Everything You Need To Know About Growing Rosemary In Pots

Rosemary is one of the most popular savory kitchen herbs grown for their flavor and attractive leaves.

Adding rosemary to chicken or even garlic bread adds a delicious flavor unmatched by other culinary herbs. It’s no wonder that everyone wants to grow rosemary at home – since it’s expensive in the stores -, so why not try growing rosemary in pots?

Something you should know is that rosemary originates in the Mediterranean region, so it prefers warm weather.

It’s not cold hardy, so if you decide to grow potted rosemary herbs at home and live somewhere that receives frost, growing in pots is the best.

Rosemary is a perennial in the right climate, so if you don’t want your plant to be an annual, it’ll need to be brought inside.

  • Pick a container that is at least 12 inches deep and wide for proper growth
  • of rosemary grown in pots
  • Rosemary in a pot needs loose, well-draining soil that has plenty of compost or aged manure for nutrients.
  • You’ll need to prune your potted rosemary plants regularly to encourage bushier growth, and you can use those trimmings in your dishes.
  • Water regularly, but you don’t need to fertilize more than once a year. Rosemary is far from a heavy feeder.

Rosemary grows well in containers, allowing everyone to take advantage of this perennial herb. If you want to try growing it for yourself, you need to know what to get started.

Keep reading to learn about potted rosemary care and how to grow rosemary in containers.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing Rosemary In Pots 1

How to Get Started Growing Rosemary in Pots

Caring for rosemary herbs grown in containers is something that all gardeners can do, even beginners.

Rosemary is a fantastic herb for beginners; it doesn’t have too many picky requirements. Let’s look at what you need to know about growing rosemary in pots.

1. Pick The Right Container for Rosemary

Pick The Right Container for Rosemary

The first thing you should do is buy a container or two for your rosemary plants. It’s an essential piece of the puzzle; the wrong pot could damage the plant’s growth.

  • Rosemary plants need a pot that measures at least 12 inches wide and deep. This size gives the plants plenty of room for the roots to grow and expand.
  • Make sure the container you selected has several drainage holes at the bottom. Rosemary will rot and die if it’s left in soggy, poorly draining soil.
  • If you’re using a container that you used previously with another plant, be sure to sterilize it first. You can do that by washing it with a solution that is 1 part bleach and nine parts water. Make sure to rinse thoroughly before planting the rosemary in the container. 

2. Find the Best Spot for Growing Rosemary

Find the Best Spot for Growing Rosemary

Since rosemary originates in the Mediterranean region, it’s obvious these plants prefer sunny locations. Don’t try to plant or place the container in spots that receive a lot of shade.

  • Select a sunny location on your porch or patio that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.
  • If you live in a tropical region, select a location that receives the full 6-8 hours and has protection from the afternoon sun to give the plant a bit of rest each day.
  • When you opt to grow rosemary indoors, keep the pot in a south-facing window to ensure it receives ample sunlight.

3. Use the Proper Soil

Use the Proper Soil

You must use a good quality commercial potting mixture to grow rosemary. You should add some amendments to it, such as fine pine bark or peat moss, and vermiculite or perlite to increase drainage.

  • Never use regular garden soil for growing rosemary. Taking dirt out of your garden is never a good idea!
  • Pick either a soilless potting mix or make your own at home. Aim for 20% of the blend being compost or aged manure for optimal plant growth.
  • Make sure it’s light, fluffy, and well-draining.

4. Start Rosemary Seeds

Start Rosemary Seeds

While it can be done, starting and growing rosemary from seeds should be your last option. Rosemary isn’t easy to grow from seeds; it’s rather complicated and takes a lot of time to reach the size needed to harvest.

Not to mention, germination success rates are low, and the success rate is small as well.

  • Sow the seeds in small pots of seed starting mix. Cover with ¼ inch of soil and keep the soil damp.
  • Rosemary seeds take 15-30 days to germinate, so you have to be patient.
  • Don’t let the soil dry out or the seeds will not sprout. Some light helps them germinate as well.
  • Once sprouted, keep them under a grow light, watering often, until they have a true set of leaves.

5. Planting Rosemary In Pots

Plant Rosemary

The easiest way to plant rosemary is to start with a small plant either from a garden center or a local nursery. You can try to start rosemary from seeds, as detailed above, but it can be tricky to do so.

  • Remove the plant from the container it’s growing inside, and gently loosen the roots at the bottom of the pot.
  • Plant the rosemary at the same depth that it was inside of the previous container. If you plant too deeply, then you can suffocate your plant.
  • Cover the rest of the hole with soil and press down firmly. Make sure you water deeply to help the roots establish in the ground. 

Caring for Rosemary in Pots

Now that your plant is potted and started growing, it’s time to learn how to take care of rosemary plants grown in containers. The great thing is that they aren’t too fussy, as you’re about to see. It won’t take you much time out of your day to care for your plant.

1. How Often Should You Water Rosemary In A Pot?

Water Your Plants

Proper watering is one of the keys to growing potted rosemary. Without the right amount of water, your plants won’t survive.

So, how often should you water rosemary in a pot?

Rosemary tends to dry out when indoors, so you’ll want to mist the foliage regularly to stop it from becoming too dry. But, sometimes it can be really difficult to determine how often to water your potted rosemary plants. On average, water rosemary every 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the plant size and climate conditions.

To determine if your plant needs water follow these steps:

  • Put your finger into the soil to see if you need to water. If the top 2 inches of the soil feels dry, it’s time to water them.
  • Water the plants deeply and let the pot drain freely. Don’t let the pot stand in the winter.
  • Make sure you don’t overwater your plants, which is one of the easiest ways to kill your rosemary plants in containers.

2. Fertilize Your Rosemary Plants

Fertilize Your Rosemary Plants

Typically, potted rosemary doesn’t require fertilization, but adding some can be a good idea if you notice your plant looks pale green or stunted. Too much fertilizer can be damaging to the plant.

In fact, if you grow rosemary in the ground, it thrives in even poor soil. It’s not a heavy feeding plant, but light feedings in potted plants can be beneficial.

  • Try using a dry fertilizer or a diluted water-soluble liquid fertilizer.
  • Make sure that you always water your rosemary immediately after applying fertilizer.
  • Apply the fertilizer to the potting soil, not the leaves; that could cause the leaves to burn.

3. Overwinter Inside

If you live in regions with chilly winters, you’ll need to bring the plant inside before the first frost in your area.

If you don’t want your plants to be an annual, you can start or plant a new rosemary plant each spring, but that can be frustrating since these plants can live for years as a perennial.

  • Before you bring rosemary inside, transplant it into a larger pot that measures 18 inches wide and deep. If the container is too small, it will die.
  • Make sure it receives plenty of sunlight in a south-facing window or a large glass patio door facing east, west, or south.
  • Make sure it’s not near any heating vents because it’ll dry out too fast.
  • If your home has low humidity in the wintertime, regularly mist your plants. This can be a smart move even if you have a humidifier running.

4. Pruning Your Rosemary Herbs

Pruning Your Plants

When your plant is about 4-5 inches tall, you can start to prune it to help make the plant bushier rather than continuing to grow upward.

Pinching off the tips with your fingers or shears will encourage side growth.

  • When your plant is 8-10 inches tall, remove the top growth again above the leaf node, saving the emerging lateral buds. Those buds will grow and make the plant look fuller.
  • You can do regular, light pruning throughout the entire growing season until 4-6 weeks before the first frost.
  • Avoid pruning or pinching off in the late fall and winter. During this time, the plant is hardening off, protecting itself in the winter.
  • If you have rosemary growing inside or live in a temperate climate, you can prune year-round.
  • Remove all dead, damaged, and crossing stems. Crossing stems can be problematic because they can cause injuries, which opens the plant up to diseases and pests. Pruning these types of branches and the dead ones is necessary because it improves air circulation and gives the plant the best shape.

5. Propagate Rosemary As Needed

If you want to multiply your herb and grow more rosemary, you can take cuttings from your current rosemary plant and plant those in your garden or other containers.

  • Cuttings should come from the young non-flowering shoots that are 3-4 inches in length.
  • Take a sharp pair of scissors or garden knife to remove the bottom set of leaves.
  • Don’t remove any stems from the top 1.5-2 inches of the plant.
  • Dip the ends of the cuttings in a rooting hormone that you can find at any garden center or nursery.
  • Once you do this, your cuttings are ready to be potted.

Harvesting Fresh Rosemary

The most flavorful rosemary leaves come when the new growth isn’t too soft nor turned woody. You can cut off the part of the stem above the woody part.

Never take more than 25% of an overall plant because it can cause irreversible damage to your plant.

You can harvest anytime throughout the growing season, but if you bring it inside during the winter, avoid harvesting too much. You don’t want to overwhelm the plant.

Common Pests & Diseases That Bother Rosemary

Rosemary does have some enemies that like to attack and bother rosemary. Here are some of the diseases and pests it might face.

Cottony Soft Rot 

If your plant is rapidly dying and turning yellow, it could be cottony soft rot. It’s a fungus that can be present at the surface of the root.

You might find water-soaked lesions on the stem of the rosemary plant in the spring. Cottony soft rot appears during warm, humid conditions.

Make sure you rotate crops and plant disease-free materials. It’s hard to get rid of a fungus, but you can try a fungus spray.

Downy Mildew

If you find that the leaves are yellowing and a white-grey fussy growth develops on the leaves, you have downy mildew.

It’s another fungus that likes rosemary plants, spreading during prolonged periods of wetness. Ensure you prune and trim your plant appropriately to give it good air circulation and avoid getting the foliage wet when watering the plant.


Spittlebugs leave little globs of spit on your plant, and the insects suck sap from the needles. Although being ugly and a bit nasty, spittlebugs don’t cause a severe problem, but if you have a heavy infestation, it’ll weaken the plant.

You can use a strong jet of water to wash away the foam spit excretions and the insects inside it. Typically, spittlebugs only bother rosemary plants and grow outside, but they can find indoor rosemary plants.


Aphids, along with whiteflies, can bother rosemary plants, primarily if they’re grown in a greenhouse or indoors.

Aphids are usually green in color, but they can be white, yellow, brown, black, and pink. They like to attach to the underside of leaves and suck their sap, leaving a sticky residue on the plant.

A forceful jet of water should remove these pests. Another option is to use an application of insecticidal soap. You spray these soaps on the insects and plants.

Root Rot

Unfortunately, if your rosemary plant develops root rot, there isn’t much you can do to save your plant.

It’s caused by a fungus, causing your plants to wilt and drop their leaves prematurely. Discard the damaged plants and make sure you pick a spot to grow rosemary that allows the plant to drain well.

Types of Rosemary Plants To Grow In A pot

There are two types of rosemary, with dozens of cultivars mixed into those two types and even hybrids. That can be a bit confusing when you want to find the right rosemary to grow.

Shrub-Like Upright Rosemary

This type of rosemary can reach up to 5-6 feet tall. These tend to have the best flavor. If 6 feet tall is too much for you, you can find semi-upright rosemary plants that only grow to be 2-3 feet tall, making it much easier to manage.

Prostrate Rosemary

This type of rosemary is low-growing and likes to spread out rather than grow upward. It typically doesn’t reach more than 1-2 feet tall.

When you’re growing rosemary in pots, you can grow either type. The low-growing variety works well in hanging baskets or on a shelf in your house. The upright rosemary works better outside, but it can still grow in a pot.

Try Growing Rosemary This Year

You might have heard that rosemary only grows well in warmer climates. While there is some truth, everyone can enjoy having a perennial rosemary plant regardless of location.

Growing rosemary in pots gives you a way to have fresh rosemary all year round no matter where you live.

Amber Noyes

Written By

Amber Noyes

Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.

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