A half-hardy perennial herb that's used in cooking and landscaping, rosemary varieties can fill a number of landscaping needs.
Exploring Rosemary - The Basics
Known for its narrow needles and resinous fragrance, the green-gray foliage of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a favorite in the garden and the kitchen. A native to the Mediterranean, rosemary is best known as a warm climate plant that won't withstand a hard winter freeze. Newer varieties are changing the landscape for this attractive plant, expanding its range and giving the dedicated gardener another attractive evergreen plant to play with that can survive to zone 5 under the right conditions.
Rosemary comes in two basic varieties, upright and creeping, although there are variations that can blur the lines even with this categorization. Upright rosemary can grow from four to five feet and survive regular pruning to make an excellent candidate for a hedge. Creeping rosemary is often used as a ground cover that stays under two feet in height and can grow to ten feet in area.
Rosemary is a slow grower. Because of its slow and unreliable germination rates, it's usually propagated from tip cuttings and planted out in well-drained soil to which lime has been added. Rosemary prefers a sunny location.
With traditional rosemary varieties, plants can be housed indoors until spring to avoid killing winter conditions, although it may take a while to find a balance of sun, water, and humidity that the plant will tolerate. Potted rosemary does well if kept moist but not wet, and can winter indoors year after year.
Understanding Rosemary Varieties
Pine Scented Rosemary (Rosmarinus angustifolius)
Pine scented rosemary grows to two feet in height and makes a flavorful culinary herb. Drought tolerant and sun loving, it is also a good landscaping choice for dry, hot areas. It produces small blue flowers and is hardy from Zones 8 to 11.
Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus' )
Of the creeping rosemary varieties, none makes a more impressive display than trailing rosemary, which can cascade from a pot or over a wall or fence. Corsican Prostrate, Huntington Carpet, Irene, and Santa Barbara are excellent examples of cascading rosemary cultivars, and grow to a length of three feet or more. They are also drought tolerant and hardy from Zones 8 to 11.
White Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis albiflorus)
White Rosemary grows to four feet and produces brilliant white flowers from winter to late spring. A standout in the landscape for its upright bushy habit, the strong fragrance of White Rosemary makes it a favorite of bees and a good culinary choice too. White Rosemary needs full sun and is hardy from zones 8 to 11.
Frost Hardy Rosemary
The Arp and Madalene Hill Rosemary cultivars are winter hardy to Zone 6 and possibly Zone 5 in sheltered areas. These rosemary varieties grow to five feet and produce light blue flowers. Give them the same care that you would upright rosemary, full sun and well-drained soil.
If you prefer gold to the deep green leaf color of most rosemary varieties, there are a number of cultivars that produce bright yellow to deep gold foliage that either stays true, or deepens as the days get longer in summer. Golden Rain and Golden Rosemary are both gold varieties that grow to about a foot in height, need full sun, and are hardy from zones 8 to 11.
Whether you're looking for a plant to create a hedge, a focal point, or a spicy addition to your herb patch, rosemary has something fragrant to offer.