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How to Grow Marjoram: The Complete Gardener’s Guide

Marjoram

Herb gardeners growing marjoram (Origanum majoricum) enjoy its fragrant and aromatic leaves which are highly valued for seasoning.

With the light combination of sunlight and well-draining soil, this aromatic perennial herb is easy to grow at home.

The aroma and flavor improve with drying and is similar to mild oregano, but noticeably sweeter. Chefs choose it for its robust flavor but gentler bite.

Marjoram is a cold-sensitive culinary herb in the mint family. It grows 1-2 feet tall and has square stems, gray-green leaves, and small white flowers borne in clusters.

Pot-sized plants are perfect for containers and can be grown indoors all year round. It also makes an attractive outdoor ground cover in the summer. This tender perennial is often grown as an annual.

 

Fun fact: During the middle ages, marjoram and oregano were widely used to flavor beer. Hops came along much later.

Botanical Name: Origanum majorana

Common Name: Marjoram, sweet marjoram

Family: Lamiaceae

Plant Type: Herbaceous, perennial herb

Hardiness Zones: 9 – 10 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Type: Sandy, loamy, well-drained

Soil pH: 6.5 – 7.5

Maturity: 70-90 days from seed

Height: 12 to 24 inches

Spacing: 8 to 12 inches apart

Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Caring for Marjoram

  • Attracts beneficial insects and butterflies; excellent in soups, sauces, salads, and meat dishes
  • Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost, then plant outdoors after soil and air temps have warmed
  • Grows in almost any type of soil with minimal watering
  • Start harvesting 5-6 weeks after transplanting
  • Prevent attacks from aphids, spider mites, and mildew by providing good air circulation

Marjoram Plant Care

Marjoram, commonly known as sweet marjoram, is an aromatic, perennial herb of the mint family that has been grown for generations across the Mediterranean and Western Asia.

It has a milder flavor than oregano and is frequently used to garnish salads, soups, and meat dishes.

Marjoram is a subtly colored shrub with thin, gray-green leaves and little, knot-like flowers along the stem that bloom in early summer and range in color from lilac to white.

It thrives in the ground or in containers, and you can use marjoram along with parsley, basil as part of your indoor garden in the kitchen.

Marjoram is best planted in spring, and it grows slowly to eventually become a spreading ground cover.

Light

Marjoram plants thrive in direct sunlight. Give them full sun, which means that they should get at least six hours of direct sunlight most days.

If you’re growing indoors, choose the window with the most light. To make sure the plant gets adequate sunlight, you can either leave it in one spot all day or ‘chase’ the light throughout the house at different times of the day by moving your plant around.

Soil

Marjoram grows best in sandy or loamy soil that drains well and is either slightly acidic or slightly alkaline in pH. The herb needs good drainage because it is prone to root rot.

Water

Keep the soil mildly damp but not saturated for young plants. 1 inch of water per week should suffice.

Established plants can withstand drought well, but you shouldn’t let the soil get completely dry. Avoid overhead watering, which can cause fungal growth.

Also, it’s recommended to water in the morning to give any wet leaves plenty of time to dry in the sun before dusk.

Temperature and Humidity

Marjoram plants thrive in mild Mediterranean climates with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit should be avoided as they’re not suitable for this aromatic herb.

Plus, marjoram doesn’t require high humidity and rather dislikes it.

Fertilizer

Although it’s not necessary to fertilize your marjoram, giving it regular feedings can encourage it to grow more lush and full.

If you decide to fertilize your plant, feed it a liquid blend made specifically for herbs once a month, as directed on the packaging.

Alternatively, you can boost the nutritional density of the plant’s soil by amending it with organic matter.

Pruning

To encourage bushy growth, pinch back the stems before the flowers show up. After that, as the marjoram starts to bloom, cut it down to the ground in order to encourage fresh growth of leaves that have a more robust flavor.

What’s the Difference Between Marjoram and Oregano?

As fellow members of the mint family, marjoram and oregano are closely related plants. They even resemble one another as bushes with small leaves.

However, oregano has a much stronger flavor and scent than marjoram. Marjoram is more sweet and flowery than oregano, which tends to be peppery and slightly bitter.

How to Plant and Grow Marjoram

Site Preparation

A member of the mint family, marjoram does well in containers, window boxes and garden beds. Plants prefer full sun and will grow in most types of soil with very little water. However, sandy fast-draining soil is best (watch our video How to Grow an Herb Garden).

Tip: Sweet marjoram will attract beneficial insects and butterflies when used as a border in the garden.

How to Plant Marjoram from Seeds

Start indoors under grow lamps 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Sow seeds just beneath the surface of the soil. Seeds will germinate in about 10 days.

Set the seedlings in the garden after all danger from frost has passed (see our article How to Plant Seedlings in the Garden). Space plants 10 inches apart in all directions.

If high humidity levels are a problem in your planting area, it is best to space plants further apart to encourage good air circulation. Begin harvesting 5-6 weeks after transplanting outdoors, or when plants are growing vigorously.

How to Harvest and Storage Marjoram

Harvest marjoram anytime after the plants are 3 inches tall. Harvesting herbs before the flowers open gives the best flavor.

Marjoram is highly aromatic and its taste improves with drying. To dry, tie the cuttings in small bundles and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated dark room.

When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them whole. Crush or grind just before use.

Common Pests and Plant Disease for Marjoram

A couple of the garden pests, including aphids and spider mites, are found attacking marjoram. Watch closely and take the following common sense, least-toxic approach to pest control:

  • Remove weeds and other garden debris to eliminate alternate hosts.
  • Discard severely infested plants by securely bagging and putting in the trash.
  • Release commercially available beneficial insects to attack and destroy insect pests.
  • Spot treat pest problem areas with neem oil or other organic pesticide.

To prevent or reduce plant diseases, many of which are characterized by wilting, spots and rotted tissue, we recommend the following:

  • Avoid overhead watering whenever possible (use soaker hoses or drip irrigation)
  • Properly space plants to improve air circulation
  • Apply copper spray or sulfur dust to prevent further infection

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One Response to “How to Grow Marjoram: The Complete Gardener’s Guide”

  1. Rebecca on July 18th, 2018 at 10:33 am #

    I grow sweet marjoram in a container outside in middle Tennessee. The plant is healthy overall but some of the leaves have whitish dots on them. Is this characteristic of the older leaves or is this a disease? I dehydrate most of my herbs before winter. Appreciate any help.
    Rebecca

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