I have a small rosemary bush that is thriving, and hope it lives through the winter. What is the best way to care for it so it survives?
More and more, I was hearing gardeners say their rosemary, which does not always make it through winter outdoors in this area, was getting through the cold just fine. Then last year, many gardeners I talked to said their rosemary – which may have been growing for years in the same spot – died. Mine did, too.
Herb experts say that the survival of rosemary can be hit-or-miss. It depends on the kind of winter we have, the kind of rosemary that’s growing in your garden, and even where it’s planted.
If we experience a series of very cold days with very low wind-chill temperatures, rosemary may not stand a chance. If the plant is in the ground on the south side of the house, where it’s protected from a cold north wind, it has a better chance of survival. If it’s near a concrete driveway, brick walkway or a stone wall – anything that reflects a little of the sun’s warmth – there’s an even better chance it’ll make it through unscathed.
It’s best chance is if it happens to be one of the hardier varieties that’s planted on the south side of the house and protected from the wind. The Herb Society of Nashville lists the varieties ‘Arp,’ ‘Hill Hardy’ and ‘Salem’ among the best choices for this area. The National Arboretum adds a few more to the list; check out their choices here.
You may be tempted to dig up the rosemary and bring it indoors for winter, but that’s a bad idea. Rosemary is a shrub and won’t take kindly to the dry air and heat inside the house (which is why so many of those cute rosemary topiaries that people give as gifts die so quickly). If you want to try to bring some of your rosemary inside, you may try to snip a few cuttings and keep them inside in a vase of water, where they may grow roots. Change the water every day or two.