How to keep rosemary happy in winter

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Kathy, if you want to keep rosemary happy in the winter, keep it cold & bright (as if it were having a milder winter than you are!)–I either keep it on a barely heated sunporch so it doesn’t go below freezing or above 50, or against the coldest window in a cold room. They seem to need about 6-8 weeks of this type of cold, and probably short days/long nights to initiate flower buds, so natural lighting is best. Last winter’s cuttings, now in 4″ pots, are all blooming as well so I think it is conditions more than age that favor bloom. Interestingly, different varieties are more precocious than others–I have an upright one that didn’t bloom last winter but is budding now. If you bring the plant into a warm room to show off this will shorten its blooming time; I bring some into the house at Christmas but put them back on the porch at New Years.
This spring I will add a deep blue flowering variety, a pink flowering one (Pink Majorca), and maybe a red one. I am of two minds about ‘Arp’ which is reportedly the hardiest–I think it is ugly–mostly naked stems like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. People would probably buy it because of its reputation but I would have a hard time recommending it. It also doesn’t have a good scent. Both Richters and The Thyme Garden have very nice assortments of rosemary.
One spring I was visiting in northern Arizona and many of the homes and businesses had planters and window boxes full of blooming rosemary–made me very jealous!

About the Author

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4b/5aLocation: rural; just south of British Columbia/Idaho borderGeographic type: foot of Black & Clifty Mountains (foothills of Rockies–the Wet Columbia Mountains in BC climate- speak)Soil type:acid sand (glacial lake bed)/coniferous forestExperience level: intermediate/professionalParticular interests: fragrant & edible plants, hardy bulbs, cottage gardening, alpines, peonies, penstemons & other blue flowers, primulas, antique & species roses & iris; nocturnal flowers Also: owner of Paradise Gardens Rare Plant Nursery

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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