Known for its aromatic, peppery flavor, summer savory (Satureja hortensis) makes a lovely addition to a container garden. Summer savory grows to a height of 18 inches and its narrow leaves grow to a length of 1 inch. Its small pink, white, or pale lavender flowers grow in groups of 3 to 6. Cooks add it to a variety of poultry, bean, and vegetable dishes, and herbalists recommend it as a tea for stomach upset. This annual member of the mint family grows wild in its native southern Europe, as well as in gardens in Europe and North America.
Adequate growing space without crowding is vital for summer savory. Because it is susceptible to leaf spot and other fungus, your plant will need plenty of air circulation. A mature plant will therefore need a 12 inch pot with a drainage hole; allow a 10 inch space between multiple plants. The container can be made of any material; however, an unglazed clay pot may cause the plant to need more frequent watering. Summer savory, with its small flower clusters, makes an attractive container plant. You may want to use a larger size pot to group your savory with summer annuals for a lovely arrangement.
Provide your summer savory with a rich, light, moderately moist soil. The ideal soil will have a pH level of 6.8 to 7.0, with average fertility. A standard potting soil, fertilized every 2 or 3 weeks, will suffice. To provide adequate drainage, you may need to add coarse sand to the soil.
Planting and Care
If you plan to grow your summer savory in an outdoor container, start seeds indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date for your area. Thin the seedlings and transplant into larger containers; water slowly and thoroughly until water leaks from the drainage hole. After the last threat of frost, the plant can be moved outdoors. Before permanently moving it outdoors, harden off, or acclimatize the plant by placing it outdoors for a few hours each day.
Place your summer savory in an area that receives full sun. Keep the soil moderately moist, but do not overwater. A good rule is to water only when the top half-inch layer of soil feels dry.
If your plant will remain indoors, you can plant seeds anytime and keep the plant in a cool, well-lit area.
Harvest and Use
After the stems have reached a length of 6 to 8 inches, you may harvest the stem tips. If you plan to dry summer savory, harvest the stems before the plant flowers. Gather the stems in bunches and place on a screen or hang upside down in a cool, dark place. The leaves can also be preserved by freezing them in butter or ice cubes.
Use the fresh or dried leaves to season a variety of foods. Its peppery flavor complements beans, vegetables, eggs, poultry, and fish. To prepare a tea for digestive upset, place a teaspoon of dried leaves in a cup of just-boiled water. Cover and steep for 10 to 20 minutes. The dried leaves also make a pleasant-smelling sachet or potpourri ingredient.
Even if you live far from southern Europe, you can have a ready supply of summer savory in your own home. Apartment dwellers and suburban gardeners alike can grow and enjoy this tasty herb all year. Pick up some seeds or plants at your local garden center and enjoy this lovely addition to your container garden.