rosemary bonsai

Rosemary Bonsai: How to Grow and Care

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Rosemary is prized for its aromatic qualities and its ability to make just about any recipe ten times more delicious. But did you know that you can also grow rosemary bonsai plants to add interest and appeal to your home? 

Rosemary officinalis, a name that translates to “mist of the sea,” is a gorgeous plant with elegant green-gray foliage. It is native to the Mediterranean, meaning it needs to be kept in a warm climate if you plan on growing it outdoors year-round. However, if you’re willing to bring your rosemary plant indoors for the winter months, you can grow it as a bonsai plant in any environment. 

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In its natural habitat, rosemary blooms year-round, producing lovely blue flowers and growing in a shrub-like fashion with evergreen needles. It has fibrous bark, making the plant look highly unique and attractive even when it is relatively young. One of the most unique features of this plant is that it can be grown not only for its visual qualities as a bonsai – but also for its culinary abilities. 

There are few requirements for care when it comes to nurturing a rosemary bonsai. Here are some tips on keeping this common herb bonsai plant healthy. 

Interesting Facts about Rosemary Bonsai

Height7-14”
Width7-10”
SunlightFull sunlight
Flowering Time LengthLate spring-early summer
Lifespan20 years
Scientific NameRosemary officinalis

Growing Rosemary Bonsai from Seed or by Propagation

You can plant a bonsai rosemary from cuttings or by seed. Start your new plants with cuttings from existing plants for the quickest results, planting cut stems that are roughly two inches long. Remove any leaves before you plant, then place the cuttings in a mixture of peat moss and perlite. Spritz with water until the roots grow and you can then plant the cuttings just as you would a regular rosemary plant. 

How to Care for Rosemary Bonsai Tree

Sunlight

When growing a bonsai rosemary indoors, try to position your plant near a south-facing window where it can receive up to eight hours of sunlight and warmth each day. If you can’t give it the sunlight it needs naturally, you may have to supplement it with artificial grow lights. 

Keep your plant warm, ideally at temperatures no lower than 30 degrees Fahrenheit. You can put your plant outside during the summer, if you choose, just make sure you bring it back inside during cold weather. 

Watering

Although rosemary is adapted to warmer climates, it can’t handle prolonged periods of dryness. Therefore, it’s essential that you plant your rosemary in well-draining soil and make sure you water it regularly. It can be somewhat on the dry side – it often thrives in sandy soil – but don’t let it dry out completely. Consider planting your rosemary bonsai in terra cotta pots, which will let the soil stay warm and relatively dry. Drainage is essential – prolonged dryness or wetness is not. 

Fertilizing

Rosemary is not a voracious feeder. However, you are best off fertilizing your rosemary bonsai in the spring. A good option to use is a fish emulsion, which will give your plant a quick-absorbing dose of the nutrients it needs. You can also use a foliar spray on a regular basis. 

Potting and Repotting

Try to repot your rosemary bonsai plant at least once per year. Spring is generally the best time, before the plant has started to actively regrow, but you can do this at any time of the year that is most convenient for you. Just cut a few inches from the roots at the bottom of the plant as well as on the sides of the root ball. You can also trim some off the top.

Pruning Rosemary Bonsai

Prune your bonsai rosemary regularly. One of the most exciting aspects of growing a rosemary bonsai is that you can put those trimmings to good use – in your cooking! Just snip sprigs whenever you’d like to use them in the kitchen, but don’t cut back more than a third of the plant at a time. 

You can occasionally wire the branches to shape them as well. Only attempt to wire those that are smaller in diameter than that of half of a pencil.

Pests and Diseases

Rosemary bonsai plants are occasionally prone to powdery mildew when they are grown indoors. This white, powdery fungal disease typically arises when the air is humid and there is poor air circulation. Although it won’t’ usually kill your plant, it can severely weaken it. Make sure there is good circulation in the room in which you are growing your plant (you might add a fan, for instance).

Keep an eye out for pests like aphids and spider mites. You can spray leaves with diluted water and soap solution to get rid of them. 

Where to Buy Rosemary Bonsai

Perfect to work with as a bonsai plant, a rosemary bonsai can be purchased anywhere you might buy a regular rosemary plant – you can also buy seeds and start your own plant. Since rosemary, at its very largest when grown outdoors, only grows to the size of a small shrub, it will grow rapidly from seed and can therefore mature quickly in a container. 

This is an economical way to buy a rosemary bonsai plant – although you can of course always purchase a starter plant from a gardening store, nursery, or in some cases, even a grocery store, too.

Also check other bonsai trees you can grow here.

*image by Wirestock/depositphotos

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