Oregano is a well-known culinary herb often found in Italian cuisine, which is probably the reason why it’s nicknamed the “pizza herb.” Lavender, pink, or white flowers emerge in mid-summer through early fall and are considered decorative as well as attractive to pollinators. Leaves of this Mediterranean native are spade shaped, under 2″ long, and olive in color. Reaching heights of 1–2 feet, it’s a perennial in warm climates but is more often grown as an annual or a container plant in climates below USDA Zone 7.
Common oregano is a more mild-tasting variety of this herb, which makes it a less common choice when it comes to cooking; the small, fresh leaves, however, will still add flavor to dishes, so don’t rule this variety out! Outside of its uses in the kitchen, this low-growing variety also produces beautiful white and pink flowers that make it a lovely groundcover crop.
Seed Depth: Press into soil surface.
Space Between Plants: 6–8″
Space Between Rows: 24″
Germination Soil Temperature: 70°F
Days for Germination: 5–14
Sow Indoors: 6–8 weeks before average last frost date.
Sow Outdoors: 2–4 weeks after average last frost date through as late as 8 weeks before average first frost date.
Vegetative: Commonly propagated by taking stem cuttings. Cut off stems 3 to 5″ in height and remove all of the leaves from the bottom inch of the stem. Place in a potting mix and amend with rooting hormone if desired. Keep soil moist and place cuttings in a humid area of the house until roots have begun to grow. Following root production, transplant or move to a larger pot.
Grows best in a moderate climate and will remain green year-round in USDA Zones 8 and higher. Native to the Mediterranean area, it will not survive extremely cold winters and will do best with winter protection, such as mulching with straw, if grown as a perennial in Zones 7 and below.
Natural: Full sun. Prefers partial afternoon shade in warm weather.
Artificial: Will grow well under fluorescent or HID lamps.
Soil: Prefers well-drained sandy or loamy soils. A pH of between 6.5 and 7.0 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Plants will grow in most soilless media including rockwool, soilless mixes, perlite, vermiculite, and coco coir.
Hydroponics: Thrives in a variety of hydroponic systems, including a media bed system using perlite.
Water: Requires low to moderate levels of water.
Nutrients: Requires moderate levels of nutrients. Apply a well-balanced organic fertilizer once per year to perennial plants in the spring.
Foliar: Will benefit from foliar feedings of calcium and magnesium every couple of weeks.
Pruning: For perennial plants, remove dead branches and cut back to 1/3 of its size in late spring to promote branching. When plants are just starting, pinch the growing tips to encourage a bushier plant.
Companions: Grow with broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower to repel pests. Also a good companion for grapes.
Harvest: Harvest leaves by snipping a whole stem above its lowest set of leaves, starting once the plant is a least 6″ tall. Frequent harvests will promote new growth.
Storage: Fresh leaves can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Dried leaves should be kept in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.
Fun Fact: Although commonly associated with Italian cuisine, it’s more likely that this herb originated in Greece: its name is of Greek origin and means “joy/delight of the mountains.”
Preserve: Leaves can be dried for later use by hanging upside down by the stems in a warm, dry location. The flavor can intensify after drying, so be careful when using dried leaves in cooking.
Prepare: This herb has been around for ages and is incorporated into a broad variety of cuisines. Mostly used fresh and raw, just snap off a stem and remove the leaves, giving them a quick rinse before adding them to your dish. Oregano is commonly paired with tomato-based sauces and used in Italian dishes, but it also pairs well with spicy dishes.
Nutritional: Provides dietary fiber, vitamin K, manganese, and calcium. Also a good source of antioxidants.
Medicinal: Considered to have antibacterial proprieties. Its high antioxidant activity may provide anti-cancer benefits. Has been used to lower cholesterol levels, treat bacterial infections and respiratory disorders, for menstrual cramps, arthritis, heartburn, cough, and headaches, and to aid digestion. Topical use includes the treatment of acne, athlete’s foot, warts, insect bites, and toothaches. Oregano oil can even be used for an all-natural insect repellent.
For a summertime garden treat, make this Zucchini with Fresh Garlic and Oregano.