Oregano is an herb you can use in various ways, from cooking and making homemade oregano remedies to growing it for its attractive flowers.
Growing oregano is easy with a little bit of preparation and know-how. It’s not hard to grow this Mediterranean herb, which is used in Italian cuisine. In this article, we will break down the things you should know about growing oregano in your vegetable garden and give tips on how to use it.
Related: Guide to growing herbs in the kitchen
Quick Facts About Oregano Plants
- Scientific name: Origanum vulgare
- Type of plant: woody perennial herb
- Native to: Mediterranean countries and western Asia
- Light requirement: at least six hours of direct sun on most days
- Water requirement: about an inch of water per week
- Preferred humidity: around 40% relative humidity
- Preferred temperature: 65 and 70 degrees
- Size upon maturity: 1 to 2 feet tall
- Type of native soil: grows best in sandy and well-draining soil
- pH level: 6.5 to 7.0
- Fertilizer: 1 1/2 ounces of 5-10-5 fertilizer for every 5 feet
- Main attributes: flavor, color, and aroma
- Word meaning: a mountain of happiness
- Family: mint family (Lamiaceae)
- Lifespan: about five or six years
- In-Season months: mid-summer and early spring
What exactly is an oregano plant?
Oregano plants are perennial herbs that belong to the mint family. This Mediterranean herb has a spicy, aromatic flavor that is used in many Italian dishes. The plant grows well in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, where it can be grown as an annual or biennial.
These plants have small purple flowers and bright green leaves that grow to about 1 foot tall on stems that branch out from the base of the plant. The oregano leaves may have purple veins or edges, depending on the variety you choose. The flavor of oregano comes from its essential oils, which are released when the leaves are crushed or chewed (or cut).
Cultivation and History
Oregano was one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans, with evidence of its use dating back over 7000 years. The ancient Greeks and Romans ate it as a spice in their cooking, while other cultures used it in their medicine cabinets to treat colds or fever. The name “oregano” is thought to have come from the Greek word oros (mountain) which refers to the plant’s mountainous habitat.
Today oregano is a must-have herb and an established plant cultivated commercially on a large scale throughout Europe and North America, especially on farms growing lettuce, tomatoes, or peppers.
Oregano is a flavorful herb that can be used fresh or dried for cooking and seasoning. The oregano plant has been cultivated for thousands of years, with Greek and Romans using it in their cooking. There are several varieties of oregano to choose from, including:
Common oregano is used in cooking because it has a stronger flavor than the Greek variety. It’s also good for medicinal purposes, such as treating colds and sore throats. Common oregano grows to be about 18 inches tall with purple flowers on top of the stems. It prefers full sun or partial shade, dry soil and little water once established in your garden bed or container. The leaves are very attractive when grown as an ornamental plant in borders or beds because they’re colorful and have an aromatic flavor when rubbed between your fingers or crushed underfoot when walked on by bare feet!
Also known as wild marjoram, Greek oregano is true oregano that grows in sunny areas such as meadows or hillsides. It has a slightly bitter flavor and is considered one of the best tasting varieties. This oregano has small dark green leaves that grow about 1 inch long with purple flowers. The plant grows to be about 24 inches tall and spreads by runners. This variety can be grown indoors during winter months if planted in a pot with a well-drained soil mix and kept inside an area with moderate light levels (about 60 percent shade).
Mexican oregano is a variety of wild marjoram that grows in Mexico and South America. This type of oregano has very similar mild flavor and uses to common or Greek but has a slightly different appearance and growth habit. Mexican oregano looks like large-leafed basil with tiny white flowers on top of each stem. The leaves are larger than those of common or Greek so they’re easier to harvest for cooking use (about 1 inch long). This oregano tends to grow only about 2 feet tall with a compact shape rather than spreading like common or Greek does (both oregano are usually 3 feet tall).
This variety is native to Syria and Lebanon. It is an herb that grows up to about 1 foot tall with purple flowers that bloom throughout the year. The leaves have a milder flavor than Greek one and are often used to season chicken, lamb and fish dishes. This oregano can be substituted for Greek in recipes.
This oregano plants grow about 2 feet tall and have small, oval-shaped leaves with a yellowish-green tint. This variety is not as hardy as other types of oregano and does not thrive in a cold herb garden. Growing oregano variety is best in USDA zones 8 through 11, but it can survive in zones 7B and 7A if you provide plenty of water during dry spells.
How to Grow Oregano: A Complete Guide
If you’re interested in growing oregano at home, here are the things you need to know:
Oregano is an herb that grows best in full sun. It can grow in partial shade but will not produce as many flowers. The plant should be planted in a spot with at least six hours of sunlight per day.
Oregano prefers soil that drains well but has plenty of moisture. The soil should be fertile and amended with organic matter such as compost or manure prior to planting. If you are planting the oregano directly into your garden bed, add one inch of compost or manure per foot of row once it has been tilled and raked smooth. This will help build up the soil’s fertility and increase its ability to retain moisture while allowing air circulation around the roots of the plant.
- Choosing a potWhen growing oregano plants indoors, choose pots or planters that are at least 12 inches deep but no more than 18 inches deep so that the plant will have room to grow when it becomes larger. Make sure that your container has at least one drain hole in the bottom before you plant seeds. This ensures that excess water can drain out easily without damaging your potting mix or growing medium. Pots made from terra cotta clay should have drainage holes.
- Preparing Soil for PlantingPrepare the area where you plan to grow oregano by removing weeds and rocks and adding compost or aged animal manure. Till the existing soil if it’s not loose enough for planting, then level the area by hand or with a rake.Water thoroughly after tilling so that your soil is moist throughout — this will help stimulate germination of seeds and roots when planted later.
Growing oregano plants need about 1 inch of water per week, especially during hot summer months when they are actively growing.
The fresh herbs prefer even fairly cold temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (12 to 21 Celsius), but can tolerate temperatures up to 100 F (38 C) if they are dry and sunny.
Pruning oregano plants helps promote a stronger, healthier plant. It also promotes strong root growth and encourages branching of the stems so that more fresh leaves will form on each stem. Pruning also helps keep oregano growing plants from becoming too leggy or lanky, making the plant look more attractive overall.
If you’re storing your growing oregano in the refrigerator or freezer, keep it in a plastic bag with holes punched in it so that air can still circulate inside. This will help prevent mold from forming on top of your oregano.
When you’re ready to use your oregano, just take off some leaves and place them directly into soups, sauces or other foods that you’re cooking up!
How to Plant Oregano
To plant oregano from seed, simply scatter the seeds over the surface of your garden bed and lightly cover them with garden soil or compost. Keep the soil moist until germination occurs, which may take anywhere from two weeks to two months depending on your climate and growing conditions. Once germinated, thin out weak seedlings so they are spaced six inches apart once they reach maturity (about one foot).
You will be able to grow oregano indoors well in containers, raised beds, and other garden spaces. Water your oregano plants regularly until they begin producing flowers and leaves; after that you can water them about a week or so.
How to grow oregano from cuttings?
When growing oregano from cuttings, use a rooting hormone for the best results. You can purchase this at any nursery or home improvement store. To make your own rooting hormone, mix together one part water, one part sugar, and 1/2 part powdered milk.
- Cut off a branch from an oregano plant with three to four leaves on it using sharp pruning shears or scissors. Make sure each cutting has at least one node (where leaves grow). If there are more than three nodes per cutting, select only three or four of them to use as cuttings. Cut off one inch of stem below each node on each cutting.
- Bend the tip of each stem down so that if they were placed in the dirt they would be leaning down toward the ground cover and then place them in a glass of water overnight so that all the sap along a path can drain out of them before planting them into soil.
- Once there are roots present, plant your new plant into soil and keep it watered regularly until new growth appears! See, to grow oregano is a piece of cake!
How to grow oregano from seed?
It is easy to grow oregano from seed, but if you are new to growing oregano, then it is best to start with small plants. However, once you have grown oregano for a couple of years, it is worth trying your hand at growing from seed.
- Make sure your seedling mix and root ball is moist but not soggy when you grow oregano. If necessary, dampen it slightly with water before planting oregano.
- Bury or plant seeds more than one third inch deep in individual pots or cell packs filled with a seedling mix made from equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. Water them well until they’ve absorbed all the water they need for germination (this may take several days).
- Place the pots in a bright area where temperatures stay between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 80 degrees during the day (about 25 degrees Celsius). Keep them out of direct sunlight; if necessary use fluorescent lights.
- Move to direct sunlight once they’ve sprouted and keep occasionally watering during dry spells. Pinch off any flowers when they appear so that all of the plant’s energy will go into producing new leaves instead of seeds because oregano spreads easily.
Tips for Growing Oregano Plants
If you’re new to gardening or just want some tips on how to grow oregano plants, then here are some helpful tips:
- Choose an area in your garden centers with full sun exposure if possible; otherwise look for an area that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.
- Make sure you water oregano and that your soil drains well and has good drainage to protect plants’ roots from rotting and dying from too much moisture.
- Feed oregano or add some aged compost enriched with Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, or some other organic substances such as manure or peat moss to your soil before planting your new seedlings or seeds.
- Dig planting holes large enough to accommodate the roots of each transplanted plant without crowding or bending them.
How to Harvest Oregano
Oregano is a perennial herb that can last for several years if properly cared for and harvested at the correct time. In harvesting oregano, you must cut off the stems with a sharp knife or scissors about 1/4 inch above an outward-facing bud or leaf joint. This will encourage new growth on the plant.
You may also choose to harvest oregano fresh by cutting a small portion of the stem back to ground level and allowing it to regrow from that point forward. This method is best used when you wish to use only a small amount of fresh oregano in your recipe or meal preparation and do not want to waste any part of the plant by cutting off all of its leaves at once.
Pests, Diseases, and Treatment
It’s relatively easy to grow, care for, and harvest oregano. However, they can still be susceptible to some pests and diseases.
The most common pests and diseases affecting oregano are:
Aphids are tiny insects that suck sap from plants. Aphids can be green, brown, black or pink. They feed on the new growth of plants and cause damage by sucking out plant juices. This can weaken the plant and affect its ability to produce fruit or flowers before you even harvest oregano leaves.
Treatment: To control aphids, spray your plants with neem oil every week during warm weather when they’re active (usually during spring). You can also wash them off using a strong stream of water from a hose or spray bottle.
Spider Mites (Tetranychidae)
Spider mites are the most common pests that attack oregano plants. They are tiny and hard to see, but they can be identified by their presence on the undersides of leaves. Spider mites cause yellow spots on the leaves and produce webbing.
Treatment: The best way to control spider mites is by using insecticidal soap spray every four days until they are gone. If you have a large area, consider using neem oil to control dried oregano as well.
Leafminers (Lyriomyza spp.)
Leaf miners are small, black insects that feed on the underside of leaves by chewing small tunnels between the leaf veins. The adults are tiny flies with yellowish bodies and black heads. Leaf miners can be found on many different plants including oregano, basil and marjoram. They are most active in warm weather when the plant is actively growing and photosynthesizing.
Treatment: The best way to control leaf miners is to prevent them from laying eggs on your plants in the first place. You can do this by removing any infested leaves as soon as you see them, especially when the weather is warm. On larger plants it may be necessary to begin harvesting oregano leaves and cut off all of the affected leaves to keep them from spreading any further.
Pythium blight is caused by a soil-borne fungus that attacks the roots of oregans and causes them to rot. The roots may also turn brown and mushy.
Treatment: To control this disease, avoid overwatering and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Also, remove any dead stems or yellow leaves from your plant (especially those near the bottom). If you notice that your plant is growing in a saucer or container, be sure to empty it every few days so that water doesn’t accumulate at the bottom and promote disease growth.
Bacterial Leaf Spot
The most common disease of oregano is bacterial leaf spot. The bacterium Pseudomonas syringae causes the spots, which are tan to brown in color and surrounded by a yellow halo.
Treatment: The best way to control bacterial leaf spots is to properly manage environmental factors such as watering, fertilizing, and pruning (which can help reduce diseases). If necessary, fungicides may be applied after leaf spots have appeared but before they spread to other areas of the plant.
Best Uses of Oregano Leaves
Oregano has been used for centuries in their culinary garden as well as a remedy for indigestion, heartburn and flatulence. It is known as plant food and young plants to help prevent colds and flu as well as fight off infections.
The leaves are used for their pungent, spicy flavour, but they also have many other uses in the cooking process. Here are some of the ways you can use oregano leaves in your home:
Oregano oil can be used as a topical treatment for all sorts of skin ailments including eczema, psoriasis and acne. It also helps soothe muscle aches and pains.
The antioxidant properties of oregano make it an excellent tea to boost the immune system during colds and flu season.
You can use this fresh pesto on pasta mixed with tomato sauce or simply spread it on bread with cheese or sour cream for a quick snack! The best part about making this at home is that you can add whatever ingredients you want to make it taste just like your favourite restaurant’s version!
You can use oregano as an alternative to salt on baked potatoes. Add fresh crushed garlic and other herbs for more flavor.
Add oregano to marinades for chicken or beef to add a unique flavor to your meal. The herb also works well with olive oil and lemon juice for a classic Greek salad dressing.
You can use oregano as an alternative to chemical-based cleaners. It is known to kill germs, so you can use it on surfaces where germs are most likely to linger — like your toilet seat or kitchen sink. You can also use it as a natural air freshener; simply add 10-15 drops of oregano essential oil to water and mist away!
You can use oregano oil as a hair growth aid by washing your hair with shampoo that contains this essential oil. You should also massage the oil into your scalp before bedtime every night for best results.
Does oregano grow back every year?
Yes! Oregano grows back every year from its roots, so you can harvest it throughout the growing season. However, if you’re harvesting it for culinary or medicinal purposes, be sure to leave some flowers on each stem so that the plant can produce seeds for future years.
How long does a oregano plant last?
The life of an oregano plant depends on how often you harvest its leaves. If you harvest regularly, your oregano should last about one year before it begins to flower and die back on its own. If you don’t harvest oregano leaves until they fade, your plant may only last six months or less before re-planting oregano.
Can oregano live in water?
You can grow oregano in water, but it will not thrive. It needs soil to grow properly. The plant may survive in water, but the leaves will turn yellow and die back if they don’t receive adequate water and nutrients.
Oregano is a beautiful, tasty herb that will delight any cook. It’s also easy to grow, given some basic instructions and care. If you’re interested in starting up to grow oregano indoors, read through and go back to this article, and you’ll be well on your way.
As long as you follow a few simple guidelines, you should have no problem to grow oregano and enjoy its leaves fresh from your own garden this summer.