by Kim Tilley
I love to grow things, and I especially love to have plants around the house in the winter. I really love rosemary plants and those cute little "rosemary Christmas trees," but the problem is that I always manage to kill them! I don't mind eating dried rosemary (from my dried-out plant!) , but I really love the look, smell, and taste of live rosemary. My track record is not too good. The first year I underwatered the rosemary, and it dried out. The second year I compensated and overwatered the plant. This year I decided to find out what I was doing wrong or be doomed to a rosemary-free kitchen! Oh, no!
Cub Foods always has healthy, inexpensive plants, so I asked them how they keep their rosemary Christmas trees looking so beautiful. The floral manager told me that rosemary can be tricky, but anyone who learns the trick can take care of one and they can get quite big. The secret to rosemary is that it likes to be constantly moist but doesn't like to sit in the water, so it has to be well drained. Rosemary hates water around its roots, but it will die if the roots dry out. Just like some people, it likes to shower every day, but not sit in a bath!
Here is what you do:
- When you get your plant home from the store, place it (pot and all) into a larger pot filled with gravel. Be sure the bigger pot has a hole at the bottom for drainage. You can place all of this on a plant saucer to catch water.
- Water your rosemary (at the base of the plant) every day or every other day. It doesn't need much, perhaps half a cup. Let the water run right through the plant and out into the saucer (be sure to empty the saucer). I just put my plants in the sink every morning and water them that way, letting all the water go down the drain. Then I put them back in place with something under them to catch more water.
- Every once in while, give the rosemary a "bath," gently rinsing off any dead leaves and other debris (but not the soil!) that tend to build up around the base of the plant. You can let it soak for a little while, and then drain very well.
- Like most plants, rosemary likes humidity, so you can take the plant to the shower with you. Just don't stick it in there! Once a week or every few weeks, put it on a bathroom counter, close the door, and take a long, steamy shower. Your plant will love you and you'll feel pretty good, too!
- If all else fails, start from scratch next spring by purchasing a small rosemary plant at a nursery, or even at Walmart. Plant it, pot and all in a sunny, well-drained location and make sure it gets plenty of water. I did this with one, and my rosemary grew beautifully. Make sure that there is plenty of room in the pot, and mix the potting soil with sand or vermiculite - anything to keep it draining well. Before the first frost, bring in your rosemary. You can then shape it into a tree, and enjoy the "trimmings" on your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey.
Decorating a Rosemary Christmas Tree
You can use any mini ornaments and lights, as long as they don't weigh much. Rosemary branches are pretty tender. I saw a very cute idea done on a mini tree that would work well for rosemary. You spray-paint pasta bows red, then hot-glue string or twist ties onto the back and attach to the tree. You could even make a star out of gold gift wrap and light cardboard (like cereal-box cardboard) to put at the top.
Now that my rosemary trees are looking so much better, I'm going to deck them out. Good luck, and enjoy your culinary Christmas tree!
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