Are you looking for a culinary herb to add to your garden? Well, try out oregano. Oregano plants will add a new flavor to your cooking. Once you have planted oregano, you can use it in different recipes and never get tired of it.
Oregano is easy to plant and care for. It will grow like a weed without any complications or fuss that may arise with other herbs or vegetables. Follow these simple steps, and you will have a thriving oregano garden in no time.
What Is Oregano?
Oregano or Oreganum vulgare is a bushy, wood-branched perennial member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. Oreganum vulgare is a signature flavor of many Italian, Mexican, and Spanish dishes. It's a hardy plant and makes for a good ground cover.
Oregano leaves are oval, dark green, and positioned in opposite pairs along the stems. Flowers have a more mild flavor than leaves and make a pretty addition to summer salads. Oregano starts as a ground-hugging rosette of leaves, but it can easily grow to about 2 feet tall.
Oregano is generally planted in the spring or fall, either from potted nursery starts or plant divisions. It grows quickly and will provide leaves suitable for cooking almost immediately.
How to Grow Oregano Herb Indoors
The best time to plant oregano is Spring when all the frost is gone but it’s still among the best vegetables and herbs to plant in July depending on your location. If you're wondering what's the best container size to grow oregano indoors is, then 6-inch pots are perfect. This size doesn't take up too much room on your windowsill herb garden but still gives the plant lots of room for root growth.
If you want to grow oregano and other herbs together in one container, then you'll need a large size pot. Make sure the container has good drainage holes. Like many other herbs native to the Mediterranean, Oregano likes to grow in dryer conditions. Choosing the right container for growing along with the right potting mix will help your plant to thrive.
Oregano grows well in full sun, planted in lean-to-average and well-drained soil. Climate, soil, and moisture can all cause variation in the oregano's flavor, and rich soil tends to dilute the pungency of the flavor. This is a good plant for those sunny areas in your yard with poor soil that isn't suitable for other plants.
Oreganum Vulgare should be planted 12 to 18 inches apart if planted in the garden. Wait until the soil is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit before planting. Few pests bother oregano, but keep an eye out for spider mites and aphids. Wet soil can cause root rot.
Most oregano varieties need full sun. However, the golden oregano variety does best in shade, as its leaves tend to couch in full sun. When growing oregano indoors, make sure it has enough light. A bright, south-facing window that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day is perfect.
If you don't have enough sunlight inside to keep your plant healthy, use fluorescent artificial lighting as a supplement or grow oregano full time.
The soil should be nutrient-rich and well drained. The soil's pH level should be slightly alkaline, with a reading of 7 or higher. If your soil falls below this reading, amend it with lime to get the pH back up. Adding compost is an effective way to enrich your soil without having to find out what kind of soil you have. Make sure you know how to test soil pH before planting your oregano.
Since this perennial herb prefers to grow in dryer conditions, make sure you use well drained soil to prevent the roots from rotting. You can use cactus potting mix or make your own soil mix. Combine one part of all-purpose potting mix with one part of sharp sand.
You can also make a mix based on potting soil instead of potting mix. Use equal parts potting soil, sharp sand, perlite, and peat moss and mix it well.
When watering your oregano plant, wait until the top inch of soil is dry before giving it another drink. Make sure that you water the soil and not the leaves so you don't spread any fungal diseases to your oregano plant.
Many herbs are considered weeds and most are not particular about the soil in which they grow. Oregano will grow in the soil that is only moderately fertile. Do not add compost or fertilizer to its growing area. A large amount of nutrients such as nitrogen can change the flavor of this herb.
However, plants grown in containers will need regular fertilizing. So make sure you fertilize your oregano plants once a month with a good quality organic fertilizer.
Temperature and Humidity
Oregano prefers dry and warm weather. It thrives best in mild to hot climates. If you are growing oregano plants indoors or they are kept in a greenhouse then it's absolutely necessary that the humidity levels are high. It may need winter protection in hardiness zones 5 and lower.
Oregano needs regular pinching back, beginning when the plant is only about four inches tall. This will help the plant 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 that you're not using for cooking or drying can be discarded. If the plant becomes overly woody, cutting the stems back will encourage more stems to sprout from the base, resulting in a fuller plant.
Here are some common oregano varieties to consider:
Common Oregano, Wild Marjoram, Pot Marjoram
Marjoram is a type of oregano with less pungent, sweeter taste, often used in French and English cooking. There are many cultivars of Oreganum Vulgare, generally named for their unique taste.
Origanum vulgare Aureum or golden oregano
This variety has lighter-colored leaves and a milder oregano flavor. It's more popular as an ornamental plant than as a cooking herb.
Oregano heracleoticum or Greek oregano
This variety is usually used in Mediterranean cooking. This is the type most people associate with the oregano flavor. Oregano onites is also sometimes listed as Greek oregano. It’s mainly used in Italian and Greek dishes.
Lippia graveolens or Mexican oregano
Although not in the oregano family, this plant is called Mexican oregano and is used in chili powders.
The most flavorful leaves of oregano are found immediately before the plant flowers, but you can snip off leaves any time for cooking or drying. Leaves can be frozen to use over the winter. You can begin harvesting when plants have reached 4 to 5 inches in height, cut sprigs for use. Harvest your oregano plant often to help it stay bushy and productive.
Oregano plants can be started from seeds, divisions, or cuttings. Oregano seeds require some light to germninate, so cover only slightly with soil. Start seeds indoors and transplant when outdoor temperatures remain above 45 degrees Fahrenheit at night and soil temperatures are about 70 degrees.
You can also propagate oregano from cuttings at any time from spring to fall. Take 3 to 5 inch cuttings, making diagonal cuts just above a leaf node. Place the cuttings in a glass of water in a bright but not sunny location. When a good network of roots appear, plant the cuttings in a small pot filled with potting mix to grow onwards.
You can also divide plants at the root ball to make more plants. In early spring or fall, divide plants into segments when the centers begin to die out or the stems become too woody.
In cold winters, cut bacj=k 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.
Companion Planting for Oregano
If you're growing a mixed herb planter, make sure you pick out other herbs that have similar growing needs as oregano. Look for herbs with medium watering needs, like dry well draining soil and bright light. Herbs such as sage, thyme, and marjoram make good companion plants for oregano.
Pests and Diseases
Aphids, spider mites and leaf miners are common insect pests that may attack oregano plants. Insecticidal soap sprays can be used to kill these insects if they become infested. Mint rust is also another fungal disease that may plague oregano. Look for small orange, brown, or yellow pustules on the undersides of leaves. Try treating mint rust with fungicide, and if the damage is extensive, pull up and destroy affected plants.
Although oregano is grown as a culinary herb, it makes a nice edging plant and ground cover, requiring little maintenance. The smaller varieties also do well in rock and alpine gardens.
FAQs on How to Plant Oregano
How often should you water your oregano?
Oregano prefers well-drained, sandy soil and it is drought tolerant. Water the oregano plant lightly, allowing the top 1 to 2 inches of soil to dry out between waterings.
How long does oregano take to grow?
Oregano plants grow quickly and reach a height of 12 to 24 inches tall. Water during dry periods and fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer every two weeks.
Final Verdict on How to Plant Oregano
As you can see, growing oregano is not difficult, but it does require some patience. Keep the soil moist and provide support for the plant as it grows, and this herb will yield plenty of leaves to flavor your favorite Italian dishes.