Nancy came home the other day with a rosemary plant pruned into a circle. The pot is wrapped in bright red shiny paper, making a very nice addition to the houseplant table that is still my responsibility, though I’ve come close to losing the privilege several times for missing some watering needs.
Rosemary is one of the easiest herbs to grow in the garden during spring through fall. In this part of the country, it needs to be brought inside for the winter and that’s where the plant can be a problem.
Rosemary wants five or six hours of direct sunlight each day to thrive. That pretty much leaves a south-facing window as the only place to get that much sunlight during the winter months. My houseplant table is in a south-facing window so that requirement is met here at Birchwood.
Rosemary needs some fertilizer each year, but not during the winter. Spring, summer and fall are good times, but keep the fertilizer stored for the winter.
Watering is the bugaboo for rosemary. Here is an example where different books and different Web sites contradict each other. Some say let the plant get dry before watering and others say keep the plant moderately moist all the time. The second example is the true watering standard for rosemary. This is where that houseplant watering meter comes in handy. Almost every day, you stick the meter into the soil down about 1-2 inches. Don’t let it dry out, ever.
Beware of those rosemary plants, like mine, that come home wrapped in lovely Christmas paper. In most cases, if you don’t do something, that paper will not let excess water drain from the pot and will help drown your rosemary in a matter of weeks.
Rosemary prefers a cool setting so above the heating vent is not good place because most of us have fairly dry heat, making rosemary vulnerable to a white powdery disease called powdery mildew. Solution? Place the rosemary on a tray with a layer of gravel and a half inch of water at all times. This humidifier trick often solves the mildew problem. In the past, Nancy would take a mildewy plant and put it under the shower. Once the plant is planted outside in the spring, the mildew goes away.
There is a lesson in here someplace for me. Houseplants can’t be ignored and you need to know what you are doing. One can take care of the landscape and not have to be a gardener. He or she can be a yardener. But when it comes to houseplants, there is not as much slack in the needs of those indoor plants. If you are a yardener at heart, go for the dungeon plants like mother-in-law tongue and leave rosemary to the gardener in the family. I am blessed to have Nancy as my teacher.