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Growing Winter or Summer Savory, The Herbs of Love

  • Bob Styer
  • Herbs
Winter Savory With Flowers

The sweet, spicy, peppery flavoring of winter and summer savory goes well with many different foods.  It’s an excellent addition to bean dishes, vegetables, soups, meats, stuffing, breadcrumbs, and teas.  People have been using these herbs for over 2000 years, but it fell out of favor when black pepper made it to Europe.  In the Roman Empire, it was considered an aphrodisiac.  The ancient monasteries were forbidden to grow savory plants due to their reputation.  Do they work that way?  Well, you’ll have to grow your savory plants and do some experiments.  Either way, they’ll make your food taste good!

Summer savory potted with flowers
A potted summer savory plant

Types of Savory

Savory is a member of the mint family from the Mediterranean area.  Because of this, growing in any place with full sun is easy.  There are two main types:

  • Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis).  This variety grows annually and is more popular than winter savory.  It has a subtle peppery hot flavoring with a spicy-sweet aroma and will grow to a height of 12 – 18 inches.   Summer savory grows outside in Zones 6 -10.
  • Winter Savory (Satureja montana).  Unlike summer savory, this one is an evergreen perennial.  It has a more intense and earthy flavor, with hints of pine and sage.  The plants grow 6 – 12 inches high but will spread over a wide area.

Winter savory is hardier than summer savory and can survive temperatures down to 10o F. It’ll thrive outside in Zones 4 – 8.

Both savories create some interest with subdued mint, marjoram, and thyme flavors.  French cooking has an herb blend called “fines herbes,” which consists of tarragon, chervil, parsley, and chives.  They also have another herb blend called “herbes de Provence,” made with summer savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano.

Would you like to learn about other herbs? Check out our post “The Complete Guides to Growing Culinary Herbs” for links to those articles.

Growing and Caring for Savory

This plant could restore your confidence if you don’t have a green thumb. It’s straightforward to grow and likes full sun with well-drained, sandy soil that’s pH neutral.  You can mix in compost or organic fertilizer in springtime.  It won’t need more feeding for the rest of the growing season.

The seeds are tiny and are difficult to plant individually.  Start the seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost.  Use potting mix in peat pots or trays, and spread the seeds on the surface.

Don’t cover the seeds because they need light to germinate in 10 – 15 days.  Keep the soil moist by misting it with a spray bottle, and maintain moist soil until the plants mature.  After maturity, cut back on watering so the soil gets drier.

Once the last spring frost passes, move the containers outside.  This gives the savory plants a week to harden.  Then transplant the plants to the garden, and space them so they’re 12 – 18 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart.

The winter savory plants will grow larger than the summer variety.  If you’re growing in pots, you could save a step and sow the seeds in their final pot right at the start.

Both savories can reseed if the flowers aren’t removed.  If you allow the plants to reseed, thin them out after germinating in the spring.

Both types can propagate by cuttings, and winter savory can propagate by root division.  Perform root division on winter savory in the spring after it spreads out.

Both will get bushier when you harvest the leaves during the growing season.  You can also remove the flowers as they bloom to keep the leaves at the peak of flavor.  Once the plants have gone to seed, the leaves will be tougher and less flavorful.

Outsidepride 1/4 lb. Annual Summer Savory Culinary Herb Garden Plant Seeds for Planting
Outsidepride 1/4 lb. Annual Summer Savory Culinary Herb Garden Plant Seeds for Planting
Price not available
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Winter Savory Seeds (20+ Seeds) | Non GMO | Vegetable Fruit Herb Flower Seeds for Planting | Home Garden Greenhouse Pack
Winter Savory Seeds (20+ Seeds) | Non GMO | Vegetable Fruit Herb Flower Seeds for Planting | Home Garden Greenhouse Pack
Buy on Amazon
Garden Safe Take Root Rooting Hormone, Promotes Rooting, Grow New Plants From Cuttings, 2 Ounce
Garden Safe Take Root Rooting Hormone, Promotes Rooting, Grow New Plants From Cuttings, 2 Ounce
Buy on Amazon

Propagating Winter or Summer Savory by Cuttings

Cuttings should be 4 -8 inches long.  Remove the lower third of the leaves and dip the cut end in the rooting hormone.  Plant the treated cutting in sterile sand mixed with 1/3 vermiculite or potting soil.

Don’t push the cutting into the soil; make a small hole to place the cutting and then fill the hole with soil.  The rooting hormone could scrape off if you push the cutting into the soil.  Keep the soil moist but not soggy during the rooting process.

Roots form faster if you use rooting hormone, but it isn’t necessary.  They’ll also form if you place the cut end in water.  Replace the water every few days to keep it clean.  Once the roots develop in 3 – 4 weeks, transplant the cuttings to a pot or the garden after the last spring frost.

Propagating Winter Savory by Root Division

Carry out root division in the spring when the new shoots are coming up.  First, dig up an established plant with a spade so it exposes the roots and crown.  Next, use a knife to cut the root crown into two or more sections.

Please don’t use a hoe or shovel to cut the sections because they could damage the plants.  Prune away any dead roots or other debris.

Transplant new shoots into pots or a growing bed if they need more growth.  Beds should have the soil prepared down to 6 – 8 inches.

The plants will be ready to transplant in a couple of weeks.  Of course, if you’re growing in pots, the divided winter savory could be grown in its final pot to save a step.

Propagating Winter Savory by Layering

This is a straightforward way to propagate winter savory from a mature plant.  First, bend a stem so it touches the ground.  Next, anchor the stem to the ground with a forked stick or stiff bent wire.

The anchor point should be about 4 inches from the top of the stem.  Roots will form in about four weeks.  Then you can cut the branch to the original plant and remove the anchor.  Transplant the new plant where you need it.

Harvesting Savory

Summer savory leaves can begin harvesting when the plants are about 6 inches tall.  Since summer savory is an annual, harvest the entire plants at the end of the season.

Winter savory is a perennial, so it isn’t common to harvest the entire plant.  You can harvest either variety by cutting sprigs during the growing season.  Leave a few inches of the branch when cutting sprigs.  The plant will continue growing from the cut section.

You can harvest winter savory outside year-round in Zones 4 – 8.  Trim the top shoots, and winter savory will keep going.  Cut winter savory back to a few inches in springtime to encourage new growth.  Every 4 – 5 years, replant winter savory so it stays healthy.

Winter savory in the garden will go dormant if winter temperatures get very cold but will sprout again in the spring.  Cut off dead plants about an inch above the ground.  Then cover the ground with a mulch of straw or chopped leaves to protect the roots.  Remove the mulch in springtime.

Summer savory can be grown indoors during the winter.  If you have winter savory in pots, you can keep them inside during the winter. Plants growing indoors during the winter will use less water.

Storing Fresh Savory

Wrap either of the fresh savories in damp paper towels and place them in a Ziploc bag. They can stay in the refrigerator for 10 – 14 days.  You can also put sprigs in a glass of water and keep them in the fridge.

To freeze either variety, put the branches on cookie sheets and freeze them.  Next, remove the leaves and place them in freezer bags or containers.  Frozen, it will maintain its best flavor for 4 – 6 months.  It’ll be safe to eat indefinitely if frozen at 0o F or lower.

Drying Savory

Dried savory will keep for up to a year.  It’s still good after that time, but the flavor of dried herbs degrades after a year.  Store all dried herbs in a cool, dry place in air-tight containers.  To powder it, use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.

Air Drying

You can take the entire plants (of summer savory) or cut sprigs and hang them upside-down in a dark, cool, well-ventilated area.  After the leaves are dry and crispy in a few weeks, strip them off the stems with your fingers.

Drying in a Dehydrator

Remove the fresh leaves and put them on the dehydrator racks in a single layer.  Once the leaves are dry, store them in air-tight containers for up to a year.

Drying in a Microwave

Lay paper towels in the microwave and arrange the leaves on the towels in a single layer.  Microwave the leaves for one minute and continue microwaving in 10-second intervals until the leaves are dry and crunchy.

Drying in an Oven

Always do oven drying with care.  The oven has to be set at its lowest temperature, but this can vary from 140 – 200o F depending on the oven.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the leaves in a single layer.  Keep the oven door open while drying the leaves.  This allows you to watch the leaves to ensure they don’t scorch.

Savory Companion Plants

  • Honeybees are attracted to savory.
  • Savory repels cabbage moths. That makes it a good companion for cole crops.
  • Repels bean beetles and improves the flavor of beans and onions.
  • Tomatoes and melons are two other plants that like to be around it.
  • Cucumbers and savory don’t get along with each other.

Check our Companion Planting Chart for more ideas.

Pests and Diseases of Savory

Savory has no significant pests or diseases but might get aphids or spider mites.  You can remove them with a strong blast of water, but if you want to get serious, use neem oil or organic insecticidal soap.

Overwatering can cause root rot.  Excess water can cause this problem with almost every plant.

Final Thoughts

When you think of all the herbs in this world, it’s remarkable that we have been given so many different flavors, aromas, colors, and subtle undertones.  Enjoy the life you’ve been blessed with!

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Bob Styer

As a child, I hated gardening. That was mainly because Dad expected us to work in the garden every so often even though we thought play was more important. Over the years, though, I've developed a real appreciation for growing things. Whether you're growing plants for food or to enjoy their beauty, gardening can make your life better. Seize the moment!

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