False rosemary

False rosemary

Pictured above: False rosemary (Conradina canescens) by Lisa Roberts. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.

False rosemary (Conradina canescens) is a robust, evergreen flowering shrub that rewards gardeners with a display of fragrant flowers. It typically blooms from March through November, but can occur year-round. It occurs naturally in sand pine scrub and sandhills. Many pollinator species are attracted to False rosemary, but bees are its most prominent visitor.

Flowers are purplish-white and two-lipped: the lower lip is three-lobed and bears dark purple spots. Stamens are prominent and run along the inside of the upper lip. Sepals are fused and finely pubescent. Leaves are short and needle-like with a grayish- or silvery-green hue. They are oppositely arranged and grow densely from upright stems that branch from a main woody stem.

False rosemary plants may look like their namesake cousin, whose leaves are used as a savory cooking spice, but these members of the mint family emit a minty-fresh smell when their leaves are crushed.

The species epithet canescens comes from the Latin canescere, meaning to turn white or gray. It refers to the fine, whitish hair covering the calyxcorolla and leaves.

False rosemary bush
False rosemary (Conradina canescens) in a landscape. Phot by Lisa Roberts

There are only six species of Conradina worldwide; all are native to the United States and four are native to Florida.*

Family: Lamiaceae (Mint family)
Native range: Western Panhandle (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties) and Hernando, Polk and Highlands counties
To see where natural populations of false rosemary have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zones 8A–9B
Lifespan: Perennial
Soil: Extremely dry, sandy soils
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 2–3+’ tall
Propagation: Seed, cuttings
Garden tips: False rosemary is drought tolerant, however, in the landscape setting, it may require additional water during extreme droughts. Otherwise, it is an extremely adaptable species that can make a nice addition to a home landscape.

False rosemary plants are often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Click to find a native nursery on your area.

*Some experts consider Conradina brevifolia to be its own species, but the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants considers it a synonym of Conradina canescens.