How can I grow rosemary indoors?
May 27, 2014 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Every time I try to grow rosemary indoors, the plants die. What am I doing wrong?

I'd like to grow rosemary indoors. I don't have a yard or outdoor space where I can grow rosemary outside, but I'd like to have fresh rosemary for cooking. I've tried a few times over the past few years, and each time, the rosemary eventually dies. I've just gotten a new small rosemary plant ready to be repotted, and I'd like it to survive.

What should I do to ensure the survival of this plant? Assume I know nothing about gardening, because apparently that's the case...
posted by msbrauer to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Rosemary likes a LOT of sunlight, in my experience. Try putting it in the sunniest place in the house-- but even then, it may not be enough light.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:31 PM on May 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I had this conversation at a garden show with someone who grows and sells nothing but rosemary. Some varieties of rosemary really need to be planted into the ground, and all of them need plenty of sun.
posted by holgate at 12:32 PM on May 27, 2014

Rosemary is a Mediterranean plant, so for it to have a fighting chance you need to do your best to duplicate those conditions, namely bright, full sun and a relatively arid climate. You might be able to find varieties of rosemary that are slightly less light hungry but I don't know if that would impact its potency as a culinary herb. Remember that absent artificial augmentation, the sunniest part of your house generally provides less sunlight than the shadiest bit of your yard/garden.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2014

I'm not sure what variety I had, but FWIW I grew rosemary in a mason jar on my window sill without any issue.
posted by rancidchickn at 12:40 PM on May 27, 2014

Rosemary is happiest outdoors. The plants that tend to make the best houseplants are tropical understory plants, because our houses are generally temperate and dim, compared to the outdoors. Rosemary likes warm weather, lots of sun, and space for its roots to stretch out. That's not going to happen in most indoor situations.

Here is what you do: Buy four rosemary plants a year. They cost, what, $4-$8, per plant? More at Trader Joe's, less if you buy them at the garden center. So, let's say, $25 for year-round fresh rosemary. That's worth it to me! Once a plant starts to fade, harvest the leaves; buy a new plant the next time the mood strikes. Don't get caught up in worrying too much about each plant; they don't have souls.
posted by purpleclover at 12:44 PM on May 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think you're already doing it right. Unless you happen to have a really sun-drenched windowsill it's going to give up eventually. It does tend to like a good bit of abuse, so water it pretty sparingly and you might get more time out of it.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:03 PM on May 27, 2014

If you don’t have a nice sunny window sill for it, keeping it healthy indoors is going to be a struggle.

I have a rosemary plant in a pot that comes into the house every winter (the cold would kill it) — by the end of the winter it always looks rather unhealthy from the lack of sufficient light. It perks up just fine though as soon as it goes back outside in the spring.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 1:29 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

My rosemary plant is picky about water too - I soak it pretty well once a week - less than that and it's not happy, doesn't like more either and needs to drain well.
posted by leslies at 2:37 PM on May 27, 2014

I'm not a plant expert, by any means. My mother, however, is. Last fall she gave me a small rosemary plant in a terracotta pot. She instructed me to put it in my sunniest window and--most importantly--to cover it loosely with a gallon-sized ziploc bag. I think a ziploc bag is preferable to other thinner, floppier bags, like the kind you use to put your produce in at the store. The thickness and stiffness of the ziploc bag keeps it open. Don't tighten or fasten the bottom of the bag, but let is hang open loosely. Water it when dry. The bag acts as a casual greenhouse and keeps the plant from drying out. I would always notice beads of condensation inside the bag. I moved my rosemary plant out to the front porch a couple of weeks ago--sans plastic bag--and it looks great! My mother told me this is a great thing to do for all herbs.
posted by primate moon at 5:02 PM on May 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lots of sun, good drainage, and kind of near a heater/vent so it stays kinda dry. I talk to my plants too and I think that helps when they'd rather be outside.
posted by spunweb at 5:46 PM on May 27, 2014

Oh and my rosemary is always ridiculously healthy, if sometimes spider infested.
posted by spunweb at 6:37 PM on May 27, 2014

Oh and if you get mites, they hate water, so put the pot in the shower for like 5 or 10 minutes full blast and that'll take of that. Or make a garlic soap spray.
posted by spunweb at 6:42 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips! Hopefully I do better this year.
posted by msbrauer at 8:54 AM on May 28, 2014

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