Ask a local master gardener about tending and giving indoor herbs

  • rosemary plant in vase isolated on white background Scisetti Alfio—Getty Images/iStockphoto

For the Gazette
Published: 12/7/2018 9:03:24 AM

Q:  I see rosemary and lavender sold as gifts in the winter time.  How do you care for them indoors?  —L.B. Easthampton


A:  Mmmm … I can smell the freshly snipped rosemary and lavender just thinking about them. One can understand why they are given as gifts, as fresh snips of each plant often bring wisps of wonderfully comforting memories to mind. A whiff of rosemary conjures up images of warm roasted potatoes, herbed breads and savory scones while a deep inhale of lavender evokes thoughts of those stunning lavender fields of Provence and fragrant little satchels of the herb tucked into drawers. 

Both these plants are Mediterranean natives and key to successfully overwintering them is large amounts of sunlight. They require 6 – 8 hours of direct sun, ideally in a south- or west- facing window. Grow lights or broad spectrum plant bulbs are helpful in boosting light exposure.

Rosemary should be in a pot in a cool room, around 50-60 F degrees, for best performance indoors. It likes to be watered when the top of the soil is dry to 1” in depth.

Once this occurs, water it thoroughly until water drains out the hole in the bottom of the pot. Also, put the pot in a place with good air circulation to prevent powdery mildew. One good preventative measure against powdery mildew is neem oil. Spraying the plant, following manufacturer’s instructions, before powdery mildew occurs is one way to accomplish this pest defense.

Lavender is similar to rosemary in its light, temperature, and water requirements. If you do not have a windowsill wide enough for a pot of lavender, place a small table or plant stand directly next to the window to get as much direct sunlight as possible. As with rosemary, lavender should be placed in a cool, 50 – 60 degree F room. Again, watering only when the top of the soil is dry at a 1” depth is ideal. 

Terra cotta makes a wonderful pot material for either lavender or rosemary as porous terra cotta pot sides lose moisture and can help prevent excess water from accumulating. 

Smaller lavender varieties, such as French lavender (Lavandula dentata), are especially well-suited for growing indoors. They are not as fragrant as English lavender, but they adapt better to interior conditions. There are numerous lavender varieties available for growing indoors. Which variety you choose depends on your personal preference and purpose. 

Rosemary and lavender are both terrific choices in this gift giving season and for your own enjoyment. Hope these answers help, L.B.  Thanks for asking a local Master Gardener! 

Have a gardening dilemma? Please send questions, along with your name/initials and community, to the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association at One question will be selected and answered per week.

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Northampton, MA 01061


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