Summer Savory is a cheerful bushy annual plant with small white or pink flowers. It is not too fussy about the soil type but needs full sun and a well drained soil. Reaching 18 inches in height it makes a great border or pot plant for the deck. The highly aromatic leaves are prized by many as a great herb to enhance almost any cooking. It has a strong but subtle aromatic flavor that has been described as a mixture of thyme, epazote and parsley. Its usually left alone by deer and rabbits.
A bushy erect hardy annual. Summer savory produces erect slender square stems that can be tinged with purple and are often covered with fine hairs. The leaves are opposite on the stem lanceolate to linear in shaped with a grayish tint and up to 1 inch long. The leaves turn purplish during the late summer and fall. The flowers appear in late July, they are small - about ¼ inch long - white or pink in color with the petals fused together into a bell shaped and are two lipped. These grow on short stalks in smaller clusters in the upper leaf axils. The whole plant can reach 18 inches in height and 14 inches across. The whole plant is highly aromatic.
Location and Care.
Summer savory does best in full sunshine although some morning and afternoon shade can be tolerated.
It needs a rich soil with plenty of organic material and fertilizer to produce its best bushy features and tasty leaves. However the plants tend to have weak stems and will topple over and sprawl. Small twigs and branches can be used as support structures for the plants to keep them upright and off the ground - thus cleaner leaves. Don't over fertilize as this will reduce the flavor of the leaves, one a month is sufficient.
Summer savory will grown on a range of soil types although it prefers average pH (about 6.8). Although not fussy about its soil type it needs to be reasonable well drained, it cannot tolerate waterlogged soils even those that pool on heavy rains. However it does need watering and is not drought tolerant. Daily watering during hot summer months is essential for good leaf growth. A soaker hose run alongside the plants is ideal.
If grown for leaf harvesting, cut back the flower buds as they appear to promote more leaf growth and keep leaves more flavorful.
As a container plant or indoors.
Savory makes a good potted plant for both the garden, patio, deck or indoors. Ensure it has good potting soil and a fairly sunny location and the attractive flowers and pleasant aroma, and shrubby nature make it an attractive deck addition. Trim branches often to encourage bushy grown, remove flowers if intended for leaf harvesting or leave on for enchanting pot plant. Summer savory can also be grown indoors if given an south facing window.
Summer savory is easy to grow but has a few quirks. First it does not take well to being transplanted, so if seeding indoors make sure that you use either biodegradable pots (usually peat or some other substance) that can be planted along with the plant, or take great care not to disturb the roots when transplanting out.
Summer savory seeds are reported to have a substance that prevents other seeds from germinating, so when seeding indoors don't mix with other seeds or place in the same seed tray. However this substance does not seem to effect many of our well known weed seeds so outdoor plantings can still become weed infested.
Seeds can be slow to germinate, most take about 12-14 days at 65-70°F (18 -20°C), but can take longer. Thus outdoor sowings may have weed problems that need to be controlled before the plants can ???.
Sow indoors in late winter in good potting compost about ¼ inch deep. Do not bury to deeply or the seeds will not germinate. Transplant into individual pots when seedlings are large enough to handle. We recommend using biodegradable pots as summer savory does not like to be transplanted. If using normal pots ensure that there is a very good root ball before transplanting out and take great care not to disturb it during planting.
Harden off plants for at least a week before transplanting into ground. Space about 16 inches apart.
Sow seeds in shallow rows about 12 inches apart after the danger of frost has past and the soil is warm. Thin out after germination to 16 inches apart, Keep the bed moist at all times. Summery savory cannot tolerate dry soil.
For continuous supply of fresh leaves plants can be continuously sown from later spring onwards. This will ensure that good vegetative leaves are available for harvesting. Once the plant has flowered the leaves are not as aromatic and the plant is heading downward so new plants need to be brought along to take their place. Of continuous harvest sow seeds every month during the season ending about late July.
Summer savory makes a good companion plant to onions and beans where it helps repel insect pests.
Leaves can be harvested once the plant reaches six inches (15cm) in height. The plants grow quickly so they respond well to being pinched back. Take the tops of the stems leaving at least two inches at the base to allow the plant to regenerate and branch.
The peak time to collect leaves is just before the plant flowers when the oils are at their highest. Harvest in mid morning after the dew has dried but before the sun has become too high. For drying cut the branches down to within two inches of the base bunch the stalks and hang in a warm, dark dry place to dry. Once dried the leaves can be removed from the stems and stored in sealed dark containers.
For fresh use the leaf tops can be collected at any time. Pinch the flowers back when they form to encourage more leaf grown and keep the oil content high. Once the plant has flowered the oil content is greatly reduced.
Savory has a very distinct but mild taste that can enhance the flavor of a great many dishes without being overpowering thus is works well with egg dished which need only a light flavoring. It also holds up well in slow cooked dishes such as soups and stews. It combines well with breadcrumbs and can be used for stuffing's or coatings to add that extra flavor that some dishes need. It is used in all kinds of soups, stews, as flavoring to meats, vegetables and even drinks. The fresh sprigs can also be used in salads. It is very versatile and for many if only one herb was available this would be the choice.
Savory is know to help the digestive system and has been used for centuries for calming the digestive tract and treating flatulence, nausea and colic. IT is also used to treat bronchial congestion, sore throat and menstrual disorders. A sprig of the fresh plant rubbed on a insect sting is said to bring instant relief. It is also used to relive arthritis and to help with baldness and altitude sickness.