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What is Germander?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2016
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Germander or wood sage is a perennial shrub in the mint family which is used in some gardens to make low borders and hedges. Some people also distill the leaves into germander tonic or tea, although the plant is not widely consumed. The plant is very easy to grow, and it thrives all the way through USDA zone four, making it a very versatile addition to the garden.

The plant is native to Europe, and has been grown in Greek gardens for centuries. Many species are also found widely distributed in the Middle East, and some are very drought tolerant as a result of their normally harsh environment. A number of plants are called “germander,” but all of them are in the genus Teucrium, and some are more aesthetically pleasing than others. Woodland germander and wall germander are two common examples of ornamental germander cultivated in gardens.

Like other members of the mint family, germander has squared stems and it is very aromatic. It tends to grow in a shrubby form, and it has dark green toothed opposite leaves. In mid to late summer, the plant puts out stalks which produce white to purple lipped flowers. Unless the climate is very cold, the plant will continue to bloom until late fall if it is trimmed regularly, and the leaves will stay lush and green year round.

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The growth habit of germander tends to splay and get out of control unless the plant is controlled with pruning. Fortunately, germander takes very well to shaping, and many people use it to form borders and hedges for this very reason. It can even be used in old fashioned knot gardens, since it establishes itself very quickly and it looks quite pleasing whether or not it is in bloom. Other plants in the garden can be color coordinated with the flowers, if desired, or the flowers can be sheared away before they bloom if more greenery is desired.

Many gardeners like to use germander as a border in herb gardens, because it smells sweet and it shapes well. It can also be used as an edible or medicinal herb, although it can become toxic in large doses. Germander has a long history in the treatment of gout and weight gain, for example. Generally only the leaves are used, with the stems and flowers being left intact. As is the case with any medicinal herb, it is a good idea to consult with a doctor before taking germander.

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Perdido
Post 4

@wavy58 - If I were you, I wouldn’t plant it. There is a chance it would be harmless, but since it has been harmful to people in the past, there is a greater chance it could hurt your animals.

My aunt is big into herbal remedies, and she recently told me something about germander. She said that in France, it is no longer sold, because it caused so many cases of hepatitis. It was being used as a weight loss supplement, but it did more harm than good.

If you are really set on planting germander, then call your local veterinarian. I’m sure he or she would know whether or not it is safe to grow around pets.

wavy58
Post 3

Does anyone here know if germander is dangerous to pets? I have a cat and a dog, and I would like to grow some germander, but I don’t want to jeopardize their health.

The article mentions that it could be toxic if you ingested enough of it. I just wonder if this applies to pets as well, because my dog often chews on grass, and I can just picture him munching away on my germander.

I would feel absolutely terrible if anything happened to him because of something I planted. Then again, some things that harm humans don’t harm pets at all. Any information would be appreciated.

OeKc05
Post 2

If you don’t like bees in your yard, then don’t grow germander. They attract it just about as strongly as apple blossoms do!

I moved into a home that already had germander growing along the front of the house and along the driveway. Once the flowers bloomed, I could hear a steady buzzing sound all day long in the yard. I was afraid to walk to my mailbox!

I finally started cutting off the blooms. It made the plants look kind of dull, but it kept the bees away, and I felt safe in my yard again.

orangey03
Post 1

I have some creeping germander growing underneath my hibiscus bushes. It’s a really short plant, so it does well under there, and it keeps the ground covered. I don’t have to weed the area, because the germander chokes out the weeds and grass for me.

It looks just like my neighbor’s germander hedges, except that it is low to the ground. I can cut it as low as I need it, so if a low branch on the hibiscus bush needs more room, it won’t hurt the creeping germander to trim it back.

I’m the type of gardener who likes to have every inch of soil in the garden covered, so creeping germander is perfect for me. The less dirt that is exposed, the less unwanted plants I will have to deal with.

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