Grow Rosemary from Seed to Savory: Your Step-by-Step Guide

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If you’re reading this, you’re likely interested in learning how to grow rosemary from seed. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just getting started, I promise this journey will be a rewarding one.

Brief Overview of Rosemary

Here’s a little table that provides an at-a-glance view of our lovely aromatic friend, Rosemary.

Common NameRosemary
Scientific NameRosmarinus officinalis
Days to Harvest90-200
LightFull Sun
Height1-4 ft
SoilWell-drained, pH 6.0-7.0

Why Grow Rosemary from Seed?

Now, you might be wondering, why go through the trouble to grow rosemary from seed? After all, it’s easier to just buy a plant from the nursery, right? True, but growing rosemary from seed has its own charm and advantages.

It’s more economical, allows for more plant variety, and gives a sense of satisfaction that’s unmatched. Plus, there’s nothing like the joy of watching a tiny seed turn into a lush, fragrant plant under your care.

The Importance of Quality Seeds

Quality seeds. You’ll hear this phrase tossed around quite a bit when it comes to gardening, and for good reason. Think of seeds as the foundation of your gardening project.

If you start with a weak foundation, you might still build a structure, but it’s likely to be unstable and won’t last long. The same goes for seeds.

So, why exactly are quality seeds so important when you want to grow rosemary from seed, or indeed any plant?

  • Higher Germination Rates: Quality seeds have a higher germination rate. This means that a higher percentage of them will successfully sprout and become seedlings.
  • Healthier Plants: Quality seeds often yield healthier, more vigorous plants. They have the genetic potential to resist pests and diseases, tolerate stress, and produce a bountiful harvest (whether that’s flowers, leaves, or fruits).
  • True to Type: Ever sown seeds only to find the plant that grew looked nothing like what you expected? That’s likely because the seeds weren’t true to type. Quality seeds are. This means the plant you grow will have the characteristics the seed packet promised.
  • Organic and GMO-Free: If you buy quality seeds from a reputable source, you can often find options that are organic and GMO-free. These seeds are free from harmful chemicals and haven’t been genetically modified, making them safer for you and the environment.
  • Economical: While quality seeds may cost a bit more upfront, they can be more economical in the long run. Since they have higher germination rates and yield healthier plants, you get more bang for your buck.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Sow Rosemary Seeds

The Best Time to Start Growing Rosemary from Seed

Deciding when to sow your rosemary seeds is the first step. Since rosemary seeds take a while to germinate (sometimes as long as 25-40 days), starting them early in the year is advisable.

Late winter or early spring, when temperatures start to rise, is often the best time to sow.

This gives your seeds plenty of time to germinate and your seedlings ample opportunity to grow strong before they need to face the elements outdoors.

How to St Rosemary from Seed Indoors

Begin by gathering your supplies. You’ll need rosemary seeds, seed trays or pots, a seed-starting mix or fine compost, and some form of transparent cover to create a mini greenhouse effect.

  1. Fill your seed trays or pots with the seed-starting mix. Make sure they have good drainage holes.
  2. Wet the soil, ensure it’s moist but not soaking.
  3. Sprinkle the rosemary seeds over the compost surface. Don’t bury them deep inside the compost, a light covering is enough.
  4. Use a fine layer of compost or vermiculite to lightly cover the seeds.
  5. Cover your trays or pots with the transparent humidity dome or plastic bag. This creates a warm, humid environment that aids germination.
  6. Place the covered trays or pots in a warm spot. Ideally, the temperature should be around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Top of a fridge or near a radiator are good spots. Using a seedling heat mat can also be beneficial.
  7. Be patient. Check daily for moisture levels, ensuring the soil doesn’t dry out. However, avoid overwatering as well.
  8. In about 25-40 days, you should see tiny seedlings starting to emerge.

The Importance of Light for Germination

Whether you’re starting your seeds indoors or outdoors, one thing that’s critical for germination is light.

While some seeds require darkness to germinate, rosemary seeds need light. That’s why we only lightly cover them with compost.

If you’re starting indoors, placing the seed trays near a south-facing window or under grow lights can provide the necessary light. If you’re sowing outdoors, a sunny garden spot will do the trick.

Transplanting Rosemary to the Herb Garden


The exciting moment has arrived! After weeks of patiently waiting and gently nurturing, your little rosemary seedlings are finally ready to be moved to their permanent spot in your herb garden. Let’s walk through this process together.

When and How to Do It

The best time to transplant your rosemary is when the seedlings are robust enough to handle the big outdoors and all the challenges it presents. Usually, this is when they have at least three sets of true leaves, and the threat of frost has passed.

Remember, rosemary is native to the Mediterranean, so it doesn’t do well in cold, frosty conditions.

Once you’ve determined that the time is right, gather your gardening tools and let’s get to work.

  1. Preparation: Start by preparing the planting site in your herb garden. The site should receive plenty of sunlight, and the soil should be well-draining. If your soil is heavy clay, consider adding some sand or compost to improve drainage. Dig a hole that’s about twice as wide as the root ball of your seedling.
  2. Removal: Next, you’ll want to carefully remove the seedling from its current pot or tray. Be very gentle here; those tiny roots are delicate.
  3. Planting: Now, place your seedling in the prepared hole. The top of the root ball should be level with the surrounding soil. Fill in the hole with the remaining soil, and gently press it down to remove any air pockets.
  4. Aftercare: Water your newly transplanted rosemary plant well, and continue to provide it with regular water in the following weeks. However, remember that rosemary doesn’t like soggy soil, so allow the soil to dry out a bit between waterings.

Remember, the soil is like your plant’s home. Just as you want a comfortable, suitable home, so does your plant. Providing your rosemary with the soil it loves is a key step in ensuring its healthy growth and abundant harvest.

Note: Rosemary can also be grown as part of your indoor herb garden. It also makes a nice addition to a balcony herb garden.

Caring for Your Rosemary Plant


Once you’ve taken the leap to grow rosemary from seed and transplanted your little green babies into your herb garden, the journey isn’t over. Now comes an equally important phase-caring for your rosemary plant.

Remember, rosemary, just like any other plant, has specific needs that need to be met to ensure it grows happily and healthily. So, let’s delve into the specifics!

Watering and Feeding Your Rosemary

One of the key aspects of caring for your rosemary plant is providing the right amount of water and nutrition. But how much is the right amount?

Watering: Despite being a Mediterranean plant, rosemary isn’t a fan of “wet feet.” It prefers its soil to be on the drier side. So, how do you know when to water?

A good rule of thumb is to check the soil. Stick your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. If it’s still moist, you can wait a little longer.

Feeding: Rosemary isn’t a heavy feeder. In fact, too much fertilizer can harm your plant more than it helps. For a good balance, consider using a slow-release fertilizer at the start of the growing season. This gives your rosemary the nutrients it needs to grow strong without overwhelming it.

Pruning and Shaping Your Rosemary

While rosemary’s natural shape is quite beautiful, you can also shape your rosemary to fit your garden aesthetic or even grow it as a topiary. Just remember, shaping requires regular pruning and patience.

The best time to prune is in spring and late summer. Don’t worry about pruning damaging your plant. Rosemary actually responds very well to pruning. It encourages new growth and helps keep the plant healthy.

Winter Care

Rosemary is a perennial plant, meaning it can live for several years. However, it’s not a big fan of harsh, cold winters. If your winters are mild, your rosemary should do just fine outdoors.

However, if you live in an area where winter temperatures frequently dip below freezing, you might want to consider moving your plant indoors.

Remember, every plant is an individual and might not always follow the “rules.” So, keep an eye on your rosemary and adjust your care routine as needed. Above all, enjoy the process.

Harvesting and Using Your Rosemary


There’s something incredibly satisfying about growing your own herbs. The process of planting, nurturing, and finally harvesting gives you a tangible connection to the food you eat.

After all your efforts to grow rosemary from seed, the moment has finally arrived to harvest and use your rosemary. Let’s explore how to make the most of this aromatic herb.

When and How to Harvest

Knowing when and how to harvest your rosemary is crucial for maintaining the health of your plant and maximizing its yield.

You can start harvesting as soon as the plant has branches that are a few inches long, but for a larger harvest, it’s best to wait until the plant is well established.

When harvesting, use a pair of clean, sharp scissors or pruners and cut off the top 2 to 3 inches of each sprig, leaving the green part and avoiding cutting into the woody stem. Always remember to leave at least two-thirds of the plant intact, as overharvesting can weaken the plant.

You can harvest rosemary all year round, but the best time to harvest for the most flavor is in the morning, just after the dew has dried. This is when the oil content is highest.

Using Rosemary in Cooking and Drying

Freshly harvested rosemary is a fantastic addition to many dishes. From roasting meats to flavoring vegetables, or even adding a twist to your cocktails, the possibilities are endless.

Simply remove the leaves from the stem (they should slide right off when you run your fingers down the stem) and chop or add them whole, depending on your recipe.

If you find yourself with more rosemary than you can use fresh, why not try drying it for later use?

To do this, simply tie the cut sprigs into small bundles and hang them upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight.

After 1-2 weeks, your rosemary should be dry and ready to be stored in an airtight container.

Growing Rosemary Indoors vs Outdoors


Deciding whether to grow rosemary from seed indoors or outdoors can be a bit of a conundrum. Both options have their own unique sets of advantages and challenges. But don’t fret! I’ll walk you through both scenarios so you can make an informed decision.

The Pros and Cons of Each

Outdoor Growing:


  1. Space: Outdoors, your rosemary plant will have more room to grow, potentially reaching up to 4 feet tall and wide.
  2. Sunlight: In your garden, rosemary will have access to direct sunlight, which it loves.
  3. Air Circulation: Good air circulation outdoors can help keep your plant healthy and free from diseases such as powdery mildew.


  1. Climate: Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb, and it doesn’t fare well in very cold climates. If your area experiences harsh winters, you’ll need to take extra measures to protect your rosemary.
  2. Pests and Diseases: While good air circulation can prevent some diseases, your outdoor rosemary may still be more susceptible to pests and diseases than an indoor plant.

Indoor Growing:


  1. Climate Control: Indoors, you can control the temperature and humidity, offering your rosemary the ideal growing conditions year-round.
  2. Pest Control: With indoor growing, you generally have fewer pests to deal with.


  1. Limited Space: Inside, your rosemary will have limited space to grow. You’ll need to prune regularly to keep the plant a manageable size.
  2. Light: Rosemary loves sunlight, so you’ll need to place your plant near a sunny window or supplement with grow lights.
  3. Humidity: Indoor air can be too dry for rosemary, so you might need to increase the humidity around your plant.

Tips for Success in Both Settings

Whether you decide to grow your rosemary indoors or outdoors, there are a few key points to remember:

  1. Sunlight: Rosemary thrives in full sun. Ensure your plant gets at least six hours of sunlight a day, whether that’s in a sunny window indoors or a sun-drenched spot in your garden.
  2. Well-Draining Soil: Rosemary hates “wet feet.” Ensure your plant’s soil drains well to avoid root rot, whether you’re planting in a garden bed or a pot.
  3. Air Circulation: Good air circulation helps prevent fungal diseases. If you’re growing indoors, consider placing a small fan near your plant to improve airflow.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. Choose the option that works best for you, your home, and your lifestyle. No matter where you decide to grow your rosemary, the experience of nurturing your plant from seed to harvest will be a rewarding one.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Even the most diligent of gardeners can sometimes face problems when trying to grow rosemary from seed. But don’t worry, it’s all part of the gardening journey.

So let’s dive into some of the most common problems you might encounter and how to address them.

Why is Rosemary Hard to Grow from Seed?

Many novice gardeners might find that growing rosemary from seed is a bit more challenging than other herbs. There are a few reasons for this.

First, rosemary seeds have a lower germination rate compared to other common herbs.

Even under perfect conditions, not all of your seeds may sprout. This is completely normal, so don’t be discouraged if you find some of your seeds didn’t make it.

Second, rosemary seeds take longer to germinate – often between 15 to 25 days, and sometimes even longer. This requires patience and consistent care, making sure the growing medium doesn’t dry out, and the seeds are in a warm environment.

Third, young rosemary seedlings can be quite delicate and susceptible to damping-off, a condition caused by a variety of pathogens that can kill seedlings almost overnight. To prevent this, make sure your seedlings have good air circulation and are not overwatered.

Addressing Slow Germination and Growth

As mentioned before, rosemary seeds are notoriously slow to germinate. This is simply the nature of this plant, and a bit of patience will go a long way. However, if you want to speed things up, there are a few tricks you can try.

1. Stratification: This involves simulating a winter environment by placing your seeds in a damp paper towel, putting them in a sealed plastic bag, and refrigerating them for two weeks before planting. This can help break seed dormancy and stimulate faster germination.

2. Scarification: This involves gently nicking the seed coat with a knife, or rubbing it with a piece of sandpaper to make it easier for the seed to absorb water and germinate.

In terms of slow growth, remember that rosemary is a slow-growing plant. However, ensuring your plants get plenty of light, are in well-draining soil, and are not overwatered or over-fertilized can help them grow healthy and strong.


So there you have it, your complete guide to grow rosemary from seed. With patience, care, and a bit of luck, you’ll have your own thriving rosemary plant in no time.

And remember, every great gardener had to start from seed once. So embrace this journey with all its challenges and victories. Here’s to your rosemary growing success!

FAQ: Grow Rosemary from Seed

Do rosemary seeds need to be cold stratified?

While not a necessity, cold stratifying rosemary seeds can enhance germination rates. It involves simulating winter conditions by refrigerating your seeds for two weeks before planting.

Can you germinate rosemary seeds in paper towel?

Yes, you can germinate rosemary seeds in a paper towel. This method allows you to easily check for successful germination before transferring the sprouted seeds to soil.

How long does rosemary take to grow from seed?

Rosemary takes a while to grow from seed. Germination alone can take 15-25 days. For a harvestable plant, you may need to wait up to 85-100 days.

Do rosemary seeds need heat to germinate?

Yes, rosemary seeds need warmth to germinate. A temperature range of 70-80°F is optimal for rosemary seed germination.

Does cutting rosemary encourage growth?

Indeed, cutting rosemary encourages bushier growth. Regular pruning helps your plant produce more of the flavorful leaves and maintains a manageable size.

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