How to Transplant Rosemary for the Winter

Close up of Rosemary field
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  • 01 of 07

    Assemble Your Tools

    Closeup of shovel being used to dig
    HeikeKampe / Getty Images

    Before any digging, it is important to assemble the correct tools for the job. All you need to dig up a rosemary plant from your garden are a bucket, a digging tool, and sturdy boots to protect your feet.

    Dig after a light rain, or if it's during a dry spell, run a hose lightly for about 15 minutes and then wait 30 more minutes for the ground around the rosemary to become damp. This helps you remove the plant much easier and with less overall stress. 

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  • 02 of 07

    Choose a Healthy Specimen

    Harvesting Rosemary
    Adam Drobiec / Getty Images

    Look over your rosemary carefully. Find the fullest and hardiest looking specimen. Closely examine each stem for hiding bugs and any disease. Remember that if your rosemary plant is too old, it may be mostly going to stem. This means that the woody stems will be prolific and the rosemary leaves don't grow on the woodiest parts. If it seems your rosemary is healthy, but mostly woody stems, now is a good time to root stems and start with a new plant.

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  • 03 of 07

    Clear Away Mulch

    Sea Rosemary (argusia gnaphalodes)
    Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

    Before starting to dig, clear away mulch and debris from around the herb. This help to ensure you do not add any hidden insects to the pot when transplanting. Clearing the area also allows you to look at the entire plant and evaluate how worthwhile it is to transplant. Again, if it seems overgrown and stemmy, it may make more sense to just take cuttings and root them instead of transplanting the entire plant. 

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  • 04 of 07

    Press Spade Into Earth

    Digging us rosemary plant
    Amy Jeanroy

    Press the spade into the earth as wide as the herb's foliage, to ensure you get a large root ball. You want to consider the herb plant has roots as large as the stems above the ground (that is the best-case scenario). Many times the plant was placed in the ground slightly rootbound. This causes the roots to grow around and around instead of spreading out properly.

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  • 05 of 07

    Loosen Soil

    Loosening soil around a rosemary plant
    Amy Jeanroy

    Continue loosening the soil around the entire rosemary herb. Gently rock spade after sinking it into the soil. This will help in removal. You want to cut as few roots as possible at this stage. Cutting the roots only stresses the plant and makes it susceptible to disease. Ideally, this is the time you would make sure your new hole is prepared so that the roots do not sit out in the open air, exposed for any amount of time. 

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  • 06 of 07

    Lift Rosemary with Rootball

    Lifting rosemary with rootball
    Amy Jeanroy

    Once you have loosened the soil around the entire rosemary plant, you can then lift entire rootball from the ground with ease. If you find that lifting the plant is difficult or you hear a lot of roots ripping, go back and loosen even more soil before trying to lift the root ball again. 

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  • 07 of 07

    Place Plant in a Bucket

    Rosemary in bucket
    Amy Jeanroy

    Place rosemary in a bucket to move safely. It is best to keep as much soil intact as possible. The bucket will prevent the roots from becoming exposed while you get ready to transplant into the winter container. Remember that once the rosemary is out of the ground, the longer it remains exposed to the air, the more stress you are placing on the roots. Get it dug up and replanted as soon as possible. 

    If you are moving your rosemary inside for the winter, plant it into a pot and leave that plant pot outside during the days and ​move it indoors at night. Do this for the first few days until they days no longer get to 55 degrees during the warmest part of the day. Just like you harden off a plant you take outside, you have to acclimate the plant to the indoor environment as well.