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Can Rosemary Grow in Clay Soil? (Explained)

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Last updated on September 23rd, 2022 at 02:49 pm

Growing rosemary has been an exciting adventure for me. In good conditions, its leaves have a great scent, which is perfect as a spice.

Also, its flowers make it a very great option to add life to your garden. So, you may be looking forward to growing rosemary on your own. This is great.

One factor you should consider, though, before planting rosemary is soil. And if you live in a clayey area, you may have wondered if rosemary can grow in clay soil.

Can Rosemary Grow in Clay Soil? Yes, rosemary can grow in clay. But while it can, it will not perform well on such soil. It could even germinate but later die on waterlogged and poorly aerated clay.

Why Can’t Rosemary Grow Well on Clay Soil?

Although rosemary can tolerate conditions on different kinds of soil, there are certain types that it can barely grow on.

One of these soil types is clay. “Why does clay soil not support the healthy growth of rosemary?” you may ask.

The reason is because of some certain characteristics that clay possesses. Below are the features of clay that makes it unconducive for growing rosemary:

1. Clay Soil has poor drainage

Clay is a very poor soil choice when it comes to water drainage. The molecules that makeup clay tend to stick together, making water drain very slowly from them.

Now, you may think, “this isn’t bad.” But is it really good?

Your rosemary needs water, of course, as water is essential for most photosynthesis and nutrient transport processes. Nevertheless, too much water could end up killing the plant.

This phenomenon is because of the plant’s roots. Rosemary’s roots need water and absorb an adequate amount so that the xylem tissues can transport it around the plant.

Nevertheless, when there’s too much water in the soil, it will begin to drown. The reason is that roots have tiny pores that they use to take in air.

And if water is stopping air from passing through the soil to get to them, they’ll “suffocate” and die.

When this happens, you’ll notice that your rosemary starts wilting. Because of this reason, clay soil is a really poor choice for planting rosemary.

2. Clay Soil is poorly aerated

One other reason clay isn’t really good for your rosemary plant is its poor aeration. As aforementioned, clay particles stick together, which isn’t good for your plant.

Clay is usually airtight. So it’s almost impossible for air to pass through it.

And this isn’t good for your rosemary plant. Although its leaves absorb air, the rosemary’s roots need a substantial amount of air to function well.

So when they don’t have access to air to get the necessary oxygen, they’ll die off. Of course, this would eventually lead to the death of your rosemary.

What Kind of Soil Does Rosemary Like?

Rosemary prefers soil that has the following characteristics:

1. Nutrient-rich

Every plant requires nutrients to grow, and so does rosemary. It would be best to get a plant with enough nutrients to enable the proper development of your plant.

2. Good aeration

Soil that allows air in and out is perfect for rosemary. Its roots will be able to take in enough oxygen to carry out their functions properly.

3. Adequate water retention

Soil that retains water in the right proportion is perfect for a rosemary plant.

Although rosemary doesn’t require much water, soil that does not retain water at all may cause your plant’s roots to get dehydrated.

4. Proper Drainage

This point may seem controversial since I just talked about water retention. Nevertheless, well-drained soil is perfect for your rosemary.

Providing this kind of soil for your rosemary plant will ensure that it doesn’t die because of excessive water.

Loam is soil with these characteristics, so it is highly recommended to plant your rosemary in it.

However, if you don’t have access to loamy soil, how do you go about planting your rosemary in clay? Do you want to find out this answer?

If yes, please keep reading as I’ll be answering it below.

How to Improve Clay For Your Rosemary Plant

Although clay isn’t the perfect soil for your rosemary plant, you could improve so that it will serve your plant well. Here are some ways to improve clay for your rosemary.

1. Overturn and aerate the clay

Dig the clay using a hoe or a shovel and turn it over. This way, you’ll change the structure of the soil, making it easier to plant.

You’ll also be providing enough air pockets for air to seep in. Again, it would be best to do this when the clay is slightly damp.

2. Mulch organic manure into the soil

Organic manure helps improve the structure of clay by introducing microorganisms that aerate the soil.

With some organic manure, the clay will be able to drain well, which will be beneficial for your plant. Examples of organic manure include:

3. Green manure

4. Compost manure

5. Livestock manure.

Does Rosemary Like Coffee Grounds?

Coffee grounds are the remains of coffee beans used to make coffee. They are a type of compost manure.

They contain a lot of nutrients that are essential for plant growth. So, to the question of whether rosemary likes coffee grounds, yes.

The rosemary plant does well with coffee grounds when it’s added to the soil.

The nutrients coffee grounds contain that makes them a great natural fertilizer for your plant include:

1. Phosphorus:

Phosphorus is a really important nutrient as it helps your rosemary plant photosynthesize and transport resources to important areas.

In its absence, your plant’s leaves will start decolorizing, which indicates that it’s not carrying out photosynthesis. Hence, your rosemary won’t have enough energy to survive without this nutrient.

2. Nitrogen:

Nitrogen is a key nutrient for your plant. It helps your plant to produce chlorophyll which is very important in photosynthesis.

For example, photosynthesis in rosemary is really important because it requires the ATP released to grow.

And if there’s not enough chlorophyll, photosynthesis will not be able to occur. In addition, coffee grounds contain nitrogen in a substantial amount to serve as a good fertilizer.

3. Calcium:

Calcium is another nutrient that coffee grounds contain. It helps your plant to stay rigid and in good shape.

What calcium does is that it strengthens the cellular wall of each cell in your plant. So, with enough calcium from coffee grounds, you’ll be sure your plant won’t droop.

4. Potassium:

Potassium is good for rosemary as it helps to provide energy for your plant. It’s a key component of ATP, and it controls the respiratory rate of your plant.

If there’s not enough phosphorus for your rosemary, then it will have difficulties in controlling the flow of the carbon dioxide and oxygen it takes in and breathes out.


Clay isn’t a good soil for planting rosemary because it isn’t well-trained and doesn’t have proper aeration.

However, if you don’t have access to loam, you could improve the clay soil by overturning the soil and adding organic manure like coffee grounds.

So, if you follow the steps I have given in this article, your rosemary will still perform well even in clay soil.


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