Wall germander (Teucrium chamadrys) is a shrubby broadleaf evergreen with a clump-forming habit, grown mostly for its aromatic foliage (it is a member of the mint family). Sometimes categorized as Teucrium x lucidrys, wall germander is one of those old-fashioned plants that does not receive a lot of press nowadays. That fact may be changing soon, however. With many gardeners worried about bee populations being on the decline, it may be hard to ignore a proven and adaptable bee magnet such as T. chamaedrys for much longer.
Wall germander bears dark-green, shiny leaves with toothed edges and a nice smell. The smell released from the leaves when crushed makes them prized for crafts. Craftspeople often dry the stems of the plant before using them in potpourri or wreath projects. Light to deep purple flowers appear in summer and early fall.
Wall germander sometimes is included in the category of sub-shrubs, since it has a mounding form with a semi-woody base. It can also be considered an herb, since the plant has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, such as a treatment for gout. But its herbal use has fallen out of favor due to evidence that it can harm the liver.
|Botanical Name||Teucrium chamaedrys|
|Common Names||Wall germander|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf evergreen|
|Mature Size||9 to 12 inches tall; 1- to 2-foot spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil|
|Soil pH||6.0 to 8.0|
|Flower Color||Rosy lavender to pinkish purple|
|Hardiness Zones||5 to 9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Mountainous regions of southwest Asia, Northern Africa, Europe|
How to Grow Wall Germander
Plant wall germander in soil that is well-drained, in a sunny, sheltered location. Wall germander attains a height of about 1 foot, with a slightly greater width. If you want to form a quick, tight hedge, install the individual plants 6 inches apart. For a looser, more casual hedge, space them 1 foot apart. The plant can spread via rhizomes. While this ability to spread is a potential nuisance, it also means the plant can be useful in erosion control.
Despite its fairly good cold-hardiness, growers in zone 5 should take suitable steps to avoid winter damage on the plants. This can be a problem during winters that are cold but not snowy (a blanket of snow acts as a protecting mulch). One way to solve this problem is to gently lay evergreen boughs over the plants (for example, those from eastern white pine or hemlock trees).
Wall germander prefers a full sun location. Shade will make the plants leggy and scraggly.
This plant prefers dry to medium-moisture soil that is well-drained. It will tolerate poor, sandy soil, provided it is well-drained. Wall germander does well in neutral to slightly alkaline soil, but will protest if planted in very acidic soil, below 6.0 in pH.
In the first year of growth, water this plant weekly to a depth of at least 3 inches. Once established, watering every 10 days or so is usually sufficient. Withhold watering as winter approaches.
Temperature and Humidity
Wall germander is native to rocky areas around the Mediterranean basin, so it will thrive under similar conditions. This plant prefers relatively dry, warm conditions, and generally does not react well in rainy, humid regions. Zone 5 gardeners may need to cover the plants in winter.
Wall germander grows well with relative neglect, but it will appreciate an annual spring feeding with a balanced general-purpose fertilizer diluted to one-fourth strength.
Pruning Wall Germander
Growers typically shear their small hedge of wall germander at least twice a year— once in late winter or early spring and a second time after flowering. If you grow the plants individually (rather than in a hedge) and want the best flowering display, skip that first shearing because you may be removing some flower buds. The more formal you wish your hedge to be, the more often you will want to shear it to maintain its shape and promote denser growth.
Propagating Wall Germander
This plant can be propagated by seeds, but rooting stem cuttings is the more common method. Take a 4- to 6-inch cutting from a healthy stem tip, making the cut just below a leaf node. Strip off the leaves from the lower half of the cutting, then dip the end of the cutting into a solution of rooting hormone and water.
Plant the end of the cutting into a small pot or tray filled with a mixture of perlite and peat moss. Cover the pot loosely with a plastic bag or dome, and set the pot into a bright area but not in direct sunlight. Keep the pot at 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and open the bag or remove the cover for a few minutes every few days to allow the cutting to breathe. Water only enough to keep the soil mix damp.
When new leaf growth becomes obvious, carefully transplant the cutting into a pot filled with ordinary potting mix. Water it well and place the pot, uncovered, back into a bright location. Over two or three weeks, gradually give the new plant increasing doses of full sunlight. At the end of this period, the plant is ready for the outdoor garden.
Bush germander (Teucrium fruticans) is a close relative of wall germander. This species is also useful in formal designs. Bush germander's specialty is the art form known as topiary. As a larger plant (at least 4 to 6 feet tall and wide; a 7-foot height is possible under ideal conditions), bush germander is a true shrub that gives you the mass you need to sculpt a topiary.
A drawback is that this Mediterranean plant is not as hardy (only zones 8 to 10) as wall germander. But, like its hardier cousin, it likes full sun and well-drained soil. If you are seeking a plant somewhere in between bush and wall germander size-wise, grow the dwarf cultivar ('Azureum') of the former: It grows only 3 to 4 feet tall.
Compared to Germander Speedwell
The similarity in common names sometimes causes people to confuse wall germander with germander speedwell. Germander speedwell is actually a type of veronica, as its botanical name indicates: Veronica chamaedrys.
Most problems with wall germander are related to cold temperatures or high moisture levels. These plants can be susceptible to mildew, leaf spot, and rust in humid environments. Providing good air circulation may relieve these problems.
Mites can sometimes be a problem with wall germander. Horticultural soaps and oils, or pesticides, will control these.
In the northern end of the hardiness range, it is not uncommon for wall germander to die back due to cold temperatures. Covering the plants in winter may be necessary in Zone 5.
Wall germander makes a good short hedge, clipped in the same manner as boxwood, or can be used as an edging plant. The plants are just the right size to line a walkway or one edge of a flower border with a small hedge. Or if you grow an herb garden and want it to look great, border it with a small hedge of wall germander. Planted close together, wall germander also makes a suitable ground cover.
Wall germander is also a staple of knot gardens, those wonderful expressions of formal landscape design using geometric shapes, dating back to the Renaissance. It is easy to see why these broadleaf evergreens would be well-suited to be mass-planted in curving lines to form interesting patterns in the garden, since they are dwarf plants with densely-packed leaves that are easily controlled through shearing
Recently, wall germander has seen resurrected interest as a plant to lure pollinators, including bees and butterflies, to the landscape.