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The Challenges of Overwintering Rosemary

Healthy rosemary plant.
Photo: Theresa Mieseler, Shady Acres Herb Farm

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs and I have tried growing it indoors for several years, most years I have ended up with a dead plant. For a plant that is so easy to grow outdoors, I am still trying to figure out how to successfully overwinter rosemary.

Sunny good light is a given, a must for maintaining herbs indoors through a Minnesota winter. I think the watering is the tough part. I think rosemary does not like to dry out indoors. And like most herbs, it thrives on well drained soil.

The author's rosemary plant.
Photo: Mary Meyer, UMN Extension Educator
And then there is the mildew issue, so easy to get mildew in the winter indoors.   If all else fails, there are our wonderful garden centers, where healthy rosemary is waiting for us, especially colorful and lovely for Christmas gifts.

The Rosemary Challenge

Theresa Mieseler, local herb guru and owner of Shady Acres Herb Farm (shadyacres.com) in Chaska, MN has this to say about growing rosemary indoors:

Rosemary can be somewhat of a challenge to grow indoors.
1. Most important is that it was grown in a container during the summer months and not dug out of the garden. This is surely the demise of the plant if this was done. I also transplant it once a year – in the spring, cutting back the soil ball and one-third of the top growth.
2. There are two Shady Acres rosemarys that are growing in front of my patio door in the living room. They are in direct sunlight, facing south, and I turn the pots at least once a week.
3. Watering: I prefer to let them get very dry, even if the foliage droops a little that is okay. Water well so that the water comes out the bottom of the pot into the saucer. After one-half hour empty the excess water from the saucer. After that let it get very dry again. Water frequency depends on indoor temperature, if it is near a register, (mine is - but I closed the register) and sunlight-cloudy or sun.
4. Fertilizer: Once a month with an organic solution, whatever is available is usually fine.
5. Insects: The rosemarys I am growing are isolated from other plants in the basement and so far they are clean. If aphids show up it’s easy to spray insecticidal soap to clean them up.
6. In late April or May, depending on weather, when the days are warm and nights are free of frost, I move them to the deck.

Theresa says she's been clipping and using the fresh rosemary since she brought it indoors.  "I love this herb," Theresa said. And so do I! Take up the challenge this winter and you'll be rewarded.

Author: Mary Meyer, Extension Horticulturist 

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