How to Grow Summer Savory

This Annual Herb is a Great Alternative for Sage

Summer Savory in full bloom (close up of Lilac flowers)

Gaffera / Getty Images

 

Summer Savory is an annual herb that is part of the Mint family (Lamiaceae). It's sometimes used as a substitute, or in conjunction with Rosemary, Thyme or Sage. With a peppery flavoring, it's less bitter than it's Winter Savory relative.

The herb is a low-growing shrub with narrow green leaves. During the summer, flowers appear on the plant which can be white, lilac or pink.

Originally found along the Eastern Mediterranean, Summer Savory grows best in warmer climates. The seeds, generally planted in Spring, grow best in a loamy soil.

The Savory plants aren't as widely available as some of the more well-known herbs. You may have to order the seeds online, rather than purchase them at a garden center.

Botanical Name Satureja hortensis
Common Name Bean Herb
Plant Type Annual herb
Mature Size 12-18 inches
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Loamy
Soil pH 6.6 to 7.5
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Dark Green leaves and Pink, Lilac or White flowers
Hardiness Zones 1 to 11
Native Area Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus
Summer Savory Seedlings on a Window Sill
Summer Savory Seedlings.  Viktoria Ruban / Getty Images
Summer Savory in Growing
Summer Savory when ready to be picked. ANA69 / Getty Images
Summer Savoory bunch after picking
Summer Savory picked and ready to eat or dry. simonidadjordjevic / Getty Images

How to Grow Summer Savory

An easy to grow plant, Summer Savory is a perfect starter herb if you live in a temperate climate.

It can be sown directly into the garden soil in the Spring, or germinated from pots set up in late winter. Quick-growing, Summer Savory doesn't need too much water or extra feeding. The plant thrives in a rich, easy to drain soil and needs plenty of sun. You can harvest the leaves from the plant throughout the summer.

Light

Having come originally from the Mediterranean, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Summer Savory needs bright conditions to thrive. Choosing a position with a lot of direct full sun will be needed. If you are using containers indoor, select a window with southern aspects. This plant doesn't do well in cold conditions.

Soil

Summer Savory isn't a plant that is very fussy when it comes to soil type. Ideally, though, you want a rich, loamy, alkaline soil. It needs to be well-draining as the plant doesn't do well in waterlogged soil.

Water

Summer Savory benefits from regular watering, especially while you are establishing the plant. The soil should only be kept moist, though, rather than wet. Once it's well established, it won't be a problem if the soil is on the drier side, although daily watering when temperatures are high will still be beneficial.

Temperature and Humidity

To thrive, Summer Savory benefits from temperatures between 60 to 85°F. When sowing the seeds outdoors, you want to wait until the end of the frost in the Springtime. As you would expect from a plant of Mediterranean origins, it does best in hot and relatively dry conditions.

Fertilizer

A hardy herb used to growing in drier soil, you shouldn't need to use fertilizer for your Summer Savory to flourish. If you do want to use some, a small amount of all-purpose type will work fine as the plant is growing.

Propagating Summer Savory

Although Summer Savory can reseed itself in a garden setting, they are also easy to propagate from cuttings if you want to offer some to friends or move them to a new location.

Select a cutting that is around four to five inches long and make sure that the bottom half has all the leaves removed. Pop this into a glass of water and wait for new roots to form. Once these are around two inches long, it will be ready to be transferred. Plant the rooted Summer Savory cutting into containers with well-draining, loamy soil. The soil should be moist, but not overly so.

Harvesting

Because Summer Savory is an annual plant, it only grows through the summer months. You can harvest it throughout the summer, but the leaves are at their most flavorsome just prior to the plant flowering. Once the plant has started to flower, a lot of the aroma and flavor will be lost.

Ideally, the stems should be around six to eight inches before harvesting, and they can be used fresh or dried.

Being Grown in Containers

Summer Savory can thrive in window box containers indoors. This is actually the recommended method if you live somewhere that can have a flash of cold weather even in the summer months.

Rooted cuttings can be potted up, and it will allow you to have a fresh supply of the herb through the winter. You should select a container that is at least six inches wide and deep and that it offers good drainage. Making sure you trim back the branches will help to produce healthy and bushy growth.

If you are transferring the seedlings to the garden, you should wait until April to do this to ensure the temperatures will be mild enough.

Growing From Seeds

If you plan to grow Summer Savory from seeds in your garden, you should wait until late Spring when a hard frost is less likely.

This can often be the best method, as these plants don't always take kindly to having their roots disturbed. If you do want to start them in containers indoors, they will benefit from being in biodegradable ones that can be potted up in the ground with the plant.

Seeds can be potted up in late winter if you plan to start the process indoors. Just wait until April before you then move them outside. The seeds only need a light covering of soil, and they usually start to germinate within a fortnight.

Once the seedlings reach a couple of inches in height, you'll want to thin them out. This will ensure that the herb develops a dense growth as it should. The seeds shouldn't be covered, and they need a lot of direct sunlight to do well.