The Q&A Archives: Rosemary

Question: Why do Rosemary plants keep dieing? Today I bought my 3rd "replacement" plant . I have sandy soil. When I plant it, I read the tag and do what it says....dig a hole three times larger than the plant, use potting soil, dig the trench, water it in, add more soil, then mulch with pine straw.

Answer: I'm sorry the rosemary isn't performing well for you, I know that can be frustrating. Rosemary is native to the sunny, arid, rocky Mediterranean area. So, it helps to recreate those conditions. Plant in full sun. Digging a large hole is excellent because it allows the roots to expand. Transplant no deeper than the original rootball. In other words the hole is three times as wide, but not three times as deep. However, I would not recommend amending the backfill with potting soil. Its native soil is sandy or gravely without much organic matter. Water slowly and deeply to ensure the entire rootball is moistened. Then don't water again until the top inch of soil dries out. Stick your finger down into the soil, or use a soil probe. With a layer of pine mulch, the soil will retain moisture longer and you may not need to water as often, depending on weather. Also water deeply and as infrequently as possible. Do not sprinkle from overhead. Mediterranean herbs (including lavender, oregano, santolina) do not like wet feet and will promptly die if roots are standing in moist or wet soil. I'd also suggest watering the plant well in the container the day before planting to make sure the roots are not stressed for water before going in the ground. If possible, plant later in the day, on a cloudy day, or put up a temporary shade cloth to reduce exposure to the hot sun. Transplant shock can knock plants back, especially when planted in the heat of summer. I hope this info helps.

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