By Kerry Ann Mendez
The holiday season is a great time for adorable rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Christmas trees. These popular accents can multitask as holiday décor, air fresheners and seasoning for yummy dishes.
They will also make attractive centerpieces, party favors or hostess gifts.
When caring for a rosemary Christmas tree, you need to remember that rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region. This means they require lots of sun and well-drained soil (think sandy) and are only winter hardy in Zones 7-10.
If you have long term plans for the tree versus treating it as a disposable knick-knack, then remove the colorful foil from the pot right from the get-go. This allows better airflow around the roots.
After the holiday, replant the rosemary tree in a larger container. A terra cotta pot is a good choice as it’s porous and tends to draw moisture from the potting medium. Be sure to use high quality potting soil, such as Espoma’s organic products.
Place the tree in the sunniest window possible, ideally south facing. Be careful not to overwater rosemary; watering once every week or two is usually sufficient.
If you're curious about how rosemary landed on Christmas merchandising shelves, here are a few legends that can explain its popularity during the holidays:
Rosmarinus officinalis was later called Rose of Mary or rosemary in honor of the Virgin Mary. According to one legend, Mary's blue cloak is where rosemary got its color. The flowers that were originally white turned blue and acquired the sweet scent they have today. When Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were fleeing to Egypt, Mary laid her cloak on a rosemary bush. Since then, the rosemary became blue. Another legend says that Mary washed Jesus' clothes in a stream while fleeing to Egypt and she laid them on a rosemary bush to let them dry. In honor for the humble service they gave the Savior, rosemary were made blue.
When Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus fled Bethlehem to escape King Herod's orders, they ran through a field thick with rosemary to escape the murderous soldiers. As they made their way through the dense vegetation, legend says that other shrubs crackled and whispered as the family ran through them and tangled their feet. The rosemary shrubs silently parted, then closed the path behind them, preventing the soldiers from seeing them. Being a grateful mother, Mary offered a blessing and spread her cloak over a rosemary shrub. Instantly, the pale flowers were turned to a heavenly blue color.
It was also believed that the plant will never grow taller than the height of Christ and if it outlives the 33 years of Jesus’ life, it will grow outward rather than upward.
Another interesting legend is that it was used to awaken Sleeping Beauty!