Rosemary and Lavender in the Subtropics
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Pansy Sun
Posted on: April 28, 2000

I would like to ask you some questions about planting rosemary and lavender. Since I live in Taiwan, a subtropical island, please help me to let my babies get through the hot and humid summer which is coming soon.

I have a rosemary which germinated from seed one and a half years ago. It looks like a bush and is planted in a pot. It has never been trimmed. All books indicate that rosemary should be trimmed after flowering. However, my rosemary has never flowered, even this spring. Would you please advise if it needs be trimmed and how?

We have had reports from other customers that rosemary does well in the tropics and should therefore not give you any trouble in the sub-tropics. Just remember to never let it dry out.

Rosemary only needs to be trimmed if you wish to alter its shape. It will grow perfectly happily with never any trimming. It just might get too big and then you can safely trim off branches and use them for cooking or in arrangements. If you want flowers, then you should do any trimming after blooming -in summer so that you don’t cut off the flowers you were eagerly awaiting. Seed grown rosemaries don’t have very pretty flowers and if flowers are what you like you should purchase one of the named varieties such as Benenden Blue, Lockwood, Blue Boy, Majorca, Pink, Pink Majorca, Santa Barbara, Severn Seas and Sawyer’s select. After flowering there will be little dry inflorescences among the branches and if this bothers you right after flowering is the time to cut them off – maybe by trimming the whole plant.

Some of my lavenders were grown from seed that germinated 6 months ago. I found that most my lavenders look compact. The stems are short and the leaves are crowded. Their shape is not as slim as pictured in a book I found them in. I try to shade 50% light. The young plants (about 3-4 months) look normal. However, the older plants have the same crowded look. I am not sure if the young plants will become as compact as the old ones. Would you please advise if my plants are normal or not?

I presume you grew a packet of English lavender. This variety comes in many strains where the winter hardiest are of compact growth habits. I think that you grew one of these hardy, but short varieties. They are perfectly normal and will eventually give you beautifully fragrant flowers. I think English lavender has the most pleasing scent of all the lavenders that we offer. Not shading the plants will result in more compact growth, but also better and stronger scent in the flowers.

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