Growing Oregano

Oregano is a half hardy perennial with small green leaves and purple (sometimes pinkish) flowers. It reaches a height of 12 to 18 inches. The common term 'oregano' can refer to a number of plants, some of which have very little flavor. The Greek oregano (Vulgare hirtum) is considered the most flavorful for cooking purposes, although Italian oregano is also used. I should add here that marjoram is also in the oregano family of herbs, although we will deal with it separately.

Growing Oregano

Oregano likes early sun with partial afternoon shade. It thrives in rich, well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline. An old adage about oregano and marjoram is that the richer the soil, the more flavorful the plant. Oregano is a favorite of butterflies. It can spread out and start to get untidy looking as it matures, so keep it trimmed back, and prune it back by at least half before the first hard frost.

Propagating Oregano

Oregano can be propagated from seed in spring, but it's a slow starter. I prefer to divide my plants or take root cuttings in spring to early summer.

Growing Oregano Indoors

You can grow oregano indoors, but protect it from strong afternoon sun. It enjoys a more alkaline soil and good drainage. Most indoor herbs need little fertilizer, but oregano enjoys regular nourishment.

Harvesting Oregano

Harvest oregano anytime from mid spring through late fall. It is particularly well suited to drying and retains its flavor well. It makes a good base for dried herb wreaths, swags, and arrangements, but harvest stems before they flower.

Uses for Oregano

An essential ingredient in Greek and Italian cooking, oregano does double duty as a therapeutic tea that will help you get to sleep.

It's also an herb that can help relieve the pain of a toothache. Just chew a small sprig for a few seconds and then place the herb near the problem tooth.

Oregano is one of my favorite starter plants, and I recommend it often to beginners. Fresh or dried, it will enhance your favorite pasta or pizza sauce, and getting used to snipping it fresh from the garden is a great way to get hooked on growing your own herbs.


  1. Anonymous10:02:00 AM

    Hey, that is a very good tip. I thought only peppermint leaves can help to relieve toothache.
    Nice blog with good information!.
    Care to visit mine. PJ Nursery

  2. Hello there! Would you mind looking at my plant? I was told it was Oregano, but now I read in your entry that Oregano is supposed to have small leaves. The leaves on my plant are huge.

  3. Hey Chris,

    You may have Cuban oregano, a newer offering on the herb scene - for me, anyway. You can find a picture of it here:


  4. Hi Sara! That's my guess too. It's the only type of oregano that seems to resemble my plant.

    In your experience is it a slow growing plant? I've had mine for a couple of weeks now and it looks exactly like when I bought it.

  5. Chris,

    I don't have this variety of oregano and some of the info I'm seeing is contradictory. It looks like Cuban oregano is a pretty slow grower though and not frost tolerant.

  6. Thanks Sara! You know I read that Oregano can be quite confusing and that there are lots of non-Oregano that are being sold as Oregano.


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