Teucrium chamaedrys (Wall Germander) vs Salvia x superba 'East Friesland'

Salvia 'East Friesland' with Lobularia maritimia:
Salvia 'East Friesland'

Teucrium chamaedrys:

These both fill the same garden niche.  A short (12"), not too wide (12"-24") puddle of  fluffy stems and deep green leaves.  The niche they fill is around roses and day lilys, and at bed edges, providing a color (purple to lavender-blue to rose) that roses and day lilys don't often provide, and fitting in here and there in left over spots too small for many other plants.  Spots like that can be filled with annuals, but annuals have their own drawbacks.  Both the Saliva and the Germander may root a new plant or two from their sprawling stems, but the roots don't interfere with others and the plants are essentially static.  No spreading all over, no thuggish behavior from either.  Both look a little ratty in the winter, but cutting back at the right time minimizes that.   Both can be dug up and split to obtain new plants, if given a couple of years to establish first.

The difference is placement and water.  Teucrium chamaedrys is from southern Europe, the Greek Islands, and the Middle East, so water need is modest.  Salvia hybrids, such as 'May Night', 'East Friesland', 'Blue Hill' and so on, are mixes of different species and need a little more water and a little less heat.  My T. chamedrys is happy next to hot concrete in full sun with stingy water;  'East Friesland' is not.   The Salvia blooms longer than the Germander, on and off for several months from May to September.  The Germander blooms in June and July, and is done for the year.  As a trade off, the Germander has the prettier foliage.  It's a deeper green, slightly glossy, and looks better longer than the Salvia.   The plant is denser and doesn't split open, exposing dead foliage.  'East Friesland' will usually do that by the end of the summer, after 2 or 3 rounds of bloom, though to get good repeat flowering, deadhead.

One more difference:  the fragrance, or should I say odor?  While not as pungent an odor as Salvia 'May Night', (of which "cat pee" is the usual descriptor),  Salvia 'East Friesland' isn't as alluring a scent as the Germander, which has a classic Mediterranean herbal scent. 

So, Germander wins on scent, foliage beauty, less maintenance and drought/heat tolerance, while Saliva 'East Friesland' wins for a longer bloom period, when you must have color.   Being kind of a plant nut, of course I have both.


Now that I've gardened a while, I realize that plants fill certain slots in the garden, and if one doesn't work, there's probably another that does.  Same with roses...there are something like 12,000 different commercially available rose cultivars.  If you can't find one, there are alternatives.    If 'Disneyland' is too rusty in your garden, there's 'Tuscan Sun'.  If 'Tuscan  Sun' is too muddy a color, there's 'Easy Does It', or 'Livin Easy'  If 'Livin Easy' is too tall and big, there's 'Samaritan'....   It's fine to be picky, but no use being too picky.  It makes for unhappiness.  

I will call Teucrium chamaedrys an Unsung Garden Hero, because of its ease of care, and for the deep green color it produces despite little water.  This is a great virtue--so many low-water plants are dusky to olive green, or silver, or grey.  Deep rich greens are fewer.


  1. Great plant portraits. I never grow the superba salvias, but what a long bloom you get from them so may have to rethink that. I'm trying the S. vert. Purple Rain this year, and it's bloomed, been cut back a bit and getting more basal growth. Leaves riddled with holes by worms. Gotta have our purple spikes tho, huh? Love that germander. Wish I had room for a long hedge of them. And that's great news about your ceanothus!

  2. Or are the holes from earwigs?

    Yes we must have our purple spikes!

  3. I have Teucrium chamaedrys and it seems to look great all the time. A little trim in late fall and that's it. East Friesland didn't work out very well when I tried it a few years ago.

    What grows like wildfire in my gardens is Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips'. What a champ! It is green all year long. I cut it back by a third about three times a year and it is blooming again in three weeks. It also seems to be one of the top favorites of the hummers. I have several other salvias that do fine but just don't look wonderful all year long.

  4. I have seen S. microphylla 'Hot Lips'. Based on your comment I think I will have to give it a try--it sounds like a great performer. Thanks for the tip about it!

  5. I just brought home a germander and was looking up info about it. Great post, thanks! I think I'll bring home a few more next time I'm out. Sounds like a great, low care but pretty plant.

    1. And the ones in the post look just as good today as they did two and a half years ago! Great plant--for years and years and years!


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