The Oreganum genus includes a large number of perennial herbs and subshrubs native to western Asia and the Mediterranean, although O. vulgare has naturalized in many areas of North America. The most common species are familiar culinary herbs, including O. vulgare and its cultivars, O. majoranum, O. heracleoticum, and others. Oregano is a signature flavor of many Italian, Mexican, and Spanish dishes. It is a hardy perennial plant that is easy to grow in the home garden or in pots.
Oregano leaves are oval, dark green, and positioned in opposite pairs along the stems. Some varieties have fuzzy leaves, others not. Oregano starts as a ground-hugging rosette of leaves, but it can easily grow to about 2 feet tall. A handful of plants will provide you with enough oregano to use fresh in season and to dry for use throughout the rest of the year.
Oregano is usually planted from potted nursery starts or from rooted cuttings taken from existing plants. It is widely available in nurseries and through specialty catalogs. Local nurseries will usually carry the most popular kitchen herbs, while catalogs tend to offer the widest variety of oregano plants.
Oregano is one of those Mediterranean herbs that grow well in full sun, planted in lean-to-average soil that is well-drained. Climate, soil, and moisture can all cause variation in the oreganos flavor, and rich soil tends to dilute the pungency of the flavor. This is a good plant for those sunny areas of your yard with poor soil that isn't very suitable for other plants. If planting in the garden, standard oregano (O. vulgare) should be planted 12 to 18 inches apart. Wait until the soil is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit before planting.
Sandy loam is best suited for oregano. If your soil is moist with lots of organic matter, oregano will not perform as well as it does in lighter, dryer soil that is typically well-drained. Allow the soil to dry out fully between waterings. If planting in pots, use any well-draining, general-purpose potting soil, possibly blended with some extra sand, perlite, or vermiculite.
Many herbs are considered weeds and most are not particular about the soil in which they grow. Oregano is no exceptionit will grow in soil that is only moderately fertile. Do not add compost or fertilizer to its growing area. Large amounts of nutrients, such as nitrogen, can change the flavor of this herb.
Different species of oregano and their cultivars can be perennial ground covers, tender perennials, or even small perennial subshrubs. Even common oregano, Origanum vulgare, can take many forms. Most have stems that can get very woody. Here are some common oregano varieties to consider:
Oregano needs regular pinching back, beginning when the plant is only about 4 inches tall. Pinching back the growing tips will make the plants bush out and prevent leggy, straggly growth. It also keeps the plant from flowering, which is best if you want to keep the leaves as flavorful as possible for kitchen use.
As the plant grows larger, this pinch-back ritual should be a weekly affair; any growth you are not using for cooking or drying can be discarded. If the plant becomes overly woody, cutting the stems all the way back to the ground will encourage more stems to sprout from the base, resulting in a fuller plant.
You can begin harvesting when plants have reached 4 to 5 inches in height, cut sprigs for use. The stems tend to get woody and the easiest way to strip the leaves is to hold the stem by the top, uncut end and run your finger down the stem.
Though it is perennial, oregano is well-suited to growing in pots, either as indoor plants or on a deck or patio. Any container with good drainage will do; 10 to 14 inches in diameter and 6 to 8 inches deep is an ideal size. Any general-purpose potting mix will be fine as a growing medium. Some growers find that adding a good amount of perlite, vermiculite, or sand to a peat-based potting soil gives the best results.
These plants will not require a lot of water. In a good-sized pot, oregano plants should not need to ever be repotted. It's generally best to simply discard a potted plant that's become overgrown and woody, starting over with a new plant.
From seeds: Oregano seeds require some light to germinate, so cover only slightly with soil. Start seeds indoors and transplant when outdoor temperatures remain above 45 degrees Fahrenheit through the night and soil temps are about 70 degrees.
From cuttings: Oregano can be propagated from stem cuttings at any time from spring to fall, though spring and early summer tend to be best, since the stems are still green and pliable. Take 3- to 5-inch cuttings, making diagonal cuts just above a leaf node. Trim away the leaves from the bottom two-thirds of the cutting, but make sure to leave at least two leaves at the top. Place the cuttings in a glass of water in a bright but not sunny location. When a good network of roots appears, plant the cuttings in a small pot filled with potting mix to grow onward.
In cold-winter climates, cut back the stems of the oregano plant after the first frost kills the foliage. Leave a short umbrella of stems to protect the root ball, Cover the ground with 3 to 4 inches of dry mulch for the winter. Remove the mulch in spring as soon as the snow melts.
Although it is grown predominately as a culinary herb, oregano makes a nice edging plant and ground cover, requiring little maintenance. The smaller varieties also do well in rock and alpine gardens.
Bees love oregano flowers and will cover the plants as they take up nectar and pollen. Beekeepers purposefully plant oregano near apiaries because it adds a wonderful flavor to honey made by oregano-eating bees.
The name oregano is more accurately applied to a flavor than to a plant, and there are two varieties that you can grow for seasoning and call oregano, which is most commonly used as a spice in a dried form. Origanum vulgare is typically grown; its hardier and easier to propagate than the alternative, Origanum heracleoticumalso known as wild marjoram is another commonly available species.
Serving ideas: Oregano is an essential ingredient in many Italian dishes. It is the most common spice for pizza, and in general, goes well with any tomato-based dish. It also combines well with basil. Try it with cooked vegetables, potato salad, fowl, stuffing, soups, scrambled eggs, and omelets.
Oregano prefers light, well-drained, slightly alkaline soil with full sun. Just like most herbs, a rich and moist soil weakens the flavor and aroma. Also, oregano should not be fertilized if grown for its flavor or aroma. Fertilizing oregano will allow the plant to produce an abundance of flavorless foliage.
Start seedlings 6-8 weeks before the last frost date for your area. Plan on planting the seedlings outside on the average last day of frost, when they are about 3 high. They can be planted outdoors earlier with some protection from the cold.
Seeds tend to germinate slowly, and in addition, expect at least 25% of the seeds to be duds. They will germinate more consistently in controlled conditions, such as a windowsill or greenhouse. You shouldnt plan on storing your seeds for an extended period of time, as the germination rate will decline rapidly with additional storage time. Seeds can be directly planted in the ground in spring or started indoors in seed flats to be transferred outdoors when ready. Dont forget to harden off young seedlings for a week or so to get them accustomed to the outdoor temperature variation and sunlight intensity.
Oregano has a spreading root system and can also be propagated by cuttings. Cuttings are typically taken in late spring once the leaves are firm enough to prevent wilting when placed in sand. Place cuttings in a well-protected area, and ensure the roots do not dry out. Once the cuttings establish a root system, they can be transferred outdoors into a pot or directly into the ground.
Oregano is generally considered as a perennial herb, with creeping roots, branched woody stems, and slightly hairy grayish-green leaves, oval in shape. It grows to about 2-2.5 feet tall and 2 feet wide and produces small blooms of pink, white, or purple on tall stems from late July until September. Once each flower matures, it will produce four small seed-like structures.
Keep oregano plants on the dry side. Newly planted oregano may require some irrigation, but once established, it will require very little water. As with most other herbs, fertilizing will reduce the production of essential oils, which gives the distinctive flavor and aroma of oregano. It should not be fertilized at all if grown as a culinary herb. Old woody branches that become leggy (more stem than leaf) should be cut out at the end of winter, and plants should be replaced every five years to prevent legginess. The lifespan of oregano is about five or six years, and usually, one harvest is done in the first year and two in the following years.
Harvesting the leaves and stem tips should start when plants are at the flowering stage, starting about 4 to 10 inches from the ground. It is ready to harvest once the flowers begin to appear. The production of essential oil declines after flowering, so either harvest before flowering or cut the flowers off to extend the growing period. To harvest the entire plant, cut the stems a few inches above the ground. If harvesting for fresh use, let the plant grow until it is about 6 high, then pinch off the stems tips for cooking. This will also encourage fuller foliage production.
Ame lives off-the-grid on her beautiful farm in Falmouth, Kentucky. She has been gardening organically for over 30 years and has grown vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and ornamentals. She also participates in Farmers Markets, CSA, and mentors young farmers. Ame is the founder and director of Fox Run Environmental Education Center where she teaches environmental education programs in self-sufficiency, herbal medicine, green building, and wildlife conservation.
As legend has it, Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, planted oregano on Mt. Olympus. As a result, oregano became a symbol of love, which is why its often used in Greek and Italian weddings. I think thats fitting, given that growing oregano is a joy. It makes a pretty addition to the garden, and its indispensable in cooking.
Oregano is well known as a staple in Mediterranean sauces, especially those that are tomatobased. My paternal grandparents both immigrated as young children from Italy in the early 1900s, so I was raised on delicious Italian dishes that featured oregano.
Oregano has olive colored leaves and produces spikey purple flowers on taller varieties. Smaller plants often have flowers in whorls. The stems and leaves may be covered with a wooly looking fuzz. No matter what kind of flowers they have, all oregano plants attract bees and butterflies.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is part of the mint family. It is from the Mediterranean region of Europe which makes sense given its popularity in Italian and Greek dishes. It is closely related to wild marjoram (Origanum marjorana), and the two sometimes get confused.
There are many subspecies and different varieties of oregano. According to the Herb Society of America, there are 44 species, 6 subspecies, 3 varieties, and 18 naturally occurring hybrids. Look for those that are time-tested for culinary use if you plant to cook with your oregano.
Greek oregano (Origanum heracleoticum)is the standard culinary variety. It has a strong, sweet pungent smell. Its a low growing variety with white flowers. You may see this referred to as Mediterranean oregano.
Italian oregano (Origanum. majorana and Origanumvulgare) is milder tasting than Greek oregano. It has white or pink flowers and grows in a large clump that is two feet high and a foot and a half wide. It doesnt do cold well and is hardy in zones 6-9.
Also known as Cretan oregano (Origanum onites), this variety is used for both culinary and ornamental purposes. Its tall, growing up to two feet in zones 5-9. The flowers attract bees and butterflies.
Dittany (Origanum dictamnus) is the variety most often associated with herbal medicine and has a menthol odor. Its short, at six inches tall, and prefers warm weather. It also does well as a potted plant that you can bring indoors for the winter.
Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) is not true oregano, but I include it since you can substitute it in any dish requiring oregano. It is actually related to lemon verbena, and as such, it has the pungent overtones of oregano with a bit of a citrus flavor.
Oregano is native to mountain areas with shallow, slightly acidic soil. It prefers a pH between 6.0-8.0. You can place wood ashes around oregano plants in the winter to help lower the soil acidity if you need to.
Oregano prefers soil that drains well. Sandy loam is perfect. If you have heavy clay like I do, then you can plant your herbs in a raised bed. I have a raised garden that holds oregano and thyme in the front with taller sage in the back because they have similar growing needs.
The advantage of growing oregano in a raised bed is that you can custom mix the soil. For my herb bed that contains oregano, thyme, and sage, I have a mix of native earth, sand, compost with a couple shovels of pea gravel to improve drainage.
I am in zone 6, and I have growing oregano outside in my herb garden and in my greenhouse. The advantage of growing in my greenhouse is that sometimes a frigid winter will knock out my outdoor plants. I dont heat, or even close up my greenhouse all the way during the winter, but it still creates a hospitable microclimate for overwintering herbs and greens.
If you are direct seeding, place the seeds on top of recently turned soil. Next tap them into place, so they are just under the topsoils crust. Sprinkle some dampened loss soil on top of them, so they are about 1/4 inch deep.
You can usually buy oregano plants at your local garden store. One advantage of this is that you can give it the smell test. One disadvantage is that they will most likely have only one variety for sale.
Smelling the plants will help you determine if it will meet your needs. For instance, if you are looking for a culinary herb to make sauces, you may want a variety that smells sweet. If you are looking for one to use a medicinal herb, then you want one that smells astringent.
Plant oregano after the last frost date for your area when seedlings are about 3 inches tall. If your seedlings have been in a grow room or greenhouse, make sure to harden them off for about a week first.
Oregano does well in containers, which is perfect if you live in an urban area or you want to grow them in the house over the winter. Some varieties such as Kent Beauty look great in a hanging basket.
Oregano is relatively problem free because its pungent oils tend to ward off pests. The biggest concern is fungal diseases. The best precautions are not to overwater and to have plants in a location with good air circulation.
Mint rust is a fungus that looks like little orange spots on leaves. It can cause leaves to turn brown and drop. The best way to control mint rust is to avoid it. Keep plants pruned and well-spaced, so they get plenty of air and avoid overhead irrigation. Keep your garden well weeded and water in the morning, so moisture has time to dry off. You can also prune off infected branches and destroy them.
Theres hardly any plant safe from this tiny pest. Aphids suck the juice out of plants, but the biggest problem is that they leave behind a secretion called honeydew that can encourage the growth of mold. Use neem oil to control them.
Spider mites are a common garden pest. They can cause leaves to yellow and drop off the plant, and you probably wont notice them until theyve done some damage. Look for webbing and tiny little arachnids moving on leaves. You can blast them off your plants with a strong spray of water. Control with neem oil.
Wrap leaves in a damp paper towel and store in the refrigerator for a week. You can also freeze the leaves. Remove the leaves from the stems and wash and dry them. Place them in a plastic bag and press out all the air and put in your freezer where they wont get smashed.
Oregano has long been used in herbal medicine.The famous Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates named and described oregano in his work.Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic. Other uses from ancient times include treating GI problems and menstrual cramps.
The strong odor of oregano is caused by the essential oil carvacrol. Carvacrol is a creosote-scented compound that has antibacterial and anti-fungal characteristics. In addition, carvacrol is full of healthy antioxidants.
This oregano plant has a mild flavor that is different than other varieties of oregano. It tastes closer to mint with a slightly spicy flavor. This makes it a good addition to Middle Eastern meat and vegetable dishes.
This is a variety of oregano that can be used as an ornamental or in your food. The plant produces white to pink fragrant and attractive flowers. It also does well to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies to the garden.
The good thing about herbs is they grow pretty fast. So you can get to grow and harvest the oregano several times during the growing season. And the more you harvest the leaves, the more the plant produces.
A pot that is made from material like plastic, terracotta, metal, ceramic, or concrete works well for growing herbs like oregano. But I suggest using a plastic one if you want something that is inexpensive, durable, and lightweight to move around.
One way to do this is to mix 1 part of bleach with 10 parts water. Then soak the pot in this solution for 1 hour. After that, you can rinse the pot well with water and leave it to dry. Once the pot is dry, its ready for planting the oregano plant.
Whatever pot you choose, make sure it has drainage holes to drain out the excess water as oregano wont prefer soaking in water. If the pot does not have drainage holes, you can drill some by yourself.
The worst thing you can do for your oregano plants is to use garden soil. This can be full of clay or sand that does not have the texture required to grow herbs. It wont be able to retain the right amount of moisture and air for the roots.
The oregano seeds will germinate in 2-3 weeks and you dont need to provide fertilizer to them. The seeds contain enough energy to grow on their own and sprout. But once the seedlings have grown, you can add a little bit of fertilizer to them.
If you dont have compost, a good slow-release fertilizer can give your plants a boost. Add it to the potting mix and mix them well in the pot. The fertilizer will release nutrients into the soil as you water the plants. Its good to use a balanced fertilizer that may have an N-P-K of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10.
You can plant the oregano seeds directly in the pot or you can start the seeds in a tray and transplant them to the pot later. Im too lazy when growing herbs, so I just plan to plant them directly in the pot.
The oregano seeds are very small so you need to plant many of them together to get the best germination rates. You can thin the seedlings later on and select one out of the many that may spout together. You can then cover the seeds with just a little bit of the potting soil.
Use a spraying-can to gently water the potting mix and keep it moist. Do this every day so the potting mix has enough moisture for the oregano plants to germinate. The seeds should germinate in about 2 weeks time.
I just have tap water at home so the best solution is to leave the water in a container for 24 hours. This removes the chemicals like chlorine and fluoride from the tap water that could harm the oregano plant.
Thinning is the process where you pull or cut out some of the seedlings and leave the healthy ones to continue growing. You cut out the seedlings that may be too close to each other and leave a few inches of space between them.
If you dont have compost, you can add a slow-release organic fertilizer to the potting mix when preparing the container. This fertilizer will be released into the soil when you are watering the plants.
Its good to pick a fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen as it will boost the growth of foliage on the oregano plants. Fish emulsion is a good natural fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and beneficial for the oregano plant.
The best solution to the problem of weeds is to add a layer of mulch to the pot. This could be organic material like grass clippings from the lawn, dried leaves from the yard, or moss you collect near the house.
Make sure to mulch the potting soil only after the oregano seeds have germinated and the seedlings have grown about 2 inches tall. The mulch will prevent sunlight from reaching the weed seeds in the potting soil so they wont germinate.
Mulch also keeps the soil temperature regulated so its neither too hot nor too cold. When you water the soil, the mulch helps keep the moisture in the soil longer as it protects evaporation from the sunlight.
Its important to limit how much you harvest in one batch. Make sure to only harvest about 1/3rd of the leaves on the plant. This keeps the remaining foliage to continue creating food for the plant and growing more foliage.
Its best to pick the leaves that have matured at the top of the oregano plant. Pinch the leaves using your fingers. Or you can use a pair of gardening pruners to cut them from the plant. Its important not to pull on the plant when harvesting.
Aphids: Aphids are tiny insects that are found on the underside of the leaves. They come in different colors like red, green, yellow, white, or orange. They damage the leaves by sucking the sap from them. To get rid of aphids, spray them with water to drop them on the soil. They wont be able to reach the leaves again.
Cutworms: Cutworms are the larvae of adult moths. They damage the plant by eating the stem or roots. You can recognize them by their color like grey, pink, green, or black and their striped, solid, or spotted marks. To protect your oregano plant from cutworms, place a toilet paper tube around the base of the stem.
Root-knot nematode: This is one of the difficult insects that can affect the oregano plant. They are microscopic and attack the plants roots creating a rounded gall. The only way out of this problem is to get rid of the infested oregano plant and the potting soil.
Bacterial leaf spot: The leaf spot is a bacterial disease that causes brown spots on the oregano leaves. The spots will increase in size and cause the leaves to fall off. The only solution is to prevent conditions that can invite this disease. Prevent moist conditions on the leaves due to the splashing of water while watering the soil.
Powdery mildew: This is a fungal disease that infects the plants causing white-gray powdery growth on them. A severe infection will cause the leaves to brown and drop. You can prevent this problem by avoiding splashing water or soil on the foliage. Or cut off the leaves that have been infected.
Soft rot: This is a disease caused by bacteria and a moist environment makes the oregano plant susceptible. It causes the plant tissue to become soft and wet. Avoid splashing water on the foliage to prevent this disease. Take care not to damage the oregano when pruning or harvesting.
No mentioned, here and in other places, of the worse of all: Oregano. They form a mat that is very strong and almost impossible to pull apart which makes them very hard to remove. If you leave a piece no matter how small it will reproduce. I live in zone 3, you would think our subzero temperatures would hurt them, but not even remotely.
I loooove plants particularly fine herbs, this summer I would like to have lemon balm, oregano, other types of sage, rosemary, thyme and all types of basil mmmmm that is one of my favorite part of the summer.
Great question! As far as herbs go: oregano, thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary, tarragon, lemongrass, fennel, basil and echinacea have all behaved themselves in my garden! I'm sure there are many more, but those are the ones I have experience with.Lisa
The herb I have found to scatter itself is Purslane. I put it in my herb garden last year not knowing it will rapidly reproduce itself. I had it all over in the herb garden and this year it is in all my pots that I had near the garden. It's growing in pots with other plants and in pots by themselves. Anyone want some Purslane???
Yes! I've never planted Purslane because it grows wild here...but I pull it constantly! Plantain is another one. Extremely useful, but grows wild and plants itself everywhere! Good luck with the purslane!Lisa
Hi Elizabeth! Have you tried Purslane? I'm wondering what it tastes like. I keep telling myself I'm going to try some, but it looks a lot like a succulent to me and that kind of freaks me out! lol Lisa
If you are a gardener or farmer, youve probably read a lot about how important it is to get the right pH level in your soil. Youve probably also wondered what happens if you fail to maintain the right pH levels. I did some research to find out exactly what happens and why.
So, what happens to plants if soil pH is too low (or too high)? When soil pH is too low (acidic) or too high (basic), plants will have difficulty absorbing nutrients through their roots. The resulting nutrient deficiencies may cause problems including yellow leaves, stunted growth, or lack of flowers and fruit on plants.
Of course, each plant has its own ideal pH range, and some can survive or thrive in somewhat acidic or basic soil. Lets start off by going into detail about how and why soil pH affects nutrient absorption for plants. Then well talk about ways that you can treat low or high soil pH, along with ways to stabilize the pH once it is at the right level.
When soil pH is too low or too high, plants have difficulty absorbing nutrients from the soil. The reason is that each nutrient has an ideal range where it is highly available to plants. Outside of this range, plants will have difficulty absorbing the nutrient from the soil.
For example, the availability of phosphorus in soil drops off rapidly as pH drops below 6.0. The availability of boron drops off rapidly as pH rises above 7.5. Most elements have high availability when soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0 (slightly acidic), and most plants prefer to be in this range.
Of course, there are some exceptions in both directions. Some plants, such as blueberries and azaleas, prefer acidic soils with pH around 4.5 to 5.5. Other plants, such as olives and oats, prefer basic soils. For more information, check out this article from the University of Vermont, which includes information on plants and preferred pH levels.
When your soil pH is outside of the ideal range for a plant, it will be unable to absorb the nutrients it needs. This leads to symptoms of nutrient deficiency in the plant. Here are some common nutrient deficiencies and symptoms:
Of course, it is difficult to tell whether a nutrient deficiency in your plants is caused by low levels of nutrients in the soil or a pH imbalance. For that reason, I recommend getting a soil test to determine soil pH.
You can also send away a soil sample to your local agricultural extension. They will test the soil more precisely in a lab, and they will give you more information than a do-it-yourself soil test kit. If you tell them what you are trying to grow, they will also send detailed recommendations on how to treat your soil.
It is always a good idea to get a soil test before treating your soil with any additives to modify pH or nutrient levels. That way, you can be certain that you are using the right solution for the right problem.
If your soil pH is to low (acidic), you can raise the pH by adding lime (calcium carbonate) or dolomitic lime (calcium magnesium carbonate). For more information, check out my article on how to raise soil pH.
Remember that too much calcium in your soil can prevent a plant from absorbing magnesium, since these two elements compete for uptake by a plants roots. If your soil test reveals high calcium or low magnesium levels, use dolomitic lime instead of ordinary lime to raise your soil pH.
Remember that the amount of sulfur you need to add may vary with the type of soil. Also remember that it may make sense to add sulfur a little at a time, instead of all at once. This will help to prevent a pH shock to your plants, by keeping the soil pH from changing too quickly.
Now we know how to treat acidic soil, but what causes it in the first place? For one thing, using nitrogen or sulfur fertilizers, such as ammonium nitrate, will cause soil to become more acidic over time.
Having too much of an alkaline element in your soil, such as calcium or magnesium, can cause a high soil pH. This could occur if you used too much Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) or lime (calcium carbonate) to supplement magnesium or calcium for your plants. It could also occur in soils that naturally have high levels of calcium, such as limestone soils.
There are a couple of ways to stabilize your soil pH so that it changes less rapidly: adding organic material and improving soil drainage. For more information, check out my article on how to keep pH stable in soil.
If your soil is sandy, its pH will change more rapidly than clay or other soils. To remedy this, add compost to your soil. In addition to providing organic material and nutrients to your garden, it will act as a pH buffer, preventing rapid changes in pH.
You should also consider digging trenches, laying pipes, or installing rain barrels to divert water away from wet areas of your garden. Once you improve the drainage of your garden, you can prevent leaching (washing away) of minerals, which will prevent changes in soil pH.
I hope you found this article helpful if so, please share it with someone else who can use the information. If you have any questions or advice of your own about soil pH, please leave a comment below.