Relief for the Winter Blues: Shrubby Germander

by Russell Harrison

Teucrium fruticans ‘Azurea’Shrubby Germander

plant2a0114At this time of year, mid to late winter, most of us are pining for “flower” color in our gardens as we begin to plan and anticipate spring.   We have relied on our “winter interest” plants with their texture, leaf color, berries etc. for the last few months, but are now needing that flower fix.  Luckily, there is a plant out there that can remedy the situation.  To our rescue and what seems to be right on cue, comes Teucrium fruticans ‘Azurea’ or Shrubby Germander.  While most plants are still tucked away in their winter dormancy waiting for air and soil temperatures to warm, Shrubby Germander would be the exception.

Beginning in mid to late December, this Mediterranean native begins to bloom and will continue to bloom through spring.  T. fruticans ‘Azurea’ is a cultivar of the species T. fruticans, a member of the Mint Family.  Shrubby Germander is a little smaller in size than the species, reaching only 4 to 5 feet tall and wide and is also said to have a deeper blue flower color by comparison.  Shrubby Germander grows as a dense, intricately branched shrub.  The lance-shaped leaves are silver to grey-blue in color, which allows the plant to stand out or “pop” at dusk.  The leaves are also very aromatic.  The main attraction of Shrubby Germander is the prolific bloom that the oddly-shaped flowers provide.  The flowers are blue or lavender in color and as mentioned earlier begin to flower in December and will continue blooming through spring.  The flowers appear on the branch tips as if the shrub is pushing the flowers out saying “look at me”!  Pollinators love this plant, which is a plus for the other plants in your garden.  If you are looking to keep the Hummingbirds in your neighborhood over the winter this is the plant that will do it.

plant2b0114Shrubby Germander prefers a sunny location, requires occasional water and can withstand cold temperatures down to about 10 degrees – a perfect fit for our desert climate.  Be careful not to plant in too mush shade as it will get leggy and loose its natural dense form. Shrubby Germander does respond well to pruning and/or shearing and is often used as a formal hedge or in knot gardens.  Do be careful on the timing of your pruning if you choose to use the plant in this fashion as you do not want to compromise the season’s spectacular bloom.  Generally late spring or early summer would be the opportune time to prune.

Teucrium fruticans ‘Azurea’ can be used many ways in the landscape.  Plant it with darker green-leafed plants such as Rosemary, Fairy Duster or Sugar Bush.  Or accent the shrub with purple or white flowering groundcovers such as Verbena or Trailing Lantana.

However you choose to use this shrub in your garden make sure you plant it where it can get the attention it deserves.  You won’t be disappointed!