Tabletop Tree Requires Rosemary and Time


| December/January 2005

  • Brad Anderson


I plan to buy a sheared rosemary plant to use as a tabletop Christmas tree. How should I care for it so it will stay healthy enough to transplant to my garden in the spring? Will I need to trim it to keep it in the shape of a tree?


You are not alone in your interest in adopting a rosemary Christmas tree. They are readily available at garden centers, discount stores and supermarkets. Unfortunately, plants often do not receive attentive care on their journey to the store, so shop carefully. The leaves may appear deceptively healthy, because plants often are sprayed with anti-transpirants as they are prepared for market. If possible, check the roots to make sure they aren’t dead. Dead roots are either black with rot or as dry as straw. Healthy rosemary roots are woody and brown, and many of them are located in the top three inches of soil.

As you select your plant, also choose an 8-inch pot that has several drainage holes in the bottom. A wide, stocky pot, such as an azalea pot, is ideal. Rosemary needs lots of horizontal root space, but you can use a lean potting soil, such as bagged topsoil, as you pot it up. Repot your rosemary tree into its new home. Now, you can decorate the plant, using a light hand. Try making your own featherweight decorations — stars made from metallic gift wrap, painted bowtie pasta hung with thread, or tiny candy canes made of pipe cleaner. You also can try braiding together three pieces of narrow ribbon to make a garland.

Make sure not to give potted rosemary trees too much water. Learn to judge the moisture level in the pot by checking its weight, and don’t be afraid to let it become nearly dry between waterings. If you think your plant is parched, look for these symptoms: bluish leaf color and slight wilting of the tips of new leaves. Step up watering a bit, but do not feed your plant. Rosemary grows little in winter, so fertilizer is not necessary.

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