putting rosemary outdoors for the summer

leira(6 MA)April 25, 2009

I have successfully over-Wintered a rosemary indoors for the first time ever -- usually they give up the ghost in mid-March, right when I believe I'm on the home stretch.

Sometime soon, I'd like to put it outdoors for the Summer. Last year I did this by simply moving the pot outdoors, but I think it didn't get quite as much water as it should have, and while it did survive, it didn't exactly thrive.

This year I'm planning to put the rosemary in the garden for the Summer, but I haven't decided whether the best answer is to sink the pot into the ground (which would make it easy to bring inside next Winter), or to actually plant it in the ground, and dig it up and pot it in the Fall.

What have you done in the past? How well did it work? My goal is to use the Summer to get this rosemary as big and strong and healthy as is practical...it could use some real revival.

I'm also hoping to track down an "Arp" rosemary that should be hardy in my zone...but this particular variety is definitely not Winter-hardy in my area.


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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Planting direct in the soil outside might give it transplant shock when its dug and placed in a pot for the winter indoors. Suggest you use a standard clay pot as opposed to the plastic type, and plant the whole pot in soil outdoors that gets watered. I use soaker hoses in my garden and string them all over it to water most everything quite well. If you lose your rosemary, you can get primed seeds from Johnnys in Maine. Primed seeds germinate much more reliably.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 1:38PM
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I overwinter rosemary indoors in my kitchen where it gets plenty of light & humidity & have on & off success. Some I've had some for several years and some die off that first winter. The one thing I notice is that both my creeping rosemary & my bush rosemary become very woody over the course of the winter (practically bonsei, but that might be my clipping habit...)& while they flesh out during the summer (I keep them in the pots & start them off in the shade then gradually move them to the sun), they are never again that "succulent" plant I picked up at the nursery. Still highly aromatic & with good yields, but I pot up 3 or 4 new rosemaries every year to be able to cut large wands for grilling & jamming, particularly.

For a few years I tried overwintering rosemary in the garden with "bell jars" made out of 3L pop bottles, & that worked up to a point-- usually the one where the kids let the dogs out the "garden-side" of the house "because it's winter & nothing's growing".... If you try this, you have to stake the bottles well & during a run of "warmer" weather, take the bottles off for a few hours of the day. Kinda labor intensive if you're not home all the time so I started growing them in pots & bringing them in, instead. Since rosemary is my most favorite herb, I only have too many when the window sill is full...

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 10:48PM
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leira(6 MA)

while they flesh out during the summer (I keep them in the pots & start them off in the shade then gradually move them to the sun), they are never again that "succulent" plant I picked up at the nursery.

I think you've really hit the nail on the head. I was so happy about my successful overwintering, then I found myself in the nursery section of Home Depot where all of the beautiful, lush new rosemaries were all lined up in their pots. Why doesn't mine look like that any more, I wondered? And more relevantly, what can I do during the glorious Summer ahead to bring mine back to that place?

I understand the ease of leaving the rosemary in a pot through the Summer, and then just bringing it in for the Fall...but might it not benefit from the ability to grow in the ground unfettered for a few months?

I'd really love to hear from someone who's returned their rosemary to glory after a Winter indoors.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 9:16AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Lush is not necessarily what you want in rosemary. While it looks good it means that the growth is new, tender and probably forced into performing by heat,light and fertiliser for a quick sale. If you saw rosemary in its natural habitat or in a climate where it lives outdoors all year round it does not look like the pampered specimens that garden centres tempt you with. It is a tough old thing and to overwinter it needs to have ripe tough foliage, not sappy soft stuff. At present my rosemary (20 years outdoors and counting) is as tough and gnarled as a bit of old pine tree, but it is putting on its spring growth and will provide intensely flavoured and scented banches all year long. Don't compare your grown up rosemary with the soppy spoilt juveniles in the store. Be proud of its maturity and treat it as an adult, not a pampered overfed baby. Give it fresh air and sunshine and leave it be.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 5:26PM
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leira(6 MA)

flora_uk, I think you misunderstand.

I've seen rosemary growing in places where it grows year-round. That rosemary looks lush and healthy. Mine looks spindly and sad and pale (but it is still alive, which is a definite point in its favor).

I still would like to know if those who move their rosemary outside for the Summer will sink their pots, plant directly in the garden for a few months, or what. Simply moving the pot outside into the sun for the Summer will not work for me -- I've got a baby coming in early August, and I don't keep outdoor pots properly watered under the best of circumstances. I want to put this rosemary into a position where it can get the best treatment possible for the coming months, and I'd like to draw on the experiences of others to help understand what that is.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 7:02PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

There are SEVERAL DIFFERENT KINDS OF ROSEMARY. Some are not winter hardy, while others can withstand temps below 20 degrees. If you do grow Rosemary and want it as a perennial, choose a type that is very cold hardy.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 10:40PM
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Rosemary does not like to have its roots disturbed. Better to keep in pot, sinking in soil.

I have tried all of the various hardy rosemaries to no avail. I thought I had a live over this past winter when in late January the plant was still alive. A no name rosemary. Our couple of days of -3F did it in. I have purchased several new plants of rosemary of the hardy types and plan to try in the same area.

Which rosemary live to below 20 degrees. I would love to get my rosemary loving hands on them. I realize that it is probably the microclime rather than the temperature that allows them to live.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 10:51PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I have only grown mine from primed seeds, and its bushy and tall by the middle and end of summer. I don't know where you can get a type that is more cold hardy, but at Christmas time I see pots of it at BJ's decorated like little Christmas trees. It may help if there is a cold frame outside where the plants are protected slightly by covering them with a small greenhouse type enclosure.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 4:46AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

OK leira - I get you now. I thought you were referring specifically to pots of rosemary you had seen for sale in HD - hence my comments about them being primped for sale.

I can grow rosemary outside so I am not an indoor overwintering expert. I notice you say your rosemary is pale and spindly - this may be due to too little light and too much heat, so that's something to think about next winter. As to whether you should transplant or sink the pot I can't usefully comment. Good luck with the baby and the rosemary. My daughter was born in August too and is about a year older than my rosemary. Yours will be the other way around :) Flora

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 6:46AM
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I wintered a rosemary inside. Just before it was warm enough to put it out I believe it started to get some spider mites or some such little varmits. I hosed it off and put it in the garage for a week and then out on the deck. It is not as full as last summer. It was losing leaves all winter and got scraggly. I am going to re-pot it with fresh potting soil and some compost. If that does not help it revive its going out in the garden somewhere! Did you re-pot yours after winter or is it still in the same soil?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 12:54AM
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I live in Michigan and I have set my rosemary out in the summer with great success. I can't comment on the ground theory, I just set the entire pot out and it flourished like you wouldn't believe. After it was back to a large healthy state, I picked one of the branches, stripped the bottom leaves and stuck it in the ground. Before long, I had another large beautiful plant. I left it outside to see if it was a perennial here and it was not. I did bring a smaller one in and wintered it indoors and am looking forward to seeing it grow outside again this summer. I will once again just leave it in the original pot and watch it grow, then start a new one in the ground. I will try to dig that one up and see which does better over the next winter.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 8:34PM
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The ARP did winter over for me here--once. I'm pretty close to being in the 6a zone, though--it rarely gets less than 1 degree F here in the winter.

I know, with thyme and sage, which seem to have similar requirements to rosemary, they do better staying in their pots. Does rosemary need drainage as sharp as thyme and sage?

Soil type may be important, too. Much of the soil in MA is rather high in sand, which helps with drainage. Most of the soil in my area of PA is heavy clay (unless amended) and can get water-clogged. Most Mediterranean herbs cannot survive that, especially in the wintertime.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 2:07AM
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What a difference a half zone makes!
I am nearly in 6B, some charts say 6, some 7.
I have had rosemary and thyme and sage out in the ground all year long for the past 2-3 years. The thyme doesn't seem like it will make it , but then it does.Sage is flowering right now. The rosemary is more than fine. It is spreading.
BUT I have to drag my Bay Leaf, Laurel, plant in every fall and out every spring. I don't put it in the ground. I have put in in a larger pot twice since I bought it. I think it might be better to keep the rosemary in a pot. IMHO

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 10:15PM
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leira(6 MA)

Thanks for the input, everyone.

For all of you wondering what I decided to do, let me fill you in. First of all, the rosemary has been outside in last year's pot (the one it over-Wintered in) for about a month or so. I noticed the other day that it looks a little healthier now, with some new growth, so I think the outdoors has been good fore it.

I got a larger terra cotta pot than the one it's been in, and re-potted it with everyday potting mix (Pro-Mix, as it turns out). I also mixed some Gardens Alive! herb fertilizer into the new soil. After re-potting, I sank the pot up to the rim in the herb garden.

The new growth, consisting of lots of new little tips coming out of the crooks of leaves, has given me a lot of hope. This growth looks strong, and the makings of a nice bushy plant. I now have high hopes that a good Summer outdoors will do well for my sad (yet alive!) little rosemary plant.

Thanks again, all.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 1:17PM
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roseberri, z6(6)

Leira, I too have struggled with over wintering rosemary, usually losing it just before spring, This past winter I put the pot in a large ziploc bag that I left open but pulled up around the sides of the plant. It then lived with a few others on a pooltable in my basement with a grow-lite over it, and it actually worked! I put the pot minus the bag out in a semisheltered area outside a couple weeks ago and it is doing fine. I will repot soon.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 9:04AM
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