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The common rosemary is a large evergreen shrub growing with upward growing branches and dense needle-like leaves. Mature and unclipped plants can reach 6-8 ft. high and spread 10-12 ft. across. These leaves are deep green above and whitish below. Showy clusters of small medium blue flowers occur in late winter and intermittently throughout the year. Foliage is valued as a food seasoning and contains oils that are used in perfumes, lotions and soaps; flowers attract birds and bees.

Rosemary is native to coastal foothills and islands in the Mediterranean region where it grows on dry hills and rocky soils among heath type vegetation. It is a very adaptable plant that endures heat, drought and poor soils throughout the Inland Empire. It is an essential member of the Classic Mediterranean Palette where it can be clipped as a hedge, arranged on slopes and for foundation plantings. More than two dozen cultivars are available from different nurseries that offer prostrate forms and deeper blue flower colors. One compact cultivar, R. o. 'Boule' has distinctive branching and texture appearance, mounds 2-3 ft. high and 4-6 ft. across and fits residential garden scale spaces better.

Water Needs

Rosemary and its many cultivars is highly adapted to sunny garden locations throughout the Inland Empire where it grows well with winter rains and low amounts of supplemental water during summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; more water in the spring will result in a longer and more intense flowering season.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 2

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"-14"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, click here.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Upright, Mounding, Low-branching, Dense, Compact
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 4 ft. - 7 ft.
Width: 10 ft. - 12 ft.
Water Needs: Low 2
Foliage Color: Dark green
Flower Color: Blue
Flower Season: Winter
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Rocky soil
Exposure Adaptations: Wind, Heat, Frost, Drought, Coastal salt air, Aridity, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Slopes, Screening, Rock gardens, Residential spaces, Raised planters, Parks and open space, Grouped, Foundations, Foliage accent plant, Flowering accent plant, Commercial spaces, Civic spaces, Borders, Banks, Background plant, Attracts bees, Fragrant foliage, Attracts butterflies, Hedge


Prune lightly as desired any time of year to keep to desired shape or to keep 'woody thatch' from building up in lower areas that are shaded by upper branches (D,S). It even be clipped as a formal hedge with consistent light pruning, but is best used as a shrub or informal hedge, which is far less work. Different cultivars grow to very different heights and widths, from dwarf varieties which do not grow much larger than 1' tall and wide, to large varieties that can be 6' tall and wider than that. The key to having rosemary be a low maintenance plant in your garden is to choose a variety that fits the size of the space you want to put it in. You can prune anywhere along branches that have leaves on them, but do not cut below the lowest set of leaves or along bare wood on any branch because it will not resprout from these areas. For this reason, if a plant is getting larger than desired, it is best not to delay pruning (S).



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