lemon thyme and rosemary - will it live through a zone 7 winter?

leslie_cAugust 6, 2007

I live in Virginia(shenedoah valley area) and I planted my thyme in the ground this year. Its doing fine, but I'm wondering if it will survive the winter. Should I do anything to help it survive? Can I propogate some of it into a container, and if so when if the best time to do this, and the best way? Cuttings or layering? Does thyme die down during the winter then come back in the spring? I have the same questions for my rosemary plant?

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I'm in Richmond (zone 7) so it might be a little warmer here than in the valley during winter. I've had rosemary growing in the garden for many years and sometimes it gets lightly winter damaged but comes back well in the spring. I don't have lemon thyme but common thyme does well and stays green all year. Both are in a border that get some protection from north winds. A bed on the south side of your house near the foundation would give you another few degrees of warmth in winter.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2007 at 9:09PM
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Hi Leslie ~
I'm in Roanoke and have been growing herbs for about 15 years. Most of the time, if Rosemary and Thyme are somewhat protected, they come back each year.
My herb garden faces SW and is somewhat close to my (brick) house- probably a factor.
In the last 15 years, I've lost Rosemary twice. Both winters were very, very cold. Most winters, my thymes (common, lemon, and lime) survive, but are pitiful for a bit and I end up buying plants to supplement.
Last winter, all of my thyme, including the extra plants I put in a garden far from the house, flourished. The winter was mild enough that I'm now over run!!
Hope this helps ~
Meg :)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2007 at 10:08PM
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In my experience--I grew lemon thyme in a container. It did not make it through the winter. I don't remember if that winter was particularly harsh.

I've also had rosemary (once)in a container which died while inside! so you can imagine I don't know much about keeping it alive outside. From what I've heard, though, rosemary is touchy in zone 7. It's really more of a zone eight plant.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 7:04PM
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thistle5(z7 VA)

We've been here 3 years now, & I've overwintered both rosemary & thyme the last 2 winters. Sharp drainage is key, winter wet will kill them faster than winter cold, although a protected location also helps...

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 1:36PM
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shadygrove(z7 VA)

Look for the rosemary variety "Arp"--not hard to find in the nurseries in the Springtime. Rumoured to be more hardy than other varieties and I have never lost it in my central Virginia garden.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 4:47PM
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When my common rosemary died (it had made it through 5 previous winters) I replaced it with Arp. Arp did not survive the winter. Only anecdotal evidence, I know, but the common rosemary I'm growing now I've had for 3 years. I do occasionally cover the plant when the temp gets really low. I'm in Vienna, just west of Washington, DC.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2007 at 3:15PM
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I am just south of you in Staunton and have had rosemary over winter the last 2 winters - it is on the south side of the house where it is very dry & gets lots of sun. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 11:24PM
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I guess what I glean from all this is that rosemary is touchy in this area. Seems right, I think it is actually a zone 8 plant.

Lemon thyme I only tried once and it was in a container. It died over the winter and didn't come back. Regular thyme--like creeping---does.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 11:36PM
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I'm up here just 20 miles west of DC and have lemon thyme..along with about 5 other kinds of thyme...and rosemary in my garden....lots of it. I plopped them all in the ground a couple of years ago and they come back every year like gangbusters. No particular problems and the mounds are bigger every year. They butt up against one another and make for a beautiful cover.

One of the reasons a lot of plants won't overwinter in pots is that the pot doesn't hold enough heat long enough and the roots freze. If you have a lot of container plants, crowd them together for the winter and they will help keep heat in....possibly enough to survive. (No guarantee though.)

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 8:54PM
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jweaver28(z7 VA)

One rosemary plant (common) has been going great guns in front of my Arlington house for 4 years. Once in a 4-inch pot, it now sprawls more than 4 foot high and 6 feet wide despite repeated cuttings and samples given to friends. A couple of years ago, I was surprised to see it blooming in January--now I find blooms around 9 months every year. FYI one of the rosemary plants at Green Springs garden also starts blooming midwinter, but other well-established plants in the Bishop's Garden over at the National Cathedral remain unbudded until spring. I also have a couple of smaller and newer rosemary plants in a terrace garden that are doing fine, as are my sages. Only problem I've had with rosemary is with seeds not sprouting or damping off. Caution: I did manage to kill a creeping rosemary in Philadelphia a few years ago and couldn't revive a store-bought potted Christmas-rosemary-tree a couple of years ago, so I won't guarantee winter-hardiness of the varies subspecies.

Lemon thyme seems more tender, perhaps the least hardy of the thymes. I've never had problems with my common nor creeping thymes--one common thyme survived for years on a Philadelphia roof deck until ignored by a really neglectful tenant. By contrast, I lost lemon thymes a couple of winters in a row here in Arlington. Thus, last winter I decided to split a spring-purchased plant. Turned out that part left in the ground survived the mild winter just fine, as did its 2 offspring in the coldframe next to the house, but one of the two plantlets kept indoors died--tricky to water them neither too much nor too little, or maybe just not enough sun (tho peppers and a couple of creeping geraniums overwintered successfully on the same shelf).

    Bookmark   September 25, 2007 at 4:11PM
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