Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a tender perennial, hardy in Zones 8 to 10. It's native to the Mediterranean region, which means it likes things hot and dry!
There are many varieties of rosemary, some trail over the edge of a pot and have a slightly unruly character. Others are shorter and bushier, while others have a tall habit of up to 5 or 6 foot in the right climate.
Some varieties claim survival to -15 degrees if grown sheltered and near an outside wall. However, don't count on this. In cold climates, plan on bringing it inside in early fall, or treat it as an annual and replace it each year.
I've had good success with potting it up and bringing it in each year at the end of the summer. In late spring, when it's truly warmed up and the nights stay above 50 degrees I put it in a raised bed, add a little organic fertilizer or compost and leave it there all summer. You can also leave it potted and bury the pot up to the rim in the garden.
Bringing rosemary inside during the winter is a little tricky. You don't want to over water it, but at the same time it shouldn't become bone dry either. Water when the section of the soil is dry and then only water a small amount. Don't drench it. Keep it in a southern window where it will get plenty of sunshine. It also needs good air circulation--no stuffy rooms.
My rosemary is not trained or shaped into a pretty tree. It's a functional herb plant that I harvest quite often, so though it's appearance is fairly neat, it's not a decorative plant for me. However, those with patience may shape the rosemary plant into a topiary or small tree when it's grown in a pot.
In zones where you can keep rosemary in the ground year round it can be used much as a hedge or shrub since it will grow much larger for you, than those of us who have to bring it indoors. Some gardeners mist their rosemary plants. Because it can suffer from mildew I don't do this. However, I do alternate keeping it on the bathroom windowsill in the winter, since it's a sunny window, so it is exposed to some humidity. Again, rosemary does need air circulation and a mostly dry environment or it could come down with mildew and possibly mites or other pests. Never place the pot on pebbles or let it stand in water.
Rosemary is easily dried, though I usually just use if fresh year round for cooking, vinegars and cosmetic recipes, so I don't usually dry it. However if you have an abundance and would like to store it dry, gather it in small bunches and hang it in a dry location out of the sun. Or dry it on screens in a ventilated area. When dry, strip from the leaves and store in bottles or sealed plastic bags. You can also freeze the leaves in small freezer bags.
In recipes you can use dried rosemary if you use about 1/4 of what it calls for of fresh.
See the related recipes section below for some of our favorite rosemary recipes.
Brenda Hyde is the editor of OldFashionedLiving.com where you can visit for lots more gardening and cooking tips, recipes, and ideas for Old Fashioned Living.