Winter savory is a perennial , which will regenerate new growth season after season, as opposed to summer savory which is grown as an annual, intended for one season only.
Both varieties can be planted in early spring, immediately following the last frost date. They can also be started indoors as early as 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date. Harvest in both varieties takes slightly more than two months.
Winter savory has a sharp piney-pepper flavor. Summer savory has a sweet-spicy flavor.
Summer savory is a rapidly maturing fast growing annual. It grows upright to about 1 1/2 feet tall and is a loose bushy plant. It has four-sided, gray-green stems that support needle-shaped leaves which average about an inch long . The flowers of Summer savory are light purple to pink.
Winter savory is a bushy perennial related to evergreens that reaches about 15 inches in height. It too has needle-shaped, dark green leaves averaging about an inch long on four-sided stems. Winter Savory stems become woody as they age. It produces small white or purple flowers.
Planting and Care
Plant both varieties of savory in full sun, partial shade is tolerable but not optimal. Summer savory does best in a organically rich, well-drained soil. Winter savory does best in a well-drained, sandy soil.
Soil pH of 6.7 to 7.5 is best for both varieties.
Winter savory germinates slowly at times. Savory can be started from cuttings and divisions also. Cuttings should be taken from new growth and rooted in moist sand.
Older plants can be divided as well, spring or fall is the best time to do this. Both varieties of savory, under proper conditions and care are ready for harvest about 70 days after planting.
Sow savory seeds 1/2 inch deep, and spaced closely, as you’ll thin them out later if you have a high germination rate. Cover lightly with loose soil, it will also germinate with no soil cover at all, but a light soil cover is always advisable to prevent wind and water drift.
Thin seedlings a foot to a foot and a half apart about a month after germination. Rows should also be spaced a foot and a half apart. Winter savory generally needs slightly more room than summer savory does.
Regular watering until established is essential. Once savory is established it can be maintained on a drier regimen. As far as fertilizer goes, don’t waste your time and resources, a simple side dressing of well aged compost or worm castings is all it needs, assuming you are within the proper pH range.
Summer savory grows very rapidly, so much so that it frequently becomes top heavy and may topple over without staking.
Winter savory, a perennial, grows at a slower rate and should be cut back to only a few inches tall every spring and should also be replanted after 5 years maximum. Winter savory survive winters as low as 10 degrees F.
Both Summer and Winter savory can be grown in containers. Grow winter savory as an annual. Choose a container at least 6 inches deep and wide. Winter savory should be kept over winter in an unheated location such as a patio or even garage
Summer Savory can be planted with beans, onions and Garlic to improve growth and flavor. It also discourages cabbage moths and bean beetles. It’s flowers however, are known to attract pollinators and beneficial insects.[See: Companion Planting]
Diseases and pest problems generally aren’t a big issue. Adequate drainage will usually curtail problems such as root rot, and mildew , diseases encouraged by excess moisture.
Under humid, and poorly ventilated conditions, downy and powdery mildews sometimes rear their ugly heads.
Harvest and Storage
Harvest fresh savory leaves and stems as needed. For dried leaves, cut 6- to 8-inch stems just before flowering for optimal quality. After the bloom stage , the quality degrades. Savory can be dried or frozen. You can freeze leaves by snipping off the whole branch, place it in a plastic freezer bag, and store it in the freezer. They can be dried by placing upside down in a well ventilated area, or using a food dehydrator at a low power setting.