For a number of years, rosemary Christmas trees have become popular as replacements for the traditional Christmas tree. Little wonder the idea works well: these plants are small and fit comfortably on a tabletop, smell delightful, are studded with little blue flowers, and you can even pinch off a few leaves for seasoning tasty dishes in the kitchen.
But a rosemary Christmas tree is not a tree at all. It is simply a carefully pruned shrub. So, unlike the living Christmas tree bought in a large pot, it will not grow into a tree if planted outdoors. It will also be difficult to keep in a neat, conical shape over the coming year so you can use it again next year. You can do it, if, after the holiday season is over, you grow it on by placing it outdoors in full sunshine and make sure you keep it carefully pruned on a monthly basis. It will essentially be a topiary in a pot like a boxwood or other sculpted shrub.
On the other hand, rosemary makes a wonderful sprawling shrub for a sunny part of the garden where the soil is not too rich and you have excellent drainage. You can grow it outdoors in a large pot in full sun if you don’t have the proper drainage, soil, sun, or protection from hard frost in the garden itself.
During the holiday season give your rosemary Christmas tree the brightest window you have for good light. Don’t over-water. Let the soil dry fully down to an inch or two before watering again. Use a tray beneath to catch water when it drains through but don’t leave the pot standing in water.
After the holidays, set your rosemary Christmas tree outdoors in a shaded area for a week or two before moving it into sun if you are going to grow your rosemary on outside. If you live where winters are likely to fall below the 20’s Fahrenheit, you will have to keep the rosemary indoors in the sunniest spot you can find until temperatures outside warm in the spring.
Rosemary is a natural shrub with a somewhat sprawing habit. It accepts some severe pruning when it is young, but as it grows, it becomes woody and rangy. Enjoy your young plant as a Christmas tree, then let it grow on to its natural form. Rosemary is not only an attractive evergreen shrub, but it is perfect in the herb garden. Snip off branches to make pot-pouries, add to sachets or collect leaves to season meats, potatoes or other favorite dishes year round.
For more on rosemary, check out my video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8Tpml8cXMY