Can Rosemary Grow in the Shade?

Rosemary Light Requirements

A herb that is commonly used in many cooking recipes, rosemary seems like one of the perfect plants for your indoor garden. However, you might be wondering how much light it needs—can it grow in the shade? 

Rosemary is not recommended for growing in full shade. It needs at least 6 hours of sunlight for adequate growth. It might adapt to partial shade if acclimatized, but rosemary does best in 6 – 8 hours of full sun. 

If you want to learn more about rosemary and its requirements to grow as an indoor plant, keep reading!

Rosemary Light Requirements

Rosemary Light Requirements

Rosemary is one of those plants that don’t need warm temperatures to thrive, but they require quite a bit of sun. 

Salvia Rosmarinus, or rosemary as it is colloquially known, can tolerate some shade, but it is not advisable to leave this plant in full shade for extended periods. 

This herb has stayed true to its Mediterranean roots and requires 6 to 8 hours of full sun for proper growth

If you’re going to be using this plant as a perennial plant, ensure that it grows in an undisturbed location. 

Can Rosemary Grow in Full Shade?

Can Rosemary Grow In Full Shade?

Rosemary is not recommended for full shade, though it might survive in partial shade–depending on how much sun it receives. 

To quantify, full shade is defined as less than 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, not an absolute lack of shade. 

Specifically, rosemary will grow best with at least 6-8 hours of full sun. Remember: rosemary is a Mediterranean plant, so full sun is what it prefers.

Putting a rosemary plant in full shade means that it does not receive enough sunlight to photosynthesize and will die due to a lack of food. 

We’ve got a more thorough article on whether plants can grow without sunlight.

Can Rosemary Be Grown Indoors?

Can Rosemary Be Grown Indoors?

Rosemary can be grown indoors. 

If you’ve been growing this plant in your garden and want to bring it indoors to make more space to grow other herbs, you’ll need to acclimatize your rosemary to the reduced amount of light indoors. 

Even the brightest window you have in your house doesn’t compare to the full sun in the garden that your plant will receive. 

Start by gradually reducing the amount of light that your plant receives. 

Move your plant to a less sunny part of the garden and leave it there for a few days before bringing it indoors. 

If you’re thinking of using a grow light, we’ve got a more complete article all about using grow lights for herbs & vegetables.

Once your rosemary is indoors, here are the factors that you should be looking out for:



A common question we get is, “Does rosemary need a lot of light?”

The short answer is “yes”. Especially if indoors, rosemary should be placed by the brightest window that you have. 

If it receives insufficient light, you’ll begin to see warning signs of this plant’s imminent demise in the form of yellow leaves and drooping. 

In that case, use fluorescent lighting to provide additional light to the plant. 

If you don’t have a suitable fluorescent light at home, you can purchase grow lights to provide supplemental light. LED grow lights can be an excellent, cost-effective option.



Rosemary can tolerate dry climates. After all, it grows wild in the Mediterranean.

However, especially during winter indoors, rosemary plants should receive higher humidity or they will dry out, with brown leaves and die-back. 

Dried out rosemary plants are common when they are grown indoors, so you should have a humidifier or place little saucers filled with water around the plant. 

However, high humidity and a lack of proper air circulation could lead to a condition known as powdery mildew. This fungus causes leaves and buds to become disfigured. 

To prevent mildew growth, use a fan to create a breeze where the rosemary is located.



Rosemary is one of those plants that hate having wet feet–but not soggy. 

So, ensure that the container in which you’ve planted your rosemary plant has holes at the bottom so that water can drain off. 

You should also be careful to water your plant only when the top layer of soil has become dry. 

The amount of water required for this plant is seasonal. In winter, when rosemary slows its growth rate, you will need to water it less frequently. 

Can Rosemary Be Divided?

Can Rosemary Be Divided?

Division is a technique commonly used to render large, overcrowded plants into smaller, more divisible sections. 

As rosemary can become very large, you would think that it would be an ideal candidate for division. 

However, you shouldn’t be dividing rosemary. 

Instead, it’s preferable to use layering, pruning, or using cuttings, depending on what you want to do with your rosemary plant. 

Can Rosemary Be Grown From a Cutting?

Can Rosemary Be Grown From A Cutting?

Cuttings are commonly used to grow new rosemary plants. 

Here are the steps needed for this process:

  1. Take a cutting from a young, healthy-looking branch that is at least 4 inches (10.2 cm) in length. The cutting should be taken during either spring or fall when the plant is in its stages of growth. 
  2. Remove the bottom leaves with your pruners. 
  3. Dip the end of your cutting in hormone rooting powder. 
  4. Place your cutting in a jar full of water. The only part of the fully immersed cutting should be the end, which doesn’t have any leaves on it. Ensure that this jar is placed in a bright environment that receives plenty of light. 
  5. Change the water every few days. 
  6. Once you observe roots emerging, plant them in potting soil and sand for optimal air circulation. When planting, consider planting it in the container that you will be using for it permanently so that you won’t have to disturb the plant too much. 

Can Rosemary Be Transplanted?

Can Rosemary Be Transplanted?

The rosemary plant can be transplanted, but it should only be moved in late fall or early winter. 

If you’re thinking of moving your plant, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Ensure that the soil is damp before you start digging up the plant. If it’s dry, try running a hose for a few minutes, and wait for the soil to absorb the water before you start digging up the soil.
  2. Clear away mulch and debris from the sample of rosemary that you have decided to take. This prevents any insects from riding along while allowing you to observe the plant further in-depth and determine whether the specimen is healthy. 
  3. Use a shovel to form a circular perimeter around the soil of the plant. This perimeter should be approximately the same size as the spread of the stems. While creating your circle, gently rock the shovel in to loosen the soil and make it an easier process to transport the plant. 
  4. After loosening the soil around the plant, you should be able to lift the entire root ball from the plant easily. If the process seems difficult, or you can hear a lot of roots being broken, loosen the soil more before trying again. 
  5. Transfer the plant into a bucket immediately while preserving as much of the soil that you can in between the roots. This prevents the roots from becoming exposed. 
  6. Re-plant your rosemary plant as soon as possible to minimize stress on the plant. If this is not possible, sprinkle the plant with water in the bucket. 
  7. Pot your rosemary plant in a spacious container and pot it properly. Once potted, place it in a tray containing a layer of gravel for proper water drainage. Acclimatize your plant by bringing it indoors at night time but keeping it out during the daytime. When temperatures drop below 50℉ (10℃), bring your plant inside permanently. 

Can Rosemary Be Grown Hydroponically?

Can Rosemary Be Grown Hydroponically?

Hydroponic systems are well-suited for rosemary plants. 

If you’re serious about wanting your plants to do well, you need high-pressure sodium lamps. 

Otherwise, you can go with the more budget-friendly option of fluorescent lights or LED grow lights. 

Start by waiting for the rosemary plants to germinate, like in rockwool starter cubes. 

Once you have roots, you can transplant them into NFT troughs, spaced 4-6″ (10-15cm) apart.

You can also check out our super-thorough article on getting started with hydroponics.


Now that you know all about growing rosemary in various settings, be it indoors, outdoors, or hydroponically, it’s up to you to decide whether this is one herb that you really want in your garden. 

If you live in a sunny, tropical area with no major seasonal changes, your rosemary plant will thrive indoors. Otherwise, you should invest in getting good-quality fluorescent lights that your plants can use for photosynthesis. 

About the author

Greg Volente

Greg Volente holds a Naturalist Certificate from the Morton Arboretum, worked for The Nature Conservancy leading environmental education programs and doing natural areas restoration, and worked in the soil science research & testing lab at Michigan State University. Besides gardening, he's an avid wildflower enthusiast, and loves botanizing, hiking, and backpacking.