Will Rosemary Survive Winter? Herb Care Guide

Anyone who is used to working with plants knows that they need to have the right environment for their plant. Rosemary plants like warmer weather, so can they survive the winter temperatures? This really depends on where you live. In places where the winter becomes extremely cold, you’ll need to bring your rosemary inside for it to survive. However, rosemary is quite cold tolerant and can survive temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, there are things you can do to protect it.

Below, I describe everything you need to know to answer can rosemary survive winter including what to do with rosemary plant in winter, when to bring it inside, how to prepare it for winter and whether it will still grow in winter. As well as how cold rosemary plants can survive and information about plant hardiness zones.


Plant Hardiness Zones

The USDA has put together a list of “Hardiness” Zones. Farmers and other gardeners use this list to determine if a plant will survive in a certain area across the United States. To use this list, you can go onto the USDA website. There, you will type in your zip code and the site will tell you the zone you live in.

To decide whether a plant will survive, the USDA calculates the average minimum winter temperature in each area. The list is divided into 10 degree Fahrenheit zones.

For example, zone 1a has an average minimum winter temperature of -60 to -55 degrees Fahrenheit. Zone 13b has an average minimum winter temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, there are several zones in between these hot and cold extremes.

Can A Rosemary Plant Survive Winter?

Is rosemary winter hardy? Rosemary is a pretty cold tolerant plant, so it usually can survive through the winter. However, whether or not it’ll survive for sure depends on how cold your region gets.

This is where the plant hardiness zones come in. They’ll be able to tell you where rosemary thrives best. It’ll also tell you which regions are warm enough over winter for rosemary to survive.

Rosemary in snow near Dallas TX
Rosemary bush in winter near Dallas TX

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What Is The Lowest Temperature That Rosemary Can Survive?

At its coldest, rosemary can survive in temperatures down to 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it can survive these temperatures, it won’t necessarily be happy.

If they’re small enough to be brought inside, the plants will likely do better.

Should You Bring Rosemary Inside In Winter?

Can rosemary survive outside in the winter? Rosemary cannot survive under 10 degrees Fahrenheit. So, they should be brought inside if you live in an area where it gets colder than this. This includes USDA hardiness zones 7 or below. If you live in zones 8 or above, rosemary can survive the winter outside.

However, if the area you live gets particularly cold, it’s a good idea to offer your plants some protection.

As always, there is an exception to this rule. There are a few kinds of rosemary that have been bred to better withstand the cold.

Rosemary plants like the “Arp”, “Athens Blue Spire”, and “Madeline Hill” are some of the most cold hardy rosemary plants available. They can survive in USDA hardiness zones as low as 6 as long as they receive plenty of protection.

How To Protect Rosemary In Winter

Although rosemary is quite cold tolerant, it’s still going to need some protection. Rosemary plants in winter are unlikely to survive in hardness zones 7 or below. So, if you live on the skirts of zone 7, such as zone 8 or 9, you’ll need to take precautions to protect your plant from the cold and frost.

Protecting your rosemary plant from the winter chill begins long before the winter season even starts. In fact, keeping your plant protected from the winter temperatures begins before you’ve even planted your shrub.

Protecting Rosemary From Wind

You should keep your plant in a sheltered location, like along the wall of your house. This will prevent any cold wind from reaching it.

However, you’ll also want to make sure it’s getting lots of sun. Pick a wall along your house where the sun shines for several hours during the day. This will produce a spot that is fairly warm for your plant to camp out over winter.

Mulching to Protect Rosemary

Another way to protect rosemary plants outside is called mulching. Some people will prune their plants so that their stems are only 6 inches long. Wait to prune your plant until after the first frost, and then bury the entire plant under soil or compost.

Mulch is a really good option because it keeps the soil at a stable temperature for the duration of winter. This prevents the ground from going through cycles of freezing and thawing which can be stressful to your rosemary plants. By keeping the soil at a consistent temperature, your rosemary will go dormant, and their roots will be protected.

To do this, use mulch like straw, pine needles, or chopped leaves. Pile them over your plant’s roots 4 to 6 inches high. You’ll want to remove half of this mulch in the spring. If you like, you can surround your plant with cinderblocks before filling in the hole with mulch. The blocks provide insulation and extra protection against the cold.

Frost Blankets for Rosemary

Others will cover their rosemary plant with a frost blanket or a floating row cover. These are one of the most effective items for keeping your rosemary safe during the winter months.

For these to be effective, you need to make sure that the plant is completely covered. If any air or snow and ice is able to get inside, they won’t offer much protection. To securely fasten these covers, some people layer the edges with bricks or dirt.

Bringing Rosemary Plants Inside

If you live in zones 7 or below, your only option is to bring your rosemary inside. If you choose to leave it outside, it’s more than likely going to die.

Even if you live in zones 8 or above, bringing your plant inside is still an option. Some people find that they have more peace of mind knowing their plant is safely inside, especially if the plant is still younger.

Digging Rosemary Up in Winter

To prevent any damage, you’ll need to dig them up and bring them inside before the first frost. This is usually best done in early Autumn when the temperatures begin to drop.

When you dig up your rosemary plant, you’ll need a shovel. Be careful with that shovel, though, because you don’t want to damage the roots.

If your plant is older, it might not be possible to keep all the roots. Rosemary root systems become more complex the more they age. Still, you’ll want to save as much of the root as is possible. You’ll always want to ensure that a large root “ball” remains intact.

To avoid damaging the roots, you should begin digging about 6 inches from the main stem. Create a circle around the stem about a foot in diameter and a foot deep. You may need to go a bit bigger depending on how large your plant is.

When you remove the plant from the ground, do so carefully. Move slowly to avoid damaging any roots. You can now place it into a pot with new soil.

Potting Rosemary for Winter

One important thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t bring your plant in immediately. You’ll want to let it sit outside in its new pot for a few days. This gives it time to acclimate to its new environment. If you bring it inside immediately, it might be too much of a change, and your plant could go into shock.

With that said, you don’t want to move your rosemary where it will experience too much of a temperature change. Clearly, it should be kept above freezing, but you also don’t want to place it in the hottest room of your house. Regularly mist your plant to keep humidity up and prevent it from drying out.

As you know, rosemary doesn’t like a lot of moisture, and overwatering can cause a lot of damage. Only water your plant about once a week and don’t allow the soil to become too wet. Pots with good drainage holes are your best option.

When the temperatures begin to warm up, you can bring your plant outside. Just as you don’t want to move your plant straight from the cold to the warmth, you won’t want to move it straight from the warmth to colder weather. Instead, move it outside for a few days while still in the pot before replanting in the ground.

How To Prepare Rosemary For Winter

Protecting your rosemary plant during the winter is important. But, there are some things you need to prepare it for the coming cold.

Keep Your Rosemary Hydrated

The coming cold and frost of the winter can severely dry out your rosemary plant. Although rosemary can survive in dry climates, a lack of water all throughout the winter will not do it any good.

Usually, fall is a wet season which provides your rosemary with plenty of water for the coming winter. It’s important that the plant gets lots of water. They convert the water into antifreeze that allows them to be better protected from the cold.

However, if your fall has been a dry one, you’ll want to begin watering your plant two weeks before the first frost.

Pruning Rosemary For Winter

Pruning your rosemary plant before winter is one of the best things you can do to prepare it for winter.

Remove any dead matter, including stems and leaves. This allows your plant to only focus on living matter rather than exerting energy on something that doesn’t need it.

Does Rosemary Grow In Winter?

Rosemary plants can continue to grow throughout winter, but it really depends how cold it is. In particularly cold areas, rosemary is more likely to go dormant for the winter.

In warmer areas, or if you bring it inside, it can continue to grow. Still, it will grow much more slowly than it does during the rest of the year.

Click here to read more about how big rosemary grows.

Final Words on Helping Rosemary Survive Winter

Rosemary is a cold tolerant plant that does well over winter with some protection. Although it can withstand the cold, there are some things you need to do to help make it through the winter months. However, make sure you find out which USDA hardiness zone you live in. Rosemary can’t survive in zones 7 or below. If you live in these areas, no amount of protection will keep your plant alive. If you want to keep enjoying your rosemary next season, bring it inside over winter.

Want to learn more? Click here to learn where to best plant rosemary or here for when to plant. You can also find all our guides to growing rosemary here.

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