Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
About This Herb
Oregano is an essential herb for any gardener who likes to cook Italian, Greek or Mexican cuisine. This flavorful herb is enjoyed fresh or dried for its leaves that have a pungent and powerful peppery flavor. The plant is a bushy perennial in warm climates, and its flowers are especially attractive to bees and other insects.
How to Grow Oregano
In our region, oregano is typically planted in an herb garden, but it makes for a nice ornamental plant, too. Hardy to our zone, oregano can take some frost, so it’s a good three season plant from early spring until fall. Oregano also grows well in containers.
Locate a sunny spot for planting oregano. Gardeners can choose whether to amend the soil to create a rich, well-drained soil for oregano. Once established, oregano is an herb that doesn’t need pampering and prefers soil that’s on the dry side to keep roots healthy.
Plant oregano seeds indoors in early spring or outside once the spring weather has warmed. Read seed packets carefully for planting instructions. Oregano has tiny seeds that need contact with the soil, but some varieties don’t need to be covered. Keep soil moist with a light sprinkling, but don’t dislodge the seeds. Be patient, seeds may take 2-3 weeks to sprout.
A faster alternative is to plant oregano transplants. Be sure to acclimate them to the warm spring weather before planting. Dig a planting hole as deep as the container and firm soil around plant roots. Keep soil moist; a layer of organic mulch will help maintain moisture and keep weeds down.
Oregano is a low-maintenance plant. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings. Pinch back plants to encourage branching and be sure to use the leaves in recipes.
An occasional fertilizing through the summer with a general-purpose fertilizer will keep plants green and healthy.
Keep harvesting oregano leaves as plants are growing and before plants start to bloom in summer. The leaves are most flavorful after plants have had a chance to grow into mid-summer. For a big harvest, cut plants down, leaving the last several inches of stem and lowest set of leaves.
An alternative is to let plants bloom to attract bees and other pollinators into the garden.
How to use Oregano in the Kitchen
Oregano can be used fresh, dried or even frozen. Use dried oregano in pizza and spaghetti sauces, mix into scrambled eggs, sprinkle on top of meat dishes, use it to flavor soups and stews. Fresh oregano adds new character to ordinary green salads and steamed vegetables.
Companion Plants for Oregano
Plant oregano with these companions:
- Other herbs like basil, thyme, parsley, mint, and marjoram
- In the ornamental garden with flowering perennials
Materials for Oregano Success
- Watering can and soaker hose
- High-quality compost
- Potting soil and containers
- Oregano seeds or transplants