderate winters.

Overwintering Rosemary

I live in southern NH. I have had success overwintering rosemary for several years. If I leave it in a cold room, it tolerates temps to around 40 degrees and as the days get longer, if flowers in Very early spring, long before going back out again. Water when dry, and harvest sparingly as I doesn’t put out much new growth. If inside, I have kept it in a southeast window that gets cool at night, but to avoid the black needle syndrome, I water when dry, (which is often!) but additionally, I put the pot in a saucer, then put the saucer into another tray which I keep filled with water. In this case, the plant does not flower, but does produce usable new growth. Good luck! It indeed is a great plant and deserves a little effort to get it through winter!

Rosemary

I am trying to over Winter my rosemary inside with a grow light however I am not able to keep it in a cool room as I live in a mobile home. I do however have an unheated addition. Unfortunately I live in the northeast and that may not be an option.

Since you are using a light,

Since you are using a light, is there a closet in your home that is unheated? Or perhaps near an outside wall which stays cooler than the rest of the house. If those locations don’t work for you just be sure not to place the plant near a drying source of heat.

Brown stems and sometimes leaves at bottom. near soil

Why do the bottom of the plant whether on leaves or stems by soul turn brown like they are dead yet from the middle of plant to top has a nice healthy green leaf ? What can I d so this will not happen ? When it does turn brown not too much longer the rosemary plant itself eventually dies. When I buy a rosemary plant it seems to only last 2-3 mths then dies. I love cooking with this plant and love the scent.

It sounds like root rot

It sounds like root rot caused by overwatering. Let the top 1-2 inches of soil dry out before watering again.

rosemary

My Rosemary is in the garden in ground! How should i care for it? It has been 3 years. Some parts dry, others with thick stem!!

Hopefully your rosemary is

Hopefully your rosemary is planted in well-drained soil where it will get full sun. Don’t overwater it. You can mulch around the base to conserve moisture as long as you keep the mulch away from the crown of the plant to avoid root rot. Remove older branches if you wish to reshape the plant otherwise clipping the stems to use will keep the plant in shape and encourage it to branch out.

Harvesting: stems only or is it ok to take individual leaves?

I'm a caregiver and one of our daily routines is home-made bonebroth. A highlight has been harvesting fresh rosemary leaves each morning to go into that day's broth. The plant is indoors in upstate New York, and it's February out. The original plant is looking a little thin from harvesting, so we are giving it a break and brought in another gorgeous Rosemary, busting with healthy leaves. I typically take the bigger leaves (respectfully, in pairs, thinking that will encourage regrowth), about one or two dozen a day. Is this ok, as I keep rotating around the plant, or do I need to pick a stem and just use its leaves until it's time for the next one?

I have never just plucked the

I have never just plucked the individual leaves to use. I always clip whole stems. This keeps the plant in good shape and encourages it to branch out, giving more new growth to harvest.

Indoor wintering rosemary in bloom!

I LOVE rosemary as a beautiful plant to look at, caress, and use in cooking. I have a large-ish plant (1.5 ft x 1.5 ft round) that is very lush. I had it outside on our south-facing deck all summer and couldn't bear to lose it, so am attempting to winter it inside. We are in an apartment with radiator heating (one under EVERY window, as usual), so finding a cooler sunny spot for it is difficult. It's been inside for about two months now - close to a back door with a low window - and so far so good. It is sending up spindly shoots from the top which I have been trimming, but now I've noticed buds for blooms! Should I allow it to bloom or should these be trimmed as well? Thank you in advance. :-)

Sorry not to have seen your

Sorry not to have seen your question until now! You probably have already enjoyed your rosemary blossoms. Once the blooms go by you can clip the stems back to use. This will spur on new growth. Your new shoots may be spindly due to low winter light in the house. Now that the days are longer and the sun is getting stronger the growth should be stronger also. Pretty soon your plant can go back outside for the summer again!

My new plant

I love how in your article you said "Rosemary is for remembrance." I don't recall eating it as a child, but the taste takes me back to my childhood somehow. Maybe from being dragged to the craft stores and garden centers with by my mom and grandma. I discovered a few years ago by being served shepherds pie topped with it, that it is my favorite herb. So finally the other day I bought one at Walmart for just a couple of dollars. It's pretty small and the leaves are pretty far apart. Not like the kind I buy already cut at the grocery store in the produce section. That kind is very dense. And I have a friend who bought one at Christmas time shaped like a tiny Christmas tree. So my question is, is there hope that my little plant will be able to grow into a thick dense plant? Are there tips that I can try to help it along? Your article was very helpful. The only directions my plant came with was to water it from the bottom by placing in in a saucer of water. This goes against your comment that they don't like wet feet. Glad I found this!

It has been said that scent

It has been said that scent is the guardian of memory so familiar smells can transport us right back to childhood. Dense plants have been clipped frequently to encourage branching so feel free to clip yours and use the clippings in your favorite recipes. Fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer - fish emulsion and kelp are good but can be smelly. You can bottom water as long as you dump out any excess water that the plant has not absorbed after about an hour of soaking. I still prefer to give mine a shower every now and then.

Rosemary plants

In late January i planted two rosemary plants I rescued from a left over Holiday sale, dying, and not looking well, with some dried out bald spots I planted them in a recycled rubber/tires container. I used potting soil, and I have them on my balcony facing south west sun exposure in Atlanta.
I'm not always around, so they're left to fair the weather on their own. I just got back after a month to find one of them has rewarded me with a couple of sweet small purple flowers, to my surprise since I never knew they bloomed. The other plant looks like the bald spots have increase which makes me think a disease my taken hold. I've been looking and reading about this and I have not been able to find any organic remedies to help my plan. Is there anything I can do to prevent this and help it thrive as its sister is doing so well. Perhaps you can help?
Thank you!
Ray

Rosemary flowers are truly a

Rosemary flowers are truly a gift. I think it is amazing that after a month on their own the plants are living at all! I would try trimming the bald branches back to a healthy looking spot in hopes that they will shoot out some new growth. If that plant doesn’t recover and you think it is disease related, I would pitch it in the trash and enjoy the healthy sister.

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