Winter Savory is a perennial herb often used as a border plant for landscaping or in herb gardens. It goes dormant in cold winters, dropping its leaves when the weather cools, but sprouts again in spring. Expect the bushy plants to reach 1.5 feet in height with small, oval leaves. These are used cooked or dried as an herb and are usually added to beans and stews but can also be made into a tea. The flavor is strong, peppery, and spicy, and the aroma of the leaves is helpful for keeping pest insects away from your garden. That said, its white or purple flowers are main attractors for beneficial pollinators. How does the plant know the difference? We don’t know, but we dig it!
Seed Depth: Press into soil, as seeds need light to germinate.
Space Between Plants: 12″
Space Between Rows: 12–24″
Germination Soil Temperature: 65–85°F
Days for Germination: 7–20
Sow Indoors: 4–6 weeks before average last frost date.
Sow Outdoors: After all danger of frost has passed.
Vegetative: Can be propagated by taking stem cuttings or by dividing the roots of mature plants in the spring. Plants should be divided every 2 years to keep growth fresh and consistent.
Grows in a wide range of climates, including temperate climates down to USDA Zone 5 or colder if roots are well mulched or protected for the winter. Originally native to southern Europe, it doesn’t need high levels of moisture or rich soil and is adaptable to many climate types.
Natural: Full sun.
Artificial: Grows well under fluorescent lamps placed 6″ above the tops of plants. Needs at least 6 hours of light per day; however, more is recommended.
Soil: Prefers well-drained loamy or sandy soils. A pH of 6.9 to 7.5 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Seeds will germinate in most soilless mixes including perlite, vermiculite, and/or well-rotted manure.
Hydroponics: Will thrive in hydroponic systems such NFT. Winter Savory doesn’t like wet feet, so monitor roots carefully if using this system.
Aeroponics: Will grow in an aeroponic system. Rooting cuttings in aeroponics is also a successful technique for propagating new plants.
Water: Requires moderate amounts of water until the plant is established. Once it’s mature, it’s fairly drought tolerant.
Nutrients: A light feeder, savory does not require much nourishment. If desired, feed plants with an organic compost 1–2 times per growing season to improve soil quality and growth. If grown in very rich soils, it will be less winter hardy because growth will be more tender.
Pruning: Dead branches or older woody growth should be removed 1–2 times per year to allow airflow and promote new growth.
Winter Savory is rarely bothered by pests or diseases and prefers nutritionally poor soils.
Companions: Grows exceptionally well with most varieties of beans. May inhibit the germination of other seeds sown nearby.
Harvest: Once plants have reached approximately 6″, harvest by clipping or pinching off branches as needed. Older leaves will be tougher, so generally look for newer growth. Don’t take more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.
Storage: Can be kept fresh in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks. Dried leaves can be stored in an airtight container for up to a year.
Fun Fact: Winter Savory has been cultivated in the UK since 1562.
Preserve: Leaves can be dried and stored for long periods of time. To dry, hang the herb upside down in a well-ventilated area. Once the leaves have become crisp to the touch, strip them from the stems and store in a jar, container, or bag for later use.
Prepare: Leaves are mostly added to stews, soups, sauces, and stuffing, and is complementary in bean dishes. It can also be made into a tea.
Nutritional: Provides vitamin(s) C, A, B vitamins, and minerals including calcium, iron, manganese, and magnesium.
Medicinal: Considered to have similar effects as Summer Savory, but possibly stronger. Traditionally used in treating colic, sore throat, menstrual issues, and digestive problems, including flatulence and nausea. Topically, it has the ability to reduce the inflammation and sting of bug bites as well as treat arthritis and possibly slow balding. Antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties have been demonstrated, particularly in essential oil extracts from the plant.
Use Winter Savory in this white bean dish to add some extra spice.