Growing and Using the Herb Salad Burnet

Salad Burnet, an Herb with Cucumber Flavor
© Marie Iannotti

Salad burnet is an attractive perennial plant grown for both its edible leaves and its medicinal properties. Medicinally, it was once used against the Plague and to control hemorrhaging, but today it is mostly known for its astringent properties. Salad burnet is a member of the rose (Rosaceae) family. Note: Medicinal uses are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please see your doctor, if you have a health problem.

As an herb, salad burnet offers a clean, cucumber-like flavor. It's an easy growing plant that appears early in the season and holds up well in heat. It forms a clump and stays pretty well contained and controlled, growing in a loose rosette. However, salad burnet can spread by rhizomes and it will self-seed. The young seedlings are easy to pull out, so it should not become a nuisance.

  • Leaves: Rounded, with toothed edges. 4 - 12 pairs of leaves per leaflet.
  • Flowers: Small, dense, purple flowers form on spikes

Botanical Name

Sanguisorba minor (Syn. Poterium sanguisorba

Common Names

Burnet, Salad Burnet, Small Burnet, Garden Burnet

Hardiness Zones

Salad burnet is a short-lived perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 8. It can also be treated as an annual.

Sun Exposure

Salad burnet does well in either full sun or partial shade. Partial shade is preferable if you are growing it in dry conditions.

Mature Plant Height

If you are constantly harvesting, your plants may never reach mature size, but salad burnet can grow to 12 - 18 inches (h) x 12 - 24 inches (w).

Bloom Period/Days to Harvest

It takes 70 - 100 days, for salad burnet to reach maturity. However, young, tender leaves have the best flavor and you can start harvesting them when the plants reach about 4 inches tall. The plants can bloom anytime from spring to fall, and may not flower at all if you keep cutting them back to harvest.

Suggested Varieties

There are not currently any named cultivars of salad burnet, but Sanguisorba minor does have a larger cousin, Sanguisorba officinalis, known as Greater Burnet or Official Burnet, that has a similar flavor, with round, red flowers.

Harvesting Salad Burnet

Harvest leaves as you need them, but don't remove more than about 1/3 of a plant at one time if you want it to continue re-growing. The young, tender leaves have the best flavor. Harvesting outer leaves of established plants will encourage new growth. Strip the leaves and discard the tough stems.

Using Salad Burnet

Use salad burnet whenever you want to add a cool, cucumber flavor. As the name suggests, leaves can be tossed into salads. They are also good on sandwiches, either in place of or along with lettuce. They make a nice addition to cold drinks, like lemonade and wine spritzers. Use salad burnet to flavor dips and bottles of vinegar. Toss leaves into soups, eggs and other hot dishes at the very last minute.

The flavor of salad burnet does not hold up well when the leaves are dried, but you can freeze leaves and use them in hot dishes.

Salad Burnet Growing Tips

Soil: Salad burnet is forgiving about poor soil, but it grows best in moderately moist conditions.

Planting: You can start seeds indoors, about 4 weeks before your last frost date, but seed does well when direct seeded in the garden, 2 weeks before the last frost. Cover lightly, with 1/8 inch of soil and keep moist, until it germinates.

Transplant indoors seedlings, after all danger of frost. You can thin direct sown plants to 1 foot apart and use the thinnings in salads.

First-year plants will grow to about 8 - 10 inches tall. Subsequent years will produce larger plants that flower.

Salad burnet can also be divided, in spring or fall, to make new plants.

Caring for Salad Burnet Plants

Pinching and harvesting your salad burnet will be the main maintenance chore. Plants left to mature will have somewhat tougher leaves.

Regular water, at least 1 inch per week, will help keep the plants cool and productive, into the summer.

Removing the flowers and flower stalks will encourage more leaves and will cut down on self-seeding.

Growing Salad Burnet in Containers

Salad burnet is a nice choice for containers and for planting between other plants. Since it is hardy to USDA Zone 4, it should over-winter in containers down to USDA Zone 6. With protection, it may survive colder climates.

Pests & Problems

Few problems plague salad burnet. It can be prone to leaf spot disease, in wet or damp weather. You can help prevent that by providing good air circulation and removing any affected leaves before the problem has a chance to spread.