Also known as genus Teucrium, germander is a lovely, drought-resistant plant which essentially belongs to the mint family. Native to the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, germanders are considered herbs and sub-shrubs that can persist for several years in all types of seasons.
To distinguish germanders from other types of plants, it is crucial to point out their unique physical features. Germanders boast fragrant pale green to grayish green foliage which happens to be quite sturdy in nature. These evergreens tend to produce tiny blossoms such as rosemary or flowers with spikes. Depending on the species, these flowers can be of different colors such as pink, blue, white, or purple.
One of the great properties of germander is that it is tolerant of pruning. Owing to this reason, the plant is often a common choice for formal gardens, also known as knot gardens, as it can be pruned into curvy shapes. It is also easy to shape germander into borders or low hedges, making it an excellent landscape design option for your garden or backyard. For an elevated look, grow more perennials around the evergreen plant or team it up with pollinators. This will add more color to the garden and attract beautiful flying creatures such as bees and butterflies.
Genus teucrium comes in 260 species which are distributed worldwide and some of its most common species are discussed in detail below:
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1. Wall Germander
Also called Teucrium chamaedrys, wall germander is a broadleaf evergreen which holds an interesting history behind the origination of its name. It is believed that the genus “Teucrium” is derived from the ancient Trojan king – Teucer – as he used this herb for treating various ailments. As for the term “chamaedrys”, the species means “dwarf oak” or “ground oak”. This is because of the similarity the leaves of the plant share with that of a sturdy oak tree. When it comes to the “wall” of germander, it is believed that it refers to the perennial herb’s role in the making of hedges which kind of resemble “walls”.
Wall germander is distinguished for its luminous, intense green leaves which have sharp ends and a nice fragrance. Native to the Mediterranean region, this shiny green plant also bears pink or purple flowers in loose spikes. Wall germander tends to grow up to the height of 1 foot and a width greater than 1 foot. However, if you want it to spread wider, you can consider it through the use of rhizomes.
Ideally, the evergreen shrub is cultivated in North America in USDA planting zones 5 to 9. This means that it is an easy-to-grow plant in all weather conditions including dry and cold. But the properties of wall germander don’t end here. This useful herb is also drought-resistant and deer-resistant in nature. The low-maintenance plant is also not too finicky about its soil, although it is more suitable to alkaline soil pH.
2. Felty Germander
Scientifically known as “Teucrium polium”, felty germander is an herb and sub-shrub, native to the western Mediterranean areas (Spain, France, Algeria, Albania, Tunisia, and Morocco). It boasts pink and white flowers with gorgeous green leaves which are used for cooking and medicinal purposes.
This wild-growing plant has been used treating various conditions including pathological illnesses – diabetes, rheumatism, inflammation, and gastrointestinal disorders for centuries. In Traditional Iranian Medicine (TIM), the tea of felty germander is used for curing many diseases such as indigestion, abdominal pain, common cold, and diabetes type 2.
Various studies show that this herbal plant offers a wide variety of pharmacological effects such as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, antifungal, and antibacterial. Teucrium polium is a rich source of phenolic compounds and excellent natural antioxidant agents. Upon the analysis of chemicals involved in the plant, researchers have come to the conclusion that Teucrium polium can offer a wide range of therapeutic benefits. However, further investigation needs to be conducted in order to verify its proposed pharmacological properties.
3. Tree Germander
Also known as shrubby germander, tree germander belongs to the family Lamiaceae – native to the western and central Mediterranean. This deciduous shrub produces aromatic, small green leaves on a white to grey hairy stems. While these leaves tend to have greenish blue foliage, they are white underneath. In the springtime, they swank beautiful mauve-blue flowers. By the time summer arises, these small blooms expand up to 2.5 cm in length.
For the healthy growth of Teucrium frutican (scientific name of the plant), full sun is preferred. The plant also needs to be watered on a regular basis; however, good drainage is extremely important as the plant as opposed to wet soil. When exposed to damp situations, the plant can develop fungi and bacteria which may eventually destroy the tree. Besides full sun and regular watering, one must also consider the soil quality for the plant’s optimum growth. Tree germander has the ability to tolerate a vast range of soils, even severely compacted soil.
This dark-green leafed plant is drought tolerant which means that it can easily thrive in dry, poor soil for a long period of time. Hence, areas that receive little annual rainfall can consider cultivating tree germander. In addition to being drought-resistant, tree germander also tolerates snowfall. This makes it well-suited to areas that receive light rain and snowfall.
4. Woodland Germander
Commonly known as wood sage, woodland germander is a perennial herb, belonging to the genus Teucrium of the Lamiaceae family. This plant species is native to Western Europe and Tunisia and is cultivated in several places as an ultimate ornamental plant in gardens.
Woodland germander ideally reaches to 30 to 60 cm of height. The shrub is hairy with erect and branched stems that produce toothed and triangular to oblong shaped leaves. To understand the leaf pattern of this plant, it is important to know that the leaf structure resembles that of a sage – rough and crinkly. In spring and summer, the shrub bears a wide variety of floral including violet, green, and yellow flowers. To be specific, these flowers grow in the axils of the upper leaves of the plant. Primarily pollinated by Hymenoptera species, wood sage boasts a flowering period from June all the way to August.
Regardless of the name, Teucrium scorodonia isn’t shade-tolerant. In fact, the plant is best grown in full sun or partial sun. As it grows, it spreads to form a wide plant. For an excellent result, it is highly suggested to allow the growth of Teucrium scorodonia in full or partial sun and well-drained and slightly acidic soil. The best part is that this hardy plant consists of pollen-rich flowers which attract bees and pollinators. They can easily be grown in your garden or backyard as the plant offers no toxic effect whatsoever.
5. Cat Thyme
Scientifically known as Teucrium Marum, cat thyme, despite its name, is not a type of thyme. The reason why it is called thyme is because of its leaves which tend to be thyme-like in appearance. However, these grayish-green leaves have a musty smell to them which is unlike the delicate fragrance of thyme (herb). While the fragrance of these hardy leaves is pungent, the taste is not pleasurable either. These oval leaves tend to be bitter in flavor and accompany a strange sensation of heat with them.
What is more remarkable about cat thyme leaves is that they produce scented pink flowers in summers which stay in shape all the way to September. These pretty flowers feature one-sided spikes and corollas in the crimson shade.
Native to Spain and the Western Mediterranean region, cat thyme can easily live through winters, in the open, dry soil. That’s because this perennial plant is frost- and drought-resistant. That being said, it is easier for the plant to get damaged during winters if not protected by mats or any other form of cover.
Generally, Teucrium marum grows up to 1 foot in height and width but in a mild climate, this evergreen shrub can shoot up to 3 or 4 feet in height. The plant remains in leaf all year long as long as it is properly maintained. This self-fertile plant requires sandy, loamy, or clay soil which needs to be neutral and alkaline in nature. This plant type easily grows in shade and is able to tolerate strong winds.
6. Mountain Germander
Out of all the types of germander, mountain germander, also known as Teucrium Montanum, is regarded best as the most beneficial herb for healing purposes. Native to China, this plant is known to assist in both physical and mental recovery after long, severe illnesses such as head injury.
An ancient saying that goes for this herb is that “it can raise the dead” which is because it is known to cure all types of diseases. Some of the most notable benefits that Teucrium montanum promises to provide are strengthening of the immune system, curing the respiratory and digestive system, and treating tuberculosis for good. But that’s not it. Teucrium Montanum is considered an antiseptic which helps destroy the pathogenic micro-organisms. It also helps remove life-threatening substances from the stomach and intestines.
Like cat thyme, mountain germander is quite bitter in taste. However, bitter substances are best known for treating harmful infections and ulcers. Because of its healing properties, the plant’s leaves are used in the making of a balm for rheumatism mitigation. Teucrium montanum tea cure cramps and stress and improves mood. Mountain germander also helps purify the blood and treat diseases related to the liver and bile.
This miraculous plant that is a cure for a plethora of illnesses is ideally cultivated on sunny mountain fields. It requires full sun for the ideal growth so if you live on a sunny side then choosing this plant could be a good choice. Please note that mountain germander is easy to pull out of its roots and gets destroyed as a result. Hence, during its harvest, it is ideal to pull this plant out with a sharp knife or a pair of good quality scissors.
7. Teucrium gnaphalodes
Derived from a Greek name “gnafallon”, Teucrium gnaphalodes is a common plant species in the genus Teucrium. It is endemic to Spain (Iberian Peninsula) and ideally grows at altitudes between 200 and 1500 m.
Due to its native region, the plant has a common name “Iberian Germander”. This evergreen shrub produces leaves all year round. However, it only flowers from March to July in red to violet to white flowers.
For healthy growth, the plant requires full sun and USDA hardiness zone 7. In the U.S., hardiness zone 7 means that the winter temperature can drop from 10 to 0 degrees F. This goes to shows that the plant can strive and thrive in extremely cold weather conditions. The evergreen is also drought-resistant which means that it can blossom in dry, hot seasons.
8. Teucrium Brevifolium
Last but not least, teucrium brevifolium is a distinct species native to North East Libya and North West Egypt. Out of all the types of germander, Teucrium brevifolium is the most unique species due to its distinctive physical characteristics.
The evergreen plant forms dense, bushy shrublets over Euphorbia acanthothamnos and Thymbra capitata. The taxonomy of the plant resembles that of teucrium alyssifolium as they both have thick cuticles and abundant of rich trichomes.
To successfully grow this type of germander, you will need to plant its seeds in a garden bed, ensuring that it is exposed to full sun, fast-draining soil, and the soil PH level from somewhere between 7.0 to 7.9. When planting other germanders, make sure to space them 10 to 12 inches apart so that each of them has a thick dense and bushy appearance.
Prune other vegetations to maintain the passing of air and prevent crowding of plants. Water the plant using a hose nozzle at the base of the plant up to 3 inches during its first summer season. Don’t forget to water it every seven to 10 days until the plant is well-established. Avoid watering in winters and feed the plant every spring. Fertilizing the plant and watering it afterward is just as important. In the case of rainfalls, avoid watering the plants as excessive moisture in the soil can cause roots to wilt. To keep the plant in shape, pruning the plant is crucial. Make sure to use sharp and clean shears to prevent infections.
Germander isn’t really a picky plant and can be easily grown in full sun to partial shade and in poor and rocky soil. It is also easy to grow these little plants because of their ability to survive in less-than-ideal weather conditions. If you are on the lookout for a less picky plant, germanders might just be the one for you.
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