Growing oregano at home couldn’t be easier. It grows well outside and indoors and requires very little maintenance! Add some oregano to your existing herb garden or start a new one, and enjoy fresh, fragrant oregano anytime.
Common oregano (Origanum vulgare) is native to the Mediterranean region and is part of the mint family. While there are many varieties of the Oreganum genus, oregano usually has small green leaves and produces clusters of delicate pink and white flowers. It’s also a perennial herb, meaning it will continue to grow each year in the right conditions.
Oregano is a staple herb in many cuisines. It has a strong, slightly bitter flavor and pairs well with tomato-based dishes, meats, and hearty soups! Let’s take a look at some tips for growing oregano at home.
Different Types of Oregano
Common oregano is the most popular choice for cooking. However, there are many different types of oregano to choose from. Most start out as a small clump of leaves but can grow into larger plants over time. Some popular varieties include:
- Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare var. hirtum): This is a variety of common oregano and is known for its strong earthy flavor.
- Golden oregano (Origanum vulgare var. aureum): This variety has a milder flavor but is prized for its golden leaves, which add a pop of color to any garden.
- Syrian oregano (Origanum syriacum): Native to the Middle East, this variety is commonly used to make za’atar – a popular spice blend in Arab cuisine.
Other herbs are referred to as ‘oregano’ but don’t actually belong to the Oreganum genus. These include Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) and Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus). The flavor and appearance of these herbs can differ from a true oregano plant, but they’re still delicious and worth trying in your cooking!
Oregano vs Marjoram
It’s easy to see why people often confuse these two herbs – they look and taste fairly similar. In fact, some refer to oregano as wild marjoram and marjoram as sweet oregano!
Both oregano and marjoram belong to the Oreganum genus but are different species. Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is characterized by its strong, pungent flavor, and marjoram (Origanum majorana) has a milder, sweeter taste. They also have different leaf shapes and sizes.
You can occasionally substitute one for the other in recipes, but it’s not always the best idea. The flavor profiles of these herbs are different enough that they can alter the taste of your dish.
Regardless, both herbs would make great additions to your window herb garden!
What Is the Best Month to Plant Oregano?
Oregano is a warm-weather herb that can be planted year-round in certain climates. However, the best time to plant oregano will depend on your location and the type of oregano you are planting.
Spring is usually the ideal time to plant oregano. If planting outdoors, you’ll want to wait for the last frost to pass. You can also start oregano from seeds indoors around 6-8 weeks before the last frost and then transplant outside.
For indoor herb gardens, you can plant oregano at any time if it has the right growing conditions.
How Long Does Common Oregano Take to Grow?
Germination can take 2-4 weeks when planting from seed, but once established, oregano grows quickly. Its growth rate will depend on factors such as sunlight, soil quality, and water.
Common oregano generally takes about 80-90 days to reach maturity. You can harvest the leaves once the plant is a few inches tall!
What Are the Best Growing Conditions for Oregano?
No matter where you plant oregano, certain growing conditions are essential for its success. These include:
Oregano thrives in the hot, dry climate it’s native to. This means it needs full sun and at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily to grow successfully. If planting indoors, place your oregano pot near a sunny window. Some varieties can benefit from afternoon shade, but in general, oregano needs plenty of sunlight to thrive.
This drought-tolerant herb prefers well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to alkaline pH (between 6.0 and 8.0). Avoid rich soil or too much organic matter, as it can alter the herb’s taste – loamy or sandy soil is best for oregano. Plant it in a raised bed or container if you have heavy or clay soil.
Oregano thrives in the ground or in pots, inside or outside. Just make sure it has access to at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Avoid planting oregano near large plants or trees as they may block the light.
Temperature and Humidity
While oregano is a warm-weather herb, it can tolerate a range of temperatures. The ideal temperature for growing this Mediterranean herb is around 60-80°F (15-27°C). Common oregano can even cope in temperatures as low as 10°F(-12°C), but cold temperatures below 20°F( -7°C) can stress the plant.
Oregano prefers low humidity, dry air, and good air circulation.
Choose a pot or container that drains well. It must have good drainage holes and be around 6-8 inches deep. Use a high-quality potting mix with good drainage to ensure optimal growth.
How to Grow Oregano
Oregano can be easily grown from seeds with a little patience and care. If you want to bypass the germination process, you can also buy young plants from a nursery!
Growing Oregano from Seed
- Buy some oregano seeds from a garden center or online. Make sure they’re labeled as ‘oregano’ and are from the correct genus – sometimes, other plants can be labeled incorrectly as oregano, as previously mentioned.
- Fill a seed tray with a good-quality potting mix and water it well before sowing the seeds.
- Sprinkle the seeds lightly on top of the soil. Oregano seeds need light to germinate, so don’t cover them with soil.
- Place the tray in a warm location (around 70°F/21°C). A propagator or sunny windowsill is ideal.
- Once the seedlings have grown to a few inches tall, transplant them into individual pots or containers.
- Harden the seedlings off before moving outside. Do this by gradually exposing them to outdoor temperatures for a few hours each day for a week.
- Plant the seedlings in your chosen location, leaving about 8-10 inches between plants.
Planting an Established Oregano Plant
- The new pot should be around 2 inches larger in diameter than the current one. If planting into the ground, dig a hole twice the size of the root ball.
- Dig around the base of the plant to loosen it from its current container.
- Carefully remove the plant from the pot, taking care not to break or damage the roots.
- Plant it at the same depth as it was in its previous location.
- Backfill the hole with a good-quality potting mix or soil.
- Water the plant well after planting to help settle the soil.
How to Propagate Oregano
Cuttings are also a great way to grow oregano! It’s the best option to ensure the same characteristics as the parent plant, such as flavor and aroma.
- Take a 4-6 inch cutting from an established oregano plant. Cut at an angle just above a leaf node.
- Remove the lower leaves, leaving only a few at the top.
- Fill a glass or jar with water and place the cutting inside. Don’t let the leaves touch the water.
- Place the glass in a warm, sunny spot and change the water every few days to prevent mold.
- In a few weeks, roots should begin to grow from the bottom of the stem cuttings. Once they’re at least 1 inch long, you can transfer the cutting into soil or plant directly in your garden.
Dividing a mature plant is another way to propagate it. It’s best done in spring when the plant is actively growing.
- Dig up the entire plant, being careful not to damage the roots.
- Gently shake off excess soil and use a sharp knife to divide the root balls into smaller sections.
- Each section should have a good amount of roots and at least one healthy stem.
- Water the new planting area thoroughly.
- Plant the divided sections in their new locations, ensuring they are at the same depth as they were previously.
5 Tips for Growing Oregano
Here are some additional tips to help you successfully grow oregano plants at home:
Water As Needed
Oregano is drought-tolerant once established in the ground. Newly planted oregano will need regular watering, around 1 inch per week. This is especially true throughout the first summer. After this, you can let the soil dry out a bit before watering again.
Container-grown oregano will need more frequent watering as the soil dries out faster.
Add a Layer of Mulch
Mulch is a great way to prevent weeds from growing around your oregano plant. Use an organic mulch, like cut grass, and spread it around the base of the plant. This will also help regulate soil temperature and protect the roots during colder months.
Save Fertilizer for Container Grown Oregano
Oregano loves poor soil conditions. When grown in the ground, there’s no need to fertilize, but container-grown oregano will need a little extra love. Use a balanced fertilizer in the early spring and again in mid-summer to keep your container-grown oregano healthy.
Look Out for Pests and Diseases
Oregano is generally pest-resistant, but it isn’t completely immune. Look out for aphids, cutworms, leafhoppers, and spider mites, and only use organic pest control methods.
Oregano can also be affected by fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and root rot. This is usually down to overwatering or poor drainage. Provide adequate air circulation around your plants and avoid getting the leaves wet when watering.
Pinch back the tips of your oregano plant regularly to promote bushier growth and prevent it from becoming leggy. Trim off any dead or damaged leaves to keep the plant healthy and remove any overly woody (older) stems to encourage new growth.
How to Harvest Oregano
You don’t have to wait long to harvest oregano! You can start harvesting the leaves as soon as they are large enough to use. Snip or gently pull off the outer leaves as needed. You can harvest up to one-third of the plant at a time, but always leave enough leaves for the plant to continue growing.
Oregano is most flavorful just before it flowers in the summer, so try to harvest before this happens.
How to Store Oregano
Oregano is delicious while fresh, but it’s even more flavorful when dried! You can also freeze oregano to preserve its flavor for even longer. Let’s look at how to store oregano in each of these ways:
Storing Oregano in the Refrigerator
- Wash and dry your oregano leaves thoroughly.
- Place them in a damp paper towel and store them in a plastic bag or container in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Fresh leaves will last for at least 2 weeks this way.
- Wash and dry your oregano leaves and remove them from the stems.
- Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid.
- Transfer the frozen leaves to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag and store them in the freezer for up to 12 months.
- Hang washed oregano stems upside down in a dry, airy location, such as a pantry or unused closet, or use an herb dehydrator.
- Store the dried leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for 6-12 months.
How to Use Oregano
Typically used in savory dishes, oregano can add a punch of flavor to many different recipes. Here are some of my favorite recipes that use oregano:
- Cowboy rib steak
- Greek lamb chops
- Garlic herb rice
- Balsamic strawberries
- Herbs de Provence chicken
- Easy steak seasoning
- Sheet pan sausage and veggies
- Herb butter salmon
- Garlic herb seasoning
Oregano is also commonly used in Italian, Mediterranean, and Mexican cuisines, so don’t be afraid to experiment and add it to your own favorite recipes!
Oregano is a perennial plant, meaning it will return every year if properly cared for! Take cuttings or divide the plant every 2-3 years to keep it healthy and productive. Oregano can also self-seed, so you may find new plants popping up around your garden!
Yes! Oregano is super easy to grow, so long as it has well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. It’s also drought-tolerant, making it a low-maintenance herb to have in your garden.
Oregano can be toxic to dogs if they eat a lot of it. Always consult a vet if you want to add any herbs to your furry friend’s diet!
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