How To Protect Rosemary In Winter

Like all herbs, rosemary needs protecting throughout the winter months if you want it to return the following spring. Most herbs are sensitive to colder weather and if left unprotected from the elements, they will not survive.

Although you can dig up and replant rosemary next year, it is a lot of work starting again and growing a plant from scratch. The best thing to do is to dedicate time to prepare and protect rosemary in winter. 

Take a look at a few steps you need to take in order to ensure your rosemary survives through the winter months.

protect rosemary in winter pin

Why Winterize Your Rosemary?

Rosemary is a type of perennial herb which means it will regrow every spring. Growing a herb takes a lot of dedication and time in order to establish. Not to mention the resources in order to grow a herb from seed with the right conditions and nutrients.

By protecting rosemary in winter, you are helping your established plant survive through the colder weather in order to regrow and produce a fresh supply of herbs the following season.

Taking care of your established rosemary plant will help you to save time, money, and resources in the long run.

How To Protect Rosemary In Winter

Before taking a look at how to winterize your rosemary plant, you first need to consider what growing zone or zone of hardiness you are in.

Even though Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb, it does well in cooler temperatures. Hence, if you live in an area that becomes cooler during winter, but does not experience frost, your rosemary requires minimal protection.

Whereas if you live in an area that experiences frost and freezing temperatures, you will need to implement some of the steps in this post to ensure your rosemary survives.

Rosemary prefers temperatures above 30°F, hence if you live in a hardiness zone of 7 or below, it is too cold and Rosemary will need protection from winter, most likely involving bringing your plant indoors. If you live in a hardiness zone of 8 or above, Rosemary will usually survive outdoors all year round.

This herb does become dormant during the winter months, which means that even though its leaves remain green all year round, it does stop growing until spring. So if you do want access to rosemary during the winter, it is best to harvest your rosemary plant in advance.

Consider harvesting a larger supply of rosemary at the end of the growing season. You can then hang sprigs upside down to dry in your home. Once dried, ensure to store them in a tightly sealed container and keep them within a cool, dark area of your house. Your dried rosemary can be used throughout the winter months.

Before winter has arrived, prepare your herb with the following steps to protect rosemary during the winter:

Plant in a Sheltered Area

Rosemary thrives in sunny spots but, as winter draws in, so do the stronger winds. To protect your rosemary in winter, make sure to plant your seedlings earlier in the year in an area that is both sunny and sheltered.

This way, your rosemary will enjoy the sunlight all year round, whilst being protected from harsher weather.

A good spot to consider is near your house as the walls or garden fence provide a barrier between your herb and the wind.

Prune Your Plant

Pruning your rosemary plant right before the first frost is a great way of protecting the base of your plant and its roots.

Cut your rosemary plant back to around 3-6inches tall. Make sure to only do this just before the first frost. Cut your plant back too early and it will encourage new growth instead of your rosemary plant going into dormancy.

Once your plant is pruned, you can follow the next steps.

Bring Pots Inside

If you have chosen to grow your rosemary in a pot, the good news is you can easily move your pot and bring it inside.

Try to bring it inside before the first frost so that the leaves are not affected by the cold weather.

Inside, ensure to retain a consistent, cool temperature to mimic the change in season and encourage a state of dormancy. Too hot will lead to unnecessary growth at a time when the plant needs to rest and rejuvenate for the following season, along with drying out your rosemary.

Once inside, position your pot so that it gains at least 6 hours of sunlight a day and is in a draft-free area.

Cover the Ground

For rosemary that is planted in your garden outside, you need to ensure you cover the soil. Add a thick layer of mulch that still allows a fresh flow of air such as straw or wood chips. 

Mulch protects the soil from heavy rain, strong winds, and cold frosts. This helps it to maintain a consistent temperature which in turn protects your rosemary plant’s roots. 

Add a Fleece

If you experience a particularly bad frost, mulch may not be enough to protect rosemary. If frost reaches the soil, it can harm soil freezing and thawing. When thawing, it can leech essential nutrients out of the soil that your rosemary plants depend on.

To protect your rosemary in winter, consider adding a horticultural fleece. The fleece can be placed over your rosemary when a bad frost is due. 

Remember to remove the fleece on less cold days so that your rosemary does not become too moist and has access to fresh air.

Remember to Water

Even though it’s winter, rosemary still needs access to fresh water. However, be careful as rosemary does not thrive with wet roots.

Whether your plant is indoors or remains outside, check just under the topsoil with your finger. If it feels dry, water your rosemary plants. If the soil still feels damp, leave it and check again in a few days.

Rosemary requires less water over the winter months, so it is best to check at least once every week.

rosemary under fresh snow

Following these 6 steps, it is possible to protect rosemary in winter. Take into account the hardiness zone you live in and whether you experience cold, frosty winters. Then you will be able to plan whether to bring your rosemary plants inside or provide them with the necessary covers to protect them during the winter months.

Being a perennial plant, it is worth dedicating the time and resources to helping your plant survive over winter. The steps you take now will be rewarded when your rosemary plant regrows and supplies you with fresh rosemary from spring onwards.

Make sure to check out these additional posts for more ideas and top tips on growing herbs: