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Salvia rosmarinus

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Rosmarinus officinalis
Phonetic Spelling
SAL-vee-uh rose-ma-REE-nus
Description

Rosemary is an aromatic, perennial, evergreen shrub in the Lamiaceae or mint family that is valued for its fragrant, ornamental foliage, and as an enhancement in cooking. The shrub grows from 4 to 5 feet tall and is generally erect and rounded. The aromatic, needle-like leaves are green on the upper surface, and the undersides are white and tomentose. The flowers are tiny, blue, lavender, or white, and are two-lipped and whorled around the square stems. It is frequently cultivated as an ornamental, as a culinary herb, or for use in sachets or potpourris.

It is native to Africa, Europe, Western Asia, and the Mediterranean and is found in dry, rocky areas.

The genus name, Salvia, is derived from the Latin word salvo which means "to save or heal." This refers to the medical uses of some plants in this genus. The epithet, Rosmarinus, comes from the Latin words ros meaning "dew," marinus meaning "sea," or in other words, "dew of the sea. " This is most likely a reference to the ability of this plant to thrive well in coastal areas, sea cliffs, and exposure to ocean mists.

Rosemary does best in light, slightly acidic, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. It tolerates drought, partial shade, salt, heavy pruning, and most soil types except clay. It is easily transplanted and rooted. However, it has a low tolerance for wet, humid environments and requires careful tending in an appropriate spot. Once the bloom has passed, severely pruning is an option to encourage dense foliage growth. Rosemary plants are slow to germinate from seed, and gardeners might find more success propagating from stem cuttings, layering, or division. 

Flowering usually begins in the spring and into summer and attracts butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. There are many cultivars available that have varying habits and flower colors. 

Rosemary is at home in many types of landscapes and gardens: butterfly, pollinator, children's, rock, winter, edible, and cutting gardens. Position it near a patio or in a play area. It is suitable for containers, as low hedges or borders, and in places where it can cascade. 

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Spring and Summer            Foliage: Year-round

Quick ID Hints:

  • aromatic, evergreen shrub
  • square stems
  • linear, needle-like, opposite leaves that are green on the upper surface and white and tomentose on the undersides
  • flowers are axillary, purple, blue, or white, and whorled around the stem
  • fruit is a small, brown nutlet

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Rosemary is generally pest and disease free. Rosemary can be difficult to overwinter indoors. Monitor the plant for aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, and spider mites, particularly if indoors. Poor circulation and high humidity can cause powdery mildew. Root rot and botrytis are common diseases. Overwatering is the common cause of plant decline or death. 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Nuts" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

More information on Salvia.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Bee Hive Garden, Wake Co Pollinator and Culinary Garden Lake Wall Garden Border Landscape Pinewild County Club, Moore County Herb & Flower Cottage Garden Vegetable Garden- Reynolda Gardens Rock Herb Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Albus' or 'Albiflorus'
    white flowers
  • 'Arp'
    hardest, bright blue flowers, up to 4 ft tall
  • 'Marjorca Pink' or 'Marjorca'
    pink to lavender flowers, sparse blooms
  • 'Officinalis'
    blue-violet flowers, upright growth
  • 'Prostratus'
    low, creeping variety, pale lavender blue flowers, up to 2 ft. tall
  • 'Salem'
    pale blue flowers, upright, 24 to 36 inches tall, pine-like scent
  • 'Severn Sea'
    arching habit, bright blue flowers, up to 3 ft. tall
  • 'Tuscan Blue'
    deep blue-violet flowers, reddish stems, fast grower,
'Albus' or 'Albiflorus', 'Arp', 'Marjorca Pink' or 'Marjorca', 'Officinalis', 'Prostratus', 'Salem', 'Severn Sea', 'Tuscan Blue'
Tags:
#fragrant#arching#evergreen#showy flowers#full sun tolerant#houseplant#drought tolerant#edible plant#perennials#white flowers#shrub#silver leaves#needles#white bark#fragrant leaves#edible flowers#shade shrub#nectar plant#blue flowers#salt tolerant#shade garden#woody#spring flowers#scales#winter interest#showy fruits#hedges#nuts#columnar#moist soil#ncemgva2018#food source wildlife#cpp#herbaceous#well-drained soil#spreading#long-lasting flowers#rich soils#summer flowers#woody shrub#flowering shrub#herb garden culinary#needled evergreen#deer resistant#children's garden#foundation planting#herbaceous perennials#edible landscaping#playground plant#needled#long bloom time#leathery#rounded#summer interest#rock garden#border planting#cold tolerant#cutting garden#spring interest#fragrant needles#pollinator plant#edible garden#edible leaves#fantz#leathery leaves#dried arrangements#fruits summer#edible shrub#green leaves#fruits spring#shade border#exfoliating bark#loamy soils tolerant#rocky soils tolerant#patio planting#dry soils tolerant#male pollinator plant#butterfly friendly#winter flowers#winter garden#partial shade tolerant#drought tolerant vegetable#shade flowers#bee friendly#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#recreational areas#non-toxic for cats#container plant#coastal plant#vhfn#vhfn-h#low hedge#early childhood#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Albus' or 'Albiflorus'
    white flowers
  • 'Arp'
    hardest, bright blue flowers, up to 4 ft tall
  • 'Marjorca Pink' or 'Marjorca'
    pink to lavender flowers, sparse blooms
  • 'Officinalis'
    blue-violet flowers, upright growth
  • 'Prostratus'
    low, creeping variety, pale lavender blue flowers, up to 2 ft. tall
  • 'Salem'
    pale blue flowers, upright, 24 to 36 inches tall, pine-like scent
  • 'Severn Sea'
    arching habit, bright blue flowers, up to 3 ft. tall
  • 'Tuscan Blue'
    deep blue-violet flowers, reddish stems, fast grower,
'Albus' or 'Albiflorus', 'Arp', 'Marjorca Pink' or 'Marjorca', 'Officinalis', 'Prostratus', 'Salem', 'Severn Sea', 'Tuscan Blue'
Tags:
#fragrant#arching#evergreen#showy flowers#full sun tolerant#houseplant#drought tolerant#edible plant#perennials#white flowers#shrub#silver leaves#needles#white bark#fragrant leaves#edible flowers#shade shrub#nectar plant#blue flowers#salt tolerant#shade garden#woody#spring flowers#scales#winter interest#showy fruits#hedges#nuts#columnar#moist soil#ncemgva2018#food source wildlife#cpp#herbaceous#well-drained soil#spreading#long-lasting flowers#rich soils#summer flowers#woody shrub#flowering shrub#herb garden culinary#needled evergreen#deer resistant#children's garden#foundation planting#herbaceous perennials#edible landscaping#playground plant#needled#long bloom time#leathery#rounded#summer interest#rock garden#border planting#cold tolerant#cutting garden#spring interest#fragrant needles#pollinator plant#edible garden#edible leaves#fantz#leathery leaves#dried arrangements#fruits summer#edible shrub#green leaves#fruits spring#shade border#exfoliating bark#loamy soils tolerant#rocky soils tolerant#patio planting#dry soils tolerant#male pollinator plant#butterfly friendly#winter flowers#winter garden#partial shade tolerant#drought tolerant vegetable#shade flowers#bee friendly#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#recreational areas#non-toxic for cats#container plant#coastal plant#vhfn#vhfn-h#low hedge#early childhood#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Salvia
    Species:
    rosmarinus
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The intensely fragrant foliage of this shrub is commonly harvested for a variety of purposes including cooking and potpourri. Oil is commercially used in some perfumes, soaps, shampoos, lotions and other toiletries. Ancient Greeks and Romans threw sprigs of this plant into graves to signify their desire to remember the departed. This plant was also used in Ancient Greece to strengthen memory, and students wore sprigs in their hair when they studied.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Layering
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Africa, Europe, Western Asia, Mediterranean
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Algeria, Baleares, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Libya, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Portugal, Serbia, Sicily, Slovenia, Spain, Tunisia, and Turkey. Introduced: Azores, Bermuda, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Mexico Trinidad-Tobago, and the United States.
    Wildlife Value:
    Flowers attract butterflies and bees.
    Play Value:
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Highly salt and drought tolerant; resistant to damage by deer.
    Edibility:
    Teas; flavoring for vinegar, jam, bread, butter, stuffing, vegetables, stew, and meat dishes and, when mixed with other herbs and salt, as a flavoring for most dishes.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 4 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Herb
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Columnar
    Erect
    Irregular
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8a, 8b, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Fruit Description:
    Fruits are small, brown nutlets.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Blue
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Lipped
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Tiny pale blue, purple, to white flowers bloom in clusters along the shoots of the prior year’s growth. Some cultivars have pink flowers. The corolla is 2-lipped, the upper lip is concave and 2-lobed, and the lower lip is 3-lobed. The inflorescence is a short, axillary raceme whorled around the stem. Blooms from spring into summer.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Good Dried
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Needle-like leaves are closely spaced on the stems and are very aromatic with a strong flavor useful in cooking. They are opposite, simple, linear, narrow, entire, revolute, green above and white-tomentose beneath, strongly aromatic when bruised, and are less than an inch in size. Short, dense hairs present on the underside of the leaf and they are sessile, with no petiole.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Description:
    Young growth has soft, green stems. As the stems age, they become woody.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Container
    Houseplants
    Patio
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Cutting Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Salt