No garden (or kitchen) should be without this easy-care, flavorful herb.
A multitasking perennial, oregano is a fragrant addition to the garden as well as the kitchen. Plant it in a sunny garden bed or container close to the house for quick and easy harvest for your next Mediterranean-inspired meal. In the garden you’ll love oregano’s clean, green foliage and casual mounding habit. Small flowers appear in summer, which draw pollinators.
Oregano Care Must-Knows
Oregano is best grown from nursery-grown transplants or cuttings. Oregano can be grown from seed, too, but seed often does not yield plants with exceptional flavor. Plant oregano in full sun and well-drained soil. It will tolerate part shade, but the plant often becomes open and floppy. Well-drained soil is essential; good drainage is important for good growth and it promotes overwintering.
Pick leaves as needed throughout the growing season. Their flavor fades after plants bloom so harvest before flower buds open. Savor oregano's spicy taste on grilled meats or seafood, sprinkle it onto cooked vegetables, or stir it into pasta sauces. Gather fresh flowers to add to salads.
Oregano's flavor stays strong after drying it. To dry a large amount of oregano, cut stems back to 3 inches (before flower buds open); cut again in the same way in late summer. Dry the stems by bundling them together and hanging them upside down in a dark place with good air circulation. When leaves are dry, crumble them from stems; store leaves in an airtight container. When cooking, if a recipe calls for dried oregano, you can substitute twice the amount of fresh for the same flavorful result.
Begin harvesting oregano as soon as sprigs are 6 inches tall. Harvest stems frequently to prevent the plant from producing flowers and to keep it from forming woody plant stems. Oregano tolerates shearing well; don't hesitate to cut plants back by half their stem length to encourage them to produce fresh, flavorful foliage.
Oregano grows well in full sun, making it a good choice for planting alongside other sun-loving herbs like rosemary, parsley, sage, and thyme. Grow these herbs together in a planting bed, alongside perennials in a mixed border, or in a raised bed. Herbs also thrive in containers of all shapes and sizes. Have fun with repurposed planting vessels for herbs.
The diverse textures and subtle color variations of herbs make them exceptionally useful in the garden design. A trio of oregano plants planted near a boisterous planting of hollyhocks and daylilies gives the eye a quiet place to rest amid the color and interest of the combination. Low-growing oregano forms a wide mound of foliage, blanketing nearby soil and smothering out weeds.
Oregano is marginally hardy in Zone 5. Help plants overwinter by covering them with a winter mulch of evergreen boughs or straw applied after the soil freezes in late fall. Remove the mulch as soon as growth resumes in spring. Oregano can also be grown inside during winter. Transplant plants from the garden to a generous container in early fall. Place in a sunny window during winter and water when the surface of the soil is dry.
More Varieties of Oregano
Also known as Lebanese oregano and hop oregano, Origanum libanoticum references to its area of origin and the shape of its flower clusters. The plant has fine blue-green foliage, and in summer it sends out wiry arching stems with pendulous pale green papery bracts with pinkish-purple flowers. The plant grows 18 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide. Zones 5-10
Pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is a shrubby plant that grows 18 inches tall and up to 24 inches wide. Its leaves have an intense oregano flavor. Late in the growing season, when the plant becomes quite woody, the flavor may become bitter. Cut back the plant at that time to encourage tender regrowth. Cretan oregano bears white to pale pink flowers. Zones 7-11
Origanum dictamnus makes an excellent rock garden plant. It has fuzzy gray-green leaves that form a mound 6-8 inches tall. In summer it sends up flower stalks with persistent papery bracts that are light green with a blush of pink. Zones 7-11
This variety of Origanum vulgare ('Aureum') has yellow-green leaves and white flowers. Like its green-leaf cousin, Greek oregano, it is edible. Golden oregano is sometimes sold as creeping golden marjoram. The plant grows 12-18 inches tall and wide. Zones 6-10
Origanum vulgare hirtum offers the best flavor for culinary use. Like all culinary oreganos, it has white flowers. It is often confused with wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare), but true Greek oregano has a much stronger flavor. It grows 6-10 inches tall and spreads 12-18 inches wide. Zones 5-10
This selection of Origanum laevigatum is a butterfly magnet when in bloom from midsummer through fall. Flowering shoots rise 18-24 inches above the spreading rhizomatous stems. Clusters of pink blooms with purple-maroon bracts make 'Herrenhausen' an excellent fresh or dried cut flower. The plant has dark green foliage with a purplish tinge. Zones 4-10
Origanum laevigatum 'Pilgrim' ornamental oregano produces masses of rosy pink flowers and bracts on upright arching bloom stalks that reach 15-18 inches tall. This drought-tolerant perennial is great for dry hillside gardens. Zones 5-10
This Origanum vulgare variety is noted for its variegated green-and-gold foliage. The light green leaves are marbled with flecks of yellow. It grows 6-12 inches tall and spreads up to 24 inches wide. It was named by Jim Long of Long Creek Herbs. Zones 5-10