Both culinary and decorative, oregano is one of the most rewarding herbs to grow.
Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 80-95 days from seed
Height: 18 to 30 inches
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows
Available in several varieties and cultivars — with each offering its own unique flavor — growing oregano (Origanum) is popular with many home gardeners. Native to the Mediterranean, these attractive plants do well tucked in rock gardens and terraces and thrive in containers or pots.
Culinary oregano has a nice earthy flavor that makes it the perfect addition to many Italian, Spanish and Mexican dishes. Perennial plants grow 18-30 inches tall and are hardy to zone 5.
A member of the mint family, oregano is very easy to grow and requires little water. Sandy soil is best, but the plant is not fussy and will grow in almost any garden conditions. It thrives in full sun (leaves may lose flavor when grown in shade) and a location sheltered from high winds. Most species can tolerate a moderate freeze. Mulch over the plant with organic compost, leaves or straw if winters are severe (watch How to Grow an Herb Garden — video).
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How to Plant:
Propagate from seed, nursery stock or from rooted cuttings. If you choose to grow oregano from seeds, which are slow to germinate, sow indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Set the seedlings in the garden after all danger from frost has passed (see How to Plant Seedlings in the Garden). Space plants 1-2 feet apart in beds or rows. If high humidity levels are a problem in your planting area, it is best to space plants further apart to encourage good air circulation.
Tip: To encourage longevity, cut oregano back almost to the ground at the end of the planting season.
Flowering doubles the concentration of oil in oregano leaves, so for the strongest flavor do NOT harvest until the plants produce flowers. Non-flowering varieties should be harvested in late spring, as the oil concentrations rise steadily and then decline. The new growth is the most flavorful.
To dry, tie cuttings in small bundles and hang upside down in a well-ventilated, dark room. When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store whole. Crush or grind just before use. Read more about Harvesting and Preserving Herbs here.
Insects and Disease:
Watch for spidermites, leafminers and aphids, especially on plants grown in pots. If pests are found, apply organic solutions when necessary. Prevent rust disease by removing weeds and pruning plants to improve air circulation. Apply plant fungicides – copper or sulfur — when symptoms first appear.
Seed Saving Instructions: