To Kill a Rosemary

Saturday, February 10, 2007
A lot of people find their way to my blog when they type in a Google search for something like, "rosemary plant root rot," or "how to save a dying rosemary plant." So if you've come here looking for advice on how to grow a rosemary plant successfully, well, all I can say is, I am sorry I cannot help. I am no good with rosemary. And this photo is perfect proof.

What I can tell you with confidence is how I killed mine. So here goes: How to Kill a Rosemary in 7 Easy Steps.

(I could make it an even 10, but why drag out the agony?)

# 1. Leave your rosemary plant in the small pot you bought it in, so the soil dries out quickly and the roots get all cramped. Neglect is key here.

# 2. Since the soil in the small pot dries out so quickly, give it LOTS of water. Water it about every other day. Keep the plant's feet wet.

# 3. Ponder why the leaves are turning brown. Then keep watering it. (Brown leaves = dry plant = needs more water, right?)

# 4. Remember that when your previous rosemary plant died, several people informed you that it's a Mediterranean plant that doesn't like to be in soggy soil. So...

# 5. Change course and resist every urge to water that browning rosemary plant (even though the needles are now falling off in handfuls, the soil in the tiny pot is parched to a crisp, and the plant looks generally mangled). No matter how bad it gets, whatever you do, do not water it for at least a whole week. Just don't do it!

# 6. Allow (lighthearted) argument to ensue with your spouse (the spouse who bought the dang plant in the first place!) about whether the near-dead rosemary is getting too much or too little water. Example:

Husband reaches to pour a glass of water on the severely ailing plant.

Wife yelps, "No! Don't do it!" as she nearly tackles him to pull the glass of water away.

Husband raises eyebrow and exclaims, "But look how dry it is!"

Wife, in her Know-it-All voice speaks up, "But it's a Mediterranean plant. It likes to be dry. We shouldn't water it so much!"

Husband, with a glance of disbelief and his down-to-earth tone, says, "Um, Babe, if even the newest part at the top of the plant is crinkling up, I think that means it needs water."

And... you guessed it... proceed to add more water.

# 7. Concede that rosemary plant is dead.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! I have one that I think I may be over watering now that I have read this. The only one that I have ever been able to keep going a long time inside, is one that I started from seed. Then, I foolishly put that outdoors in the spring, and ended up losing it!

1:02 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

They live outside here, but on my Illinois windowsill rosemary did better with moderate watering, free-draining soil and a clay pot. Maybe this would work where you live, too?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

3:08 PM  
Blogger Carol Michel said...

I've only tried to grow Rosemary once, and it didn't make it. I blamed it on having to take it home from the store in freezing temperatures!

11:05 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Successful wintering over of Rosemary, Jenn style...

Keep it cold. A porch that hovers around forty degrees F seems to be good.

Keep it humid. My porch is naturally damp, but a deep tray with gravel and water that the plant DOESN'T touch (and wick) might work, too.

Water it well about once every month. It may drop a few needles, but in spring you can prune it b

This method works pretty well for me. I do lose a plant every five years or so... probably to too much water.

I've never had one live when I've tried to winter it in the house proper.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All that got me to think about is that old movie called Rosemarys baby - an exorcism movie. Maybe that's what it's all about? *LMAO*

Though I don't think it will be an easy task to find a gardening priest...? *lol*

1:20 PM  
Blogger Colleen Vanderlinden said...

Oh, Christa....we treat our rosemary the same way! I'd hate to actually count how many rosemary plants I've killed. I know my crime is "loving them to death," giving them water when I shouldn't, fussing with them when I should leave them alone.... I think I'll have to resign myself to buying a new rosemary plant every year!

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a nice story. Rosemary is the only herb which survives in my garden. I do nothing but treating it with ignorance :-) Good luck with the next!

5:57 AM  
Blogger RUTH said...

Poor Rosemary. Better luck next time.

4:26 AM  
Blogger phempton said...

I was repeatedly warned by gardeners in Seattle that constant wet will kill these plants. We grow them as unstoppable shrubs here and it is always damp. I threw one in the ground a couple years ago and expected it to die but it thrives! So I think that drainage is the main thing. Luckily they are easy to replace.


Patrick - I Heart Gardening

11:24 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

We have has a rosemary plant in our back yard for about 4 years now. We actually water it when we water the rest of the garden. I don't think we could kill it if we tried! It is a huge bush. I think we have rabbits living under it. By the way.. we live in northern Arizona.

1:15 PM  
Blogger SushiLvr said...

Your blog is so entertaining, and I love the honesty! I, too, have killed rosemary in the past and I am sure it was due to overwatering. I now only water mine at night, yes at night (and that could start up a whole new topic), but I only give them just a little bit and I then I really mist them well. Maybe a tad of water during the day if it's really hot outside and dry. Has been working so far...good luck. By the way, do you still have that poor little plant that's in the photo?

7:24 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

No, that poor little plant in the photo didn't make it. I ended up throwing it away, sadly. :-(

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8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was hilarious!!! I just did all this with a dying rosemary, only I replanted it today into a new pot~~~and of course I watered it AGAIN. This was informative and entertaining.


11:38 PM  

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