Sickly rosemary

rembetika(austin, TX)August 18, 2013

I'm writing this in the TX section instead of the herb section because we all know we have a whole different universe down here where the normal rules of gardening don't apply..!

Anyway.... it's pretty sad if you live in central TX and you can't even grow rosemary. I mean it's almost like a weed,, and thrives with neglect, right..?? It's supposed to be one of the easiest plants to have around. But every single time I plant one, it looks all nice and green and vibrant and then after several weeks or months it turns into this pathetic, stunted looking thing with pale, spotty, shriveled, sad looking leaves. All my neighbor's rosemary plants look beautiful- thriving, full, green & healthy. What am I doing wrong?
I have it planted in an area that has pretty un-fussed-with soil, since that is supposed to be better for herbs. However I do add a little fertilizer from time to time, and mulch (which eventually gets blended in), compost, whatever. But the soil (like most soil in Austin) always ends up turning back to rocky dust anyway.
I thought it was spider mites for a while because in previous years, they have attacked everything- all the plants ended up with sickly, pale, spotted leaves. But this year everything else looked mite-free.. except the rosemary always ends up looking the same.
I have 2 plants in 2 different places-- both get plenty of sun, and occasional water. Anyone know what I'm doing wrong...?

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Too much water, perhaps? I have a bunch of them and I have noticed that they get sick if I water them more than once in 2 weeks.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 9:59PM
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I did something very similar with my creeping rosemary with similar results. I bought 2 plants and put them in separate areas. One was planted on the north side in a well prepared bed with good drainage where it gets dappled shade throughout the day and about 3 hours of indirect setting sun. Then I planted the other one directly on the west side of the house in an unprepared bed where the clay soil is harder and gets rocky about a foot down into the soil. It got full sun, direct western sun starting around 2pm.

I also thought rosemary was supposed to be pretty tough. I thought the one on the west side would end up thriving better. Not just because of what I've read and been told but also because I have seen rosemary growing in some of the most severe summer conditions. I saw it everywhere in Las Vegas and Arizona. Interestingly, the rosemary in shade began growing and thriving while the one on the west side slowly began to decline. I transported the sick one next to the other one in shade and now they're both doing really well and have doubled in size. I didn't do anything special. Just covered the soil with cedar mulch, sprinkled a tiny bit of all purpose fertilizer and water every other day. Now they seem to be taking off and growing like mad.

I've been puzzled by this but I'm not complaining since they're thriving. But it still makes me wonder why they've been described as such tough plants when mine didn't like the soil and/or intense sun at all. Try moving yours to a better spot or a planter. Mine transplanted easily and was revived within a few days.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 3:11PM
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I am not in your area but I notice the rosemary I plant in fall does better than ones planted in spring. Maybe the roots get a better start or something because I am wondering if its the roots not taking hold for you. Mine don't do well at all in hard clay but they get big and thick in well draining sandy soil and produce lots of seedlings. I have them in both full and part sun and they did fine in that endless 100+ heat dome inferno last summer.

I planted one in spring in some bad soil and it never seemed to take hold and looked like you are describing. When I pulled it, the roots seemed weak.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 7:15PM
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rembetika(austin, TX)

Thanks for the replies. I don't understand it though because I see so many people with HUGE rosemary bushes that are thriving and they don't seem to be doing anything special to it. I know you're supposed to neglect it, and I've been neglecting it as hard as I can! Also supposedly they like poor soil.. well, this is Austin so of COURSE the soil is poor. A little clay but also sandy/rocky. I never water (unless they get overspray from other plants nearby) and one is in full sun, the other in half shade.. and they both look like crap. Oh well....

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 5:41PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

There are many varieties of rosemary. I've had some die, while others thrive. Maybe you happened to get hold of a variety that's not the best for your location. Or perhaps, being young plants, it was the recent heavy rains that did them in.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 5:52PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I vote for overwatering as well.

I have rosemary plants (all propagated from the same one, eons ago) all over the place, including on my windowsill in the house. The ones in the house are less vibrant than the ones outside. It could be that they don't get quite as much sun, but most probably because, along with my other windowsill plants, they get watered regularly.

By the way, your point about "different universes" and "different rules apply" is right on. It's sometimes hard to have an intelligent conversation with even a highly experienced northern gardener. When it comes to questions about heat stress and fall/winter gardening, I post here.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 12:33PM
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You say your neighbor have beautiful Rosemary so why not just go and ask for a few cuttings? It could be your variety is the problem. But if your plant is large enough take cuttings for new starts also. I do not think you can have too many plants when it comes to Rosemary. If you do then there should be a lot of friends, neighbors and family that would help you out there. I have taken cuttings from my plants many times and any I do not use I like to place into soil and just leave them on their own to live or die without anymore care than I give the rest of my garden bed.

This post was edited by wally-1936 on Tue, Nov 19, 13 at 21:38

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 9:08AM
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DD had them in her front yard~she never did a thing to them and they grew into a huge bush-like plants. DH ended up pulling them all out when they started over taking other plants. Seems they do best when completely ignored.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 12:32PM
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Rosemary I have encountered over the years does not like it when you tell it you love it or caress it. Act like you could care less and play hard to get and he will come around. All jokes aside don't fertilize your Rosemary or let roots stand in water. Plant in partial sun and or try a different bush type of Rosemary. Do you own a dog that could be using the bathroom in this location? My dad has a dog that goes to the corner of the house to do his thing and sure enough it did kill my mothers Rosemary. I hope this helps, I surely would go crazy if I had this problem because I love the Rosemary and use it in my bath, I use it to cook with, I make a bouquet for table almost all the time. I made my own Rosemary oil for my candle burner because it make my house smell so beautiful. I hope you have blessings of Rosemary Gods upon you. Good Luck and let us know.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 9:48PM
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realfroggie(z8 TX)

"Act like you could care less and play hard to get and he will come around. All jokes aside don't fertilize your Rosemary or let roots stand in water. Plant in partial sun "

.....could not have said it better....ignore it..don't' even look in it's soil prep, no water, no fertilizer....mine just grows and grows...

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 7:59PM
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