Rosemary grows well in Texas and goes well with lots of things that we eat, including most meats and potatoes. It’s also pretty, historic, and a longtime symbol of remembrance. All you need is full sun and excellent drainage to grow it.
Rosemary is planted from transplants after all danger of frost in the spring has passed and even into early summer. It tolerates frosts and light freezes and thrives with warm temperatures. In much of Texas, it’s a cold-hardy perennial. Although a single plant is generally enough for a small family, 24-inch spacing is generally sufficient for multiple plants.
Like many Mediterranean herbs, rosemary requires at least eight hours of direct sun each day. Anything less and your rosemary will be weak and spindly. Plant rosemary in any well-drained soil, either in the ground or in containers at least 12 inches in diameter or preferably larger. Small containers dry out quickly in Texas’s frequent warm temperatures, leading to plant death or stress. In humid East Texas it’s a good idea to plant rosemary in a raised bed. The ideal pH for growing rosemary is 6.0 to 7.0, although it’s known for being quite alkaline (high pH) tolerant.
If using a container, the transplant should be planted into professional-grade, well-drained potting soil. Dig a hole that is the same size as the existing pot that the plant is growing in. Gently firm the soil around it, being careful not to plant the transplant any deeper than it was growing in the pot. Water thoroughly with a water-soluble plant food such as Miracle-Gro at half the labeled recommendation. If planting in the ground, consider placing some broken brick or concrete rubble on top of the ground, planting the rosemary on top of it, and pulling the dirt up around the rubble and rosemary roots, creating a raised, well-drained mound. Adding a gravel, expanded shale, or decomposed granite mulch is even better. This improved drainage more mimics rosemary’s Mediterranean habitat and ensures survival during periods of heavy rainfall.
Rosemary is easy to grow and relatively pest free. To stimulate new tender foliage, keep it trimmed or harvested regularly. Rosemary is a light feeder and only needs a sprinkle of lawn or garden fertilizer each spring. In heavy clay soils, rosemary may have a tendency to rot during wet weather. After winter, trim out any dead branches.
Tender rosemary shoots and leaves can be harvested at any time within weeks of transplanting. I find harvesting with a pair of scissors easiest. The more you cut the plant, the more tender shoots and leaves it will make. Use or refrigerate immediately. Although most folks discard the woody stems, some use them as skewers for added flavor when grilling kebabs or other foods.
Recommended rosemary varieties for Texas include ‘Albus’, ‘Arp’, ‘Barbeque’, ‘Bendenen Blue’, ‘Collingwood Ingram’, ‘Corsicus’ (Corsican), ‘Erectus’, ‘Gorizia’, ‘Majorca’, ‘Prostratus’, ‘Roman Vivace’, and ‘Tuscan Blue’. Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean and produces blue, pink, or white flowers during the winter which are attractive to pollinators.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Heirloom Gardening in the South, and The Rose Rustlers. You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com and his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com). More science-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.