When to Plant and Harvest Rosemary Plants

Planting rosemary in the soil with bare hands.

Rosemary plants native to the Mediterranean region. They grow well almost everywhere and provide tasty seasoning for soups, stews, vegetables and meat. This herb grows as an attractive evergreen shrub that produces beautiful little blue flowers. It likes full sun and will even do well in drier inland climates with enough water.

When to Plant

Spring, after it warms up, is a good time to plant most kinds of plants, including rosemary. You can also plant it year-round in warmer climates. However, summer or winter are not the best time to plant rosemary as more moderate temperatures help the plant to get started. If you missed planting in the spring, fall is also good because the rains and moderate temperatures will help rosemary become established in the ground.

Plant it in full sun in fully-drained soil. Fertilize in the spring, then infrequently after that. Make sure it has enough water when it is newly planted to establish it. Rosemary needs moderate water where it is really hot and little water in other regions.

If you live in an area that has frost, plant rosemary after the danger of frost is past. If it gets cold where you live, plan to bring the plant indoors or mulch it heavily during the winter to keep its roots warm. You can wrap plastic sheeting around the entire shrub to keep its branches from breaking off in snow. You can also buy a more cold hardy variety. Ask your garden center staff to make sure you are getting the right variety for your garden.

TIP: Our expert Gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin adds, "Indoors, rosemary plants are susceptible to spider mites, so be sure that there is plenty of air circulation in the room, and check the plants for the telltale red mites regularly."

When to Harvest

Harvest rosemary herbs after new growth, usually about 6 weeks after planting it. Harvesting rosemary plants is really easy. Simply snip off its stems as you need them. Use sharp clippers and snip off 6 to 8 inch pieces from various places in the plant. If you plan to use the full stem, like in the cavity of a chicken or skewering a baked potato, leave the leaves on the stem. If you plan to only use the leaves, like in a soup or stew, strip the leaves off the stems with your fingers and throw the stems in your compost pile.

You can use the fresh leaves or you can store them in glass containers or plastic bags where they will eventually dry. If you plan to dry your herbs first, clip the stems off the plant and hang them up or place them on towels until they are dry. You can also dry them in the oven for a faster dry time.

You can harvest rosemary anytime that you need it for cooking. You can also harvest while shaping or pruning the plant. If your plants are getting too woody and/or bare in the middle, prune or trim them back with sharp pruners or clippers. If you have an older plant with woody stems, prune the leafy stems only. New stems grow from leafy stems, not bare wood. Prune rosemary after it blooms. You can cut it back all over the entire plant, or you can give it a distinctive shape by only cutting back particular stems. Use all your harvested rosemary by drying it to use later or throwing it in the compost pile.