Keeping that adorable, edible rosemary tree alive

Rosemary makes a lovely holiday gift but can be a challenge to keep alive. Photo courtesy 1800 Flowers

Rosemary makes a lovely holiday gift but can be a challenge to keep alive. Photo courtesy 1-800 Flowers

You’ve seen those cute rosemary Christmas trees at your local florist, 1-800 Flowers, supermarkets and retail stores. They look like a perfect holiday hostess gift. And then you pick up a plant, inhale, and envision snipping off bits of the herb and baking fragrant rosemary focaccia.

Rosemary trees – the perfect holiday hostess gift!


But hold the shopping cart: Will that tree live long enough to make a single loaf of bread?

“I’ve had clients who kill them religiously,” says Elizabeth Hoffman, owner of West End Florist, an independent garden center in Evanston, Ill., who says that indoor rosemary plants tend to die at the end of March. “The plant is already stressed,” she says, noting low-light levels and dry indoor conditions, common in Midwest winters, make the plant susceptible to powdery mildew fungi.

Hoffman has come up with a few easy tips to keep rosemary trees alive:

Make certain that your rosemary has plenty of air circulation, which will help to reduce the chances of it becoming infected with powdery mildew, a major problem with indoor rosemary plants.

At the end of January, begin spraying your rosemary tree every two weeks with horticultural oil. Depending on your preference, you can make your own using kitchen oils such as grapeseed, safflower, soybean or canola oil (advised if you’re planning on cooking with your rosemary) or non-organic, such as petroleum-based oil.   You can make your own by mixing 1 1/2 tablespoons of your oil of choice with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle.  Adding 1 tablespoon of liquid non-toxic dish soap to that mix will help to emulsify the spray, making it easier to apply and to stick better.

She suggests taking the plant into the bathtub and completely coating it, making sure to wipe up any slippery surfaces afterward. “The oil coats the plant and suffocates the spores,” Hoffman says. Keep up the routine until middle of April, she advises, and the plant should be in clear.

Yes Virginia . . .you CAN keep your adorable, edible rosemary tree alive!

Also, do not overwater. Rosemary likes to dry out between waterings. When in doubt, think of the country the plant is from, Hoffman says. Rosemary is native to countries like Greece, and grows on rocky mountain sides, where “the water visits and runneth away.”


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9 Responses to Keeping that adorable, edible rosemary tree alive

  1. Susie Gill December 14, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    I love rosemary plants for a variety of reasons, and always hesitate to buy one this time of yr.
    I appreciate your tip on how to care for them this time of yr.!!!!

  2. Pam Yeager December 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Love the tip. Now someone let me know how to keep potted Basil outside in Az. It can be brought inside during frosts. The leaves tend to get rusty.

  3. marianne Binetti January 4, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    Rosemary also hates to be overfertilized – especially when the days are short. I’ve had good luck keeping a potted Rosemary on the windowsill so it will get chilly at night and stay dormant. Great tip about not overwatering. Love your blog.

  4. Cristina Burke January 10, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    I have a rosemary plant that is spending its second winter inside. There is nothing like snipping fresh rosemary at home during the cold winter months. In the past couple of weeks the plant has produces some lavender flowers. It did not do that last year. Will it change the taste or potency of the herb?

  5. Graciebelle January 16, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    Very cool that you have flowers. When I took an herb class a few years back, I was told that it’s best to harvest rosemary just before it blooms but I don’t think that it would change the taste dramatically – not as much as herbs like basil which gets bitter after it blooms.

  6. Patricia Riedman Yeager January 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    Go ahead and cook with those flowers! Make purple-speckled herb butter by mixing the blossoms with unsalted butter, coarse salt and white pepper. Dress up a pork dish or use a flowering stem in a rosemary-infused lemonade. Or just sprinkle them in salads. Enjoy the color, which is such a treat during these drab days of winter.

  7. missouri accident lawyer September 17, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Great website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics talked about here?

    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get opinions from other experienced people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

  8. Your Easy Garden Team September 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Hi – there are a number of gardening forums on the web. We’ll do some checking and get to you.

  9. Your Easy Garden Team September 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    Here are two good gardening forums that you may want to join: Backyard Gardening Forums and Garden Web. Hope this helps!

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