Herbs taste better when you grow them yourself, pick them at their peak, and use them in your kitchen 30 seconds later. There is no comparing freshly harvested oregano to store-bought packages that spent the last two weeks in a refrigerated cooler or truck.
Oregano is a staple in many recipes. Seafood, chicken, pasta dishes, salads, you name it. Having an abundance of fresh oregano to use when you like is a simple luxury that is within reach of even those gardening on an apartment balcony.
Oregano grows well in containers and even indoors if given enough light. If you have a little space, you can propagate your oregano and enjoy a nearly endless supply forever.
Oregano is also loved by small pollinators like native bees and butterflies, and makes a pretty addition to your cut flower vases later in summer. Don’t let the the oregano you intend to use in the kitchen flower, as the taste may become slightly bitter.
When harvesting, cut an entire stem and strip the leaves. To dry extra oregano, hang bundles upside down in your kitchen for a couple of weeks. Rub the leaves onto a sheet of wax paper and pour them into a jar to keep for use in the winter.
- Types of oregano
- Ways to Propagate Oregano
- How To Grow Oregano From Cuttings
- To Root Oregano Cuttings In Soil:
- How To Root Oregano Cuttings in Water
- How To Grow Oregano From Seed
- Tips For Growing Oregano
- Pinch and Snip Your Oregano Often
- Soil, Sunlight, and Fertilizer Needs of Oregano
- Growing Oregano in Containers
Types of oregano
There are several different types of oregano, and it can get confusing. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.
Origanum vulgare var. hirtum is the botanical name for greek oregano. It is also sometimes called common oregano. Greek oregano is the most often called for variety in recipes. It has a bolder taste, larger leaves, and thicker stems. If you only want to grow one oregano, go for Greek.
Milder than Greek oregano, this variety has smaller leaves and thinner stems. The aroma is not as pronounced, and the flavor is less robust.
Not a true oregano, Lippia graveolens is a small shrub with leaves that have a similar, spicy taste. It is native to hot, dry areas of the Southwest and Mexico.
Oregano cultivars are available that are uniquely colored or bred for flowering. Like decorative basil varieties, these are usually meant to provide colorful foliage, but some have unique flavor profiles.
Ways to Propagate Oregano
Oregano grown from cuttings will be identical to the mother plant. Buying a new plant at the garden center is a guess. Will the flavor be the same? Will it be as cold as hardy?
I have a tasty oregano plant that is the only one out of a dozen that survived–and thrived–my cold winters. Propagating it via cuttings ensures I get new plants with the same traits.
How To Grow Oregano From Cuttings
Oregano can be rooted in soil or in water, whichever you prefer. Both work well.
To Root Oregano Cuttings In Soil:
- Select a piece of stem with at least three sets of leaves (nodes).
- Make a cut with sharp scissors or secateurs.
- Strip the leaves from the bottom nodes, leaving only the top set. The stripped nodes are where roots will develop. Use the stripped leaves to cook with.
- Moisten the end of the stem and dip it in a powdered rooting hormone. You can skip this step with oregano if you don’t have any rooting hormone on hand.
- Stick the cutting in the medium. Multiple cuttings can be stuck in close proximity to each other.
- Lightly firm up your starting medium around the stems and place them in a location with bright but indirect sunlight.
- Keep the potting medium slightly moist but not soggy.
- In about 3 weeks, you can check the progress of your new oregano roots by gently giving the stem a little tug. New growth is also an indicator of roots forming.
Check on the oregano starts weekly. Once the new roots have reached the bottom of the cell, they are ready to pot up into 6-inch pots or 1-quart containers and grow out.
Don’t forget to harden them off if you have been rooting them in the house. In nice weather, mine sit outside against the north wall where they get shelter from the sun and wind.
How To Root Oregano Cuttings in Water
Oregano cuttings root easily in water. This is my favorite method because I just plop them in and forget about them for a while.
- Take your cuttings as above and remove the leaves from the bottom 3 nodes.
- Place them in a jar filled halfway with clean, chlorine-free water. No foliage should be underwater. Ideally, 2-3 nodes from each cutting will be submerged.
- Put the container in a warm spot with indirect light and change the water weekly.
In about 2-3 weeks, you should notice fine roots developing. Wait until the new white roots are an inch long before gently transplanting them into moist potting soil. Harden them off before exposing them to direct sunlight.
How To Grow Oregano From Seed
Oregano is cooperative to grow from seed, which may be your only option if your local garden center does not carry other varieties. Plan ahead. You’ll want to start these seeds about 10 weeks before your last frost date. Grow lights will likely be required to produce healthy, vigorous seedlings.
- Prepare your seed trays or seed blocks. Use any seed starting mix as long as it is well-drained. If in doubt, add some perlite. Pre-moisten the soil.
- Sow one or two seeds per cell. Just lay the seeds on top. Oregano seeds need light to germinate, so don’t bury them.
- Mist the surface, cover with a humidity dome or plastic wrap, and place in a bright, warm location.
Oregano seeds will usually sprout in one to two weeks at room temperature. If your soil is cool, it will take longer.
Even though oregano is a Mediterranean plant, the seedlings do not want to be left to dry out. While they are young and in a small space, they will need regular watering.
Tips For Growing Oregano
If your climate is warm, usually zone 5 or higher, oregano will likely be a perennial in your garden. If you location is colder or you are growing a less cold-hardy variety, it can be brought inside for the winter. Don’t let it dry out, and give it someplace sunny.
Pinch and Snip Your Oregano Often
Frequent harvesting will keep your oregano from getting woody, and give you something to cook with. Established oregano plants can be harvested several times a year. Cut just above a leaf node and strip the leaves in the kitchen if using them fresh, or hang the stems in bunches to dry.
New plants should be pinched when they are about 4 inches tall to encourage branching. Leaving them to grow unpinched results in tall, spindly plants that will take longer to bush out.
Soil, Sunlight, and Fertilizer Needs of Oregano
- Oregano needs excellent drainage. It just will not tolerate heavy, wet, swampy conditions. This plant is native to the Mediterranean and likes those dry, dusty, stony sites.
- Sandy loam is an ideal soil for oregano. If the fertile is rich and full of humus and other good stuff, the oregano will grow, but like grapes, it will lose some of its vibrant flavors. Put it in a spot where you have not yet got around to ‘fixing’ the soil.
- Oregano likes full sunlight but will grow in partial sun. If you bring it inside for the winter, it may need a supplemental grow light during the short, dark days, even if you have a sunny window. Oregano will enjoy a bit of afternoon shade in areas with scorching summers.
Growing Oregano in Containers
Oregano grows well in a planter and makes an excellent foliage display when planted together with sage and rosemary. I plant them together in a pot every year and call it my ‘chicken herbs’ planter.
Avoid These Mistakes When Growing Oregano In Containers
- Too much water: while your oregano growing in a container will need to be watered, let the soil dry a bit between waterings. Use your finger to dig down an inch or two and test the soil. Don’t water until it is dry to your first knuckle.
- Letting it dry out: wanting to be a little dry is not the same as never being watered. Like other Mediterranean herbs, oregano in the garden is drought tolerant once it has a large, expansive root system. However, in a pot on your patio or indoors, it can’t reach down deep for water, so it will need more frequent attention.
If you notice a little droop or wilt, increase the watering frequency. Watering deeply once is better than watering a little several times.
Oregano is easy to grow and an excellent herb to learn to propagate. Harvesting loads of fresh and home-dried oregano will also step up your game in the kitchen.
Tell us how you love to use your oregano in the comments below.