Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a perennial herb (lasts a long time and will grow back each year) that originates from the Mediterranean region. Associated Sun, the element Fire, and the zodiac Leo, this herb thrives in warmer, dry climates.
Believe it or not, math class was the reason I fell in love with rosemary. I was in the seventh grade and our final assignment before winter break was to bake something following a recipe (we were learning about fractions). My mom had a recipe book for cookies so I flipped through that and decided I wanted to make rosemary cookies. At the time I was somewhat familiar with rosemary since my mom used to go to this aromatherapy lady to learn how to make natural soaps and candles, and we had some essential oils at home. I didn’t know what it would taste like but I felt drawn to that particular recipe since I’d never heard of rosemary cookies before. I fell in love with rosemary as soon as I took my first bite after baking it and it’s been my favorite herb ever since (closely followed by lavender).
I didn’t think much about rosemary until I became a plant mom last summer. Something about lockdown and staying at home made me yearn for a connection to nature that I’ve never really felt before since I always considered myself a “city girl.” But ever since I got into cottagecore, I’ve longed to live somewhere closer to a forest. One of the first plants I got was rosemary, but it took me three tries to get it right so don’t be too hard on yourself if your rosemary dies—it is a pickier plant. My current rosemary plant is from a cutting that I got from a neighbor at the end of September. Her name is Suzie and she’s thriving! She’s still really tiny right now but I’m so excited to watch her grow once Spring comes around.
Witchcraft became a big interest for me around the same time I got Suzie and it’s perfect because rosemary can act as the substitute for any herb within magickal purposes. I consider myself a baby witch since I’m very new to my practice but I will leave a smudge stick tutorial at the very end and before that, I will be sharing how to propagate and plant rosemary, including care and fertilization tips. I invite you all to follow along whether you are a witch/baby witch, plant lover, cottagecorer, or are interested in all of the above.
How to propagate rosemary
Step 1: Cutting a stem Use a clean pair of gardening scissors and snip off a stem at a 45-degree angle. It should be about 10-15cm (4-6 inches) long. Make sure you’re taking from the younger leaves rather than the woody stems near the base of the rosemary bush because those will root easier, and it’s harder for the plant to grow back if you cut the woody part. You can also cut multiple stems if you want to ensure a successful propagation.
Step 2: Preparing the stem Before you place the rosemary stem in water, remove the leaves about 3-6 cm (1-2 inches) from the bottom up. You don’t want any leaves sitting in water because that causes fungal problems. Next, take a knife or scissors and gently shave away the outer layer at the bottom up to 3 cm (1 inch) until you see the white part. What you’re doing here is taking away a layer of protection that will help it root because the plant will send nutrients down to the bottom to help it recover and form roots. If you want your rosemary to root faster, you can use rooting powder or rooting hormone, but that is optional (all you need to do is dip the very end of the stem into the powder/hormone).
Step 3: Rooting in water (if you want to plant directly into soil, skip to Step 5) Take a clear, plastic cup or a glass jar, fill it up with water (tap water is fine unless it is softened, so be careful! filtered water is even better, and this applies to all plants), and place your stem(s) in it, making sure no leaves are submerged.
Step 4: Now you play the waiting game This is what mine looked like after about a week:
After three weeks:
After a month:
Step 5: Planting in soil Yay! It’s time to plant your rosemary! You can either plant it right in the ground in your garden, in containers, or in a cute little pot, which is what I did. Click here to watch how I planted Suzie. If you’ve skipped to this step from Step 3, all you need to do is fill your container or pot with well-draining soil and stick your rosemary right in the middle. It’s important to use a good, well-draining potting mix because rosemary prefers to be on the drier side so those will give it room to breathe (more on this later). Now, give your plant a nice drink of water. Water until the soil is damp but not soaked. If you’ve followed all the steps, fill the container/pot halfway and add a bit of water to moisten the soil. Keep adding soil until you’re almost to the top and hold your rosemary in place as you continue to fill up the container/pot around the root system. Add some more water so that the soil has some moisture. This is important because your plant needs to transition from a wet environment to a dry environment. Keeping the soil moist will help it adapt. Gently pat down the soil near the base so that it’s secure.
How to take care of rosemary
For the first two weeks after planting, keep an eye on it to make sure the soil is moist but not soaked. Do not let it dry out! It’s just like a baby, it needs more care and nourishment. But after that, water only when the top layer of the soil is dry (this should be once or twice a week depending on the size of your pot/container). You can test the moisture level by putting your finger in the soil. Since rosemary likes to be on the dry side, it’s safer to water less because you can always add more if you notice it drying out. Overwatering causes root rot and that’s a lot harder to fix than underwatering. But don’t just give it a few drops at a time either, make sure you get the base and the top layer of soil around it. Place your rosemary in a location that receives 6-8 hours of sun a day. Read more here
How to overwinter rosemary
One of the most common mistakes in the winter is overwatering. Your plant requires way less water during this time so it is okay to let it dry out a bit longer before watering. Read more here. Ultimately, rosemary can be difficult to maintain indoors so don't feel too bad if it dies. Rosemary is referred to as an upside-down plant in the sense that it likes to absorb moisture through the foliage (leaves) rather than the roots. Since there's less humidity indoors, you should mist your rosemary leaves daily or every other day depending on the size of your plant. If you start to see brown tips on the leaves, it means your rosemary is too dry. You can make up for the lack of humidity by making a humidity tray. One way to do this is to fill up an ice cube tray halfway and place your pot on top. Another way is to take a shallow dish, fill it with pebbles or gravel, water halfway, and place your pot on top. The reason for filling up the water halfway is so that the water will not be touching the soil directly. You want space between the water and the pot so that the leaves can absorb the water as it evaporates rather than soaking the roots in water. So remember dry roots, moist leaves. If you want to be well-prepared, this video is the best video I've watched on growing rosemary indoors.
How to fertilize rosemary
Most people go years without needing to fertilize their rosemary because it grows well as long as it gets plenty of sunlight and you water it correctly. But every few months you can either throw in some crushed eggshells or coffee grounds (lay on the soil around the pot/container but not too close to the roots). Too much fertilizer can kill the plant so don’t worry about fertilizing too often. Read more on fertilizing rosemary here
How to prune rosemary
In gardening, to prune means to trim. The purpose of this is to either gather fresh rosemary for culinary, aromatherapy, or witchcraft purposes or just to shape your rosemary bush. You can trim them more often in the summer for rapid growth, and less in the colder months. For pruning, there is no need to cut at a 45-degree angle, but make sure to not cut past the woody base of your rosemary bush since it would be less likely to grow back. Do not prune past one-third of the plant. When you cut a part of the stem, two branches will grow out from the node (part of the stem where leaves shoot out) below, so that can help you envision how you want to shape your rosemary bush. You may do a hard pruning 6-8 weeks before first frost but do not prune until the growing season (Spring) begins again. here
How to make a smudge stick
A smudge stick is a bundle of dried herbs bound together by twine. They can be used for practical, spiritual, or ceremonial reasons. The practice of smudging can be anything from cleansing and purifying to protection and healing. Since I’m a baby witch, I use it for both spiritual and magickal reasons. The magickal properties of rosemary are purification, protection, remembrance, healing, nightmare protection, and restful sleep. Rosemary smudge sticks are commonly bundled with lavender. Some other herbs commonly used for smudging are sage, palo santo, mugwort, and thyme. You can follow the guide below if you’re a baby witch or if you are simply interested in witchcraft.
Step 1 - Once your rosemary plant is nice and bushy, snip off at least 10 stems that are each the same length (you can take as many as you like), preferably more than 10 cm (4 inches)
Step 2 - Wash the stems and lay them on a paper towel to dry completely
Step 3 - Once they have dried, gather your stems together all facing the same way, and wrap them with twine
Step 4 - Hang in a cool, dark place (e.g. closet) to dry for 2 weeks
Here’s a cute video on how to wrap your smudge stick
Info on how/when to use a smudge stick
Taking care of plants can be a mindful experience and give you a sense of purpose. House plants also promote calmness, relaxation and reduce stress, so if you’ve been wanting to get a plant, now’s a perfect time! And remember, rosemary is one of the more picky plants so don’t feel too bad if your propagation doesn’t succeed. Just think of this Tumblr post:
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