By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
Gray Creeping Germander, Teucrium aroanium, blooms with fragrant pink to purple flowers in summer. The plant is an excellent small scale evergreen groundcover for sunny sites in well-drained soil.
Water regularly during the first planting season but once established this groundcover requires little water. It stays low to the ground, about 2-3” tall and 18 to 24” wide. It grows in a low mound and has thin silver leaves. Mulch prior to fall frost to protect it from cold temperatures.
In mid-spring, shear back 1/3 to stimulate established plants. Flowers should be deadheaded when blooming is finished. Fertilize lightly in the fall.
Gray Creeping Germander is a native to the Mediterranean region including Greece and northern Africa. The genus name Teucrium comes from the Greek possibly honoring Teucer the first king of Troy. There are many species of germander, but they are not widely appreciated for their tough nature and the carefree, versatile, adaptable roles they play in a garden. Whatever species you grow, the fragrant blooms make it a bee favorite and the color and shape complement the other plants they are grown with.
Gray Creeping Germander is the prostrate, low form but there are taller forms such as Wall or Tree Germander. Wall Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys, was a major component of the formal knot gardens first established in the Elizabethan England. Knot gardens are those beautiful, herb gardens of interwoven geometric design.
If you are looking for a native alternative, there are two that come quickly to mind: Mexican Blue Sage, Salvia chamaedryoides, and Wooly Stemodia, Stemodia lanata.
Mexican Blue Sage is technically a Mexican native found in the Chihuahuan Desert. Its other common name, Germander Sage, tells you that it is a germander look alike with all its wonderful features! Mexican Blue Sage grows to about 18 inches high and 3 to 4 feet wide given time to spread. The small grey green leaves contrast with the blue flowers which are present from spring to fall. It is extremely drought tolerant when established, does like a little shade and will bloom more with an occasional irrigation. Although technically a Zone 8 plant, mine came through Winter Storm Uri with little dieback.
A native of south Texas and Mexico, Wooly Stemodia, looks more like a paler, less intense version of Gray Creeping Germander. The plant appears silvery gray with velvety almost white leaves. As a ground cover, one plant can cover a 2 X 4 foot area or grow it where it can trail over an embankment or wall. It prefers sunny, dry well-drained soil. It is evergreen in mild winters or mulch it and then cut it back in the spring to encourage new growth.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.