Growing Rosemary Standards

Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) loves sunshine, so give it the sunniest south-facing window in the house. It also prefers cooler temperatures; 60°F or even cooler (down to 40°F) is ideal, and care should be taken to keep your plant away from hot-air vents and radiators. In winter, Rosemary wants the air around it to be moist but the soilless mix it grows in to be quite dry. If the air in your house becomes arid in the winter, we suggest you run a humidifier, use one of our Humiditrays, or fill the plant saucer with pebbles and keep a bit of water in the saucer (as long as it does not actually touch the pot). Meanwhile, water your plant only enough to keep the potting mix from drying out completely.

Growing Standards: A standard is a woody plant trained to a long, single stem. The stem is crowned with a round head of foliage and flowers. This arrangement is beautiful but also unnatural, requiring a bit of effort on the part of the gardener to prevent gravity and the unrepressed inclinations of the plant from undoing the horticulturist's handiwork.

Staking a Standard: To keep your standard standing, put it out of reach of strong winds and support it with a stake that has a diameter at least as large as the stem's and long enough that when plunged into the pot or the ground it just reaches inside the head. Fasten the standard to the stake at several points with garden twine or green plastic tie tape looped in a figure-eight around stem and stake. Check the ties periodically during the growing season and loosen them if they constrict the outward growth of the stem.

Pruning, fertilizing, and repotting: Maintain the shape of the head with selective pinching of the new shoots (overzealous pinching will prevent the formation of flower buds). Pinch each shoot between thumb and forefinger or cut with pruning shears. Do not shear the plant as though it were a hedge. Fertilize standards grown in pots as you would other pot-grown plants. If you find that a standard in a container dries out quickly after watering, the plant probably needs a larger pot. Lift it from its current pot, make four deep vertical cuts in the root ball, and place it in a new pot that is 2in wider and taller than the old one, filling in around the root ball with fresh potting mix. Water thoroughly after repotting.

Overwintering a standard: Most standards require special care to overwinter. Do not fertilize while plants are in this not-quite-dormant period. Set back outdoors in spring when nighttime temperatures remain consistently above 55°F.

Rosemaries will survive the winter in the ground in Zones 7 and warmer. In colder zones, bring your potted Rosemary indoors in the fall. Cut your Rosemary back by about one-third before bringing it indoors to overwinter. Do not repot it often as this causes shock. Place the plant in a spot that receives a lot of sun but that stays under 60°F. A cool, sunny enclosed porch is ideal. Keep the plant away from heat sources and on the dry side. Do not fertilize.

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