Oregano is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae. It was native to the Mediterranean region, but widely naturalised elsewhere in the temperate Northern Hemisphere. It is sometimes called wild marjoram, and its close relative, O. majorana, is known as sweet marjoram. The botanical name of oregano is Origanum vulgare. Both are widely used as culinary herbs, especially in Turkish, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Mexican, and French cuisine. Oregano is also an ornamental plant, with numerous cultivars bred for varying leaf colour, flower colour and habit.
Oregano is usually grown as a small evergreen subshrub in mild climates. Its compact oval leaves are arranged oppositely and are covered with glandular trichomes (plant hairs). The young stems are typically square and hairy and become woody with age. The flowers are small and borne in clusters; they range in colour from white to pink or pale purple. All varieties contain essential oil, the principal components of which are thymol and carvacrol. Oregano is toxic to pets.
Table of Contents
1 - 3 feet
1.5 - 4 feet
6.0 - 8.0
Types of Oregano
One of the tallest varieties of oregano, Syrian oregano is a source of vitamin C and fibre. Its leaves are primarily fresh, and the herb goes well in dips, yoghurt, soups, and salads. Is mostly found mixed in with a Middle Eastern spice known as “Za’atar”.
Golden Oregano gets their name from their yellow to golden foliage that is covered in delicate pink and purple flowers, during the summer. It is edible and can be used in a wide variety of dishes.
Greek Oregano is one of the most popular strands of oregano. It is found in most household kitchens and can be added to dozens of dishes and recipes. Most oregano plants are very easy to grow and care for. Also, with all the health benefits that oregano plants have, this really is a must-have herb to have in your garden.
Italian Oregano is used in dozens of dishes, especially in Italian and Sicilian dishes. It can also be used for grilling vegetables and meat. Italian Oregano is the hybrid of the sweet marjoram strand and the common Greek Oregano strand and has been known to resemble both plants with its strong flavor.
Cuban Oregano (which is a member of the mint family) is very strong and has thick fuzzy leaves. The flowers of this strand can be lavender, white or pink. The plants should be kept in an area, where they won’t be in direct sunlight or else they will burn and wilt. This plant can be grown indoors, and used for adding spice to Mediterranean dishes and can also be used to flavor pizzas.
Mexican Oregano is from a different genus than the other oregano plants but it is still quite popular in Mexican dishes (for its strong flavor and wonderful aromas). This plant thrives in a warm climate and makes a very beautiful addition to any garden. However, this strand isn’t as sturdy as other oregano plants, so it needs to be handled with care if you plan on growing it in your garden.
Mexican Bush Oregano
Mexican Bush Oregano (also known as “Mexican Sage” or “Rosemary Mint”) thrives in very hot, dry areas (such as Texas and Arizona) and is native to Mexico. This plant is different from other oregano plants because it can survive in extremely harsh conditions. This sturdy plant not only smells wonderful but it also has purple flowers that make it beautiful to look at.
As stated before some strands of oregano can not be consumed but can be used for ornamental (decorative) purposes only. These plants include:
Pilgrim Oregano: Which is an upright plant with bright rosy flowers.
Amethyst Falls Oregano: Which has a cascading shape with bright pink flowers and purple bracts.
Hop-Flower Oregano: This is great for landscaping purposes because of its lavender bracts that resemble Hop-Flowers.
Kent Beauty Oregano: Has large beautiful bracts that overlap one another, it also has small tiny flowers.
Compactum Oregano: Has dark green leaves that are ideal for groundcovers.
Aureum Oregano: Has yellow leaves that act as a groundcover and can even be cooked with.
When to Plant
Plant oregano in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Also, you can start seeds or cuttings indoors around six to 10 weeks before your area's projected last spring frost. The outdoor soil temperature should ideally be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit for planting.
Selecting a Planting Site
Oregano is one of those Mediterranean herbs that grow well in full sun and lean-to-average soil that's well-drained. Rich soil can dilute the pungency of the herb. So oregano is a good choice for those sunny areas of your garden with poor soil that isn't suitable for many other plants. Just make sure it isn't situated too close to taller plants that will leaf out and shade the oregano.
Spacing, Depth, and Support
Space oregano plants around 8 to 10 inches apart. Seeds should be just slightly pressed into the soil, as they need light to germinate. And nursery plants should be planted at the same depth they were growing in their container. A support structure shouldn't be necessary.
How to Grow Oregano From Seed
Oregano seeds require some light to germinate, so cover seeds very lightly with soil. Use a seed-starting mix in a small container, and keep it moist but not soggy. Place the container in a warm spot—roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit—and in bright, indirect light. Germination should occur within a week. Harden off the seedlings before planting them outside.
How to Grow Oregano in Pots
Oregano is well-suited to growing in pots and a good choice for a windowsill herb garden indoors. Containers generally dry out faster than garden soil, so this can help to create the fairly dry environment that oregano likes. Just make sure the container you select has adequate drainage holes. Unglazed clay is an ideal material because it will allow excess soil moisture to evaporate through its walls as well. A container that’s around 10 to 14 inches across and 6 to 8 inches deep should suffice.
Oregano Plant Care
Most oregano varieties need full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. However, some varieties, including golden oregano, prefer a little shade from strong sunlight to prevent their leaves from scorching.
A sandy loam is ideal for growing oregano. If the soil is moist with lots of organic matter, oregano won't perform as well as it does in well-drained, light, dry soil. Also, a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is best.
Oregano only needs about an inch of water per week and is tolerant of moderate drought. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering can cause root rot and other problems.
Temperature and Humidity
Oregano can tolerate heat and even fairly cold temperatures, depending on the variety. Its ideal growing conditions are around 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It generally does not like high humidity and must have sharp soil drainage and good air circulation in humid climates.
Oregano typically doesn't need fertilization, as it can thrive in poor soil. In fact, large amounts of nutrients, such as nitrogen, can change the flavor of the herb.
Oregano is a great herb to attract beneficial pollinators to your garden. Bees and other insects help to pollinate its small flowers.
You can begin harvesting oregano leaves once your plant has reached 4 to 5 inches tall. Simply trim off sprigs with just the leaves you need for cooking at that time, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing. Then, run your fingers down the stem to strip off the leaves.
The most flavorful oregano leaves occur right before the plant blooms in the summer. So if you plan to take sprigs for drying, that's the best time to do it. But you can still snip off leaves at any point during the growing season for cooking or drying.
Fresh sprigs can be refrigerated for about a week or frozen for about a year. Hang sprigs upside down in a dark, cool spot with good air circulation to dry. Then, strip the leaves, and store them in an airtight container. Dried oregano has a stronger flavor than fresh leaves, and it should be good for about two to three years.
Pruning and Propagating Oregano
Oregano needs regular pinching back of its growing tips, beginning when the plant is about 4 inches tall. This will promote a bushy growth habit and help to prevent leggy, straggly growth. It also can delay flowering, which is best if you want the leaves to be as flavorful as possible for culinary use. As the plant grows larger, this pinch-back ritual should be a weekly affair.
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. And ultimately this will result in a fuller plant.
Oregano is best propagated from divisions or cuttings. (Because different species of oregano can cross-pollinate, you might not get what you expect from seeds you save from garden plants.) Both dividing a mature plant and taking cuttings can help to rejuvenate it, resulting in bushier growth and a healthier harvest. The best time to divide a plant is in the early spring or fall. Here's how:
Gently dig up a mature oregano plant, keeping its rootball intact.
Use a sharp spade or even simply your fingers to divide the rootball in half. Aim to tease as many of the roots apart as possible, rather than cutting them.
Replant each segment in a suitable growing site.
Cuttings can be taken at any time when the plant is actively growing, though the spring and early summer are best because the stems are still green and pliable. Here's how:
Use sterile pruners or scissors to cut roughly a 5-inch portion of healthy stem. Make a diagonal cut just above a leaf node.
Strip off any leaves on the bottom half of the cutting.
Place it in a container of water in a warm, bright spot but out of direct sun.
Refresh the water every few days. You should start to see roots appearing in about a week. Give it a few weeks for a good network of roots to form before planting the cutting.
Potting and Repotting Oregano
For potted oregano, you can use any well-draining, general-purpose potting mix. To improve drainage, consider blending it with some extra sand, perlite, or vermiculite. It's generally a good idea to repot a mature oregano plant every couple of years, dividing it as necessary to ensure that light can reach all areas of the plant.
Oregano generally only requires overwintering maintenance in zones 4 and colder, though be sure to check the growing requirements on your particular variety. 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. Also, cover the soil with 3 to 4 inches of dry mulch for the winter. Remove the mulch in the spring as soon as the snow melts.
Pests and Plant Diseases
1. Aphids (Peach aphid) Myzus persicae
Symptoms: Small soft bodied insects on underside of leaves and/or stems of plant; usually green or yellow in color, but may be pink, brown, red or black depending on species and host plant; if aphid infestation is heavy it may cause leaves to yellow and/or distorted, necrotic spots on leaves and/or stunted shoots; aphids secrete a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew which encourages the growth of sooty mold on the plants
Comments: Distinguishing features include the presence of cornicles (tubular structures) which project backwards from the body of the aphid; will generally not move very quickly when disturbed
Management: If aphid population is limited to just a few leaves or shoots then the infestation can be pruned out to provide control; check transplants for aphids before planting; use tolerant varieties if available; reflective mulches such as silver colored plastic can deter aphids from feeding on plants; sturdy plants can be sprayed with a strong jet of water to knock aphids from leaves; insecticides are generally only required to treat aphids if the infestation is very high - plants generally tolerate low and medium level infestation; insecticidal soaps or oils such as neem or canola oil are usually the best method of control; always check the labels of the products for specific usage guidelines prior to use
2. Cutworms Agrotis spp.
Symptoms: Stems of young transplants or seedlings may be severed at soil line; if infection occurs later, irregular holes are eaten into the surface of fruits; larvae causing the damage are usually active at night and hide during the day in the soil at the base of the plants or in plant debris of toppled plant; larvae are 2.5–5.0 cm (1–2 in) in length; larvae may exhibit a variety of patterns and coloration but will usually curl up into a C-shape when disturbed
Comments: Cutworms have a wide host range and attack vegetables including asparagus, bean, cabbage and other crucifers, carrot, celery, corn, lettuce, pea, pepper, potato and tomato
Management: Remove all plant residue from soil after harvest or at least two weeks before planting, this is especially important if the previous crop was another host such as alfalfa, beans or a leguminous cover crop; plastic or foil collars fitted around plant stems to cover the bottom 3 inches above the soil line and extending a couple of inches into the soil can prevent larvae severing plants; hand-pick larvae after dark; spread diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants (this creates a sharp barrier that will cut the insects if they try and crawl over it); apply appropriate insecticides to infested areas of garden or field if not growing organically
3. Thrips (Western flower thrips) Frankliniella occidentalis
Symptoms: If population is high leaves may be distorted; leaves are covered in coarse stippling and may appear silvery; leaves speckled with black feces; insect is small (1.5 mm) and slender and best viewed using a hand lens; adult thrips are pale yellow to light brown and the nymphs are smaller and lighter in color
Comments: Transmit viruses such as Tomato spotted wilt virus; once acquired, the insect retains the ability to transmit the virus for the remainder of its life
Management: Avoid planting next to onions, garlic or cereals where very large numbers of thrips can build up; use reflective mulches early in growing season to deter thrips; apply appropriate insecticide if thrips become problematic
4. Spider mites (Two-spotted spider mite) Tetranychus urticae
Symptoms: Leaves stippled with yellow; leaves may appear bronzed; webbing covering leaves; mites may be visible as tiny moving dots on the webs or underside of leaves, best viewed using a hand lens; usually not spotted until there are visible symptoms on the plant; leaves turn yellow and may drop from plant
Comments: Spider mites thrive in dusty conditions; water-stressed plants are more susceptible to attack
Management: In the home garden, spraying plants with a strong jet of water can help reduce buildup of spider mite populations; if mites become problematic apply insecticidal soap to plants; certain chemical insecticides may actually increase mite populations by killing off natural enemies and promoting mite reproduction
1. Mint rust Puccinia menthae
Symptoms: Small, dusty, bright orange, yellow or brown pustules on undersides of leaves; new shoots may be pale and distorted; large areas of leaf tissue die and leaves may drop from plant
Comments: Disease also affects mint and can spread from nearby mint plants
Management: Infected plants and rhizomes should be removed to prevent spread; heat treatment of roots may help to control the disease; roots should be immersed in hot water at 44°C (111°F) for 10 minutes, cooled using cool water and then planted as usual
Benefits of Oregano
The free radical build-up in your body may contribute to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Oregano is a herb that provides antioxidant compounds that help to fight against the damage done by free radicals, which aids in cancer prevention.
May treat diabetes
A build-up of free radicals can also trigger oxidative stress, which can lead to cell damage that may result in diabetes. But oregano’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help to alleviate the autoimmune inflammatory disorder that is the main cause of type 1 diabetes. In addition, a 2016 study by NCBI shows that origanum extract may help in:
Improving insulin resistance;
Restore damaged liver and kidney tissues.
The best way to keep digestion healthy is to simply eat more fibre. Oregano is power-packed with fibre, which can be beneficial for both diarrhea and constipation. Eating it regularly may boost your digestive system.
Boosting immunity is everyone’s concern today. With oregano, you can easily do that. Oregano has a high amount of antioxidant compounds and various other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. These nutrients contribute significantly to boost one’s immunity.
Chronic inflammation is considered to be a huge contributor to the occurrence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, and certain autoimmune disorders. But oregano contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help control inflammation very effectively.
Oregano is a good source of antibacterial properties as well. Therefore, it has been found effective in fighting bacteria. In addition to fighting off bacteria, oregano may also protect against some infections and viruses.
There are various ways in which you can use oregano.
You can use fresh or dried oregano with flavourful pieces of bread to turn any ordinary soup meal into something almost fancy.
You can also mix oregano with honey for a flavoured addition to sauces, bread, curries, and more.
Oregano is the perfect herb for tomato sauces, roasted meat, and much more.
You can also combine olive oil to create Italian vinaigrettes and marinades for chicken, lamb, and beef dishes.
In addition, you can add fresh oregano leaves to salads.
For Medical Use:
You can use drops of oregano oil to treat cough, cold and sore throat.
You may also use vinegar infused with oregano to treat fungal infections.
Due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties, oregano leaves find use in cleaning tubs, showers, and toilets.
Its tea can ease menstrual pain, prevent constipation and diarrhoea, soothe muscle aches and treat skin sores.