Growing Oregano at Home

Growing Oregano at Home

Oregano is a fragrant, flowering perennial herb from the mint family that will add beauty anywhere it’s grown and great flavor to any recipes it’s added to. Oregano is a trailing herb plant that grows best in a container so it can spill over the sides or planted as a ground cover in climates that have mild winter weather. Although there are many varieties/cultivars of oregano grown for ornamental or culinary purposes, but the one we are mainly referring to here is the common “wild marjoram” oregano (Origanum vulgare). However you choose to grow it, use these tips for growing oregano at home, so you can have healthy, productive plants.

Sunny Location

Oregano hails from the sunny Mediterranean region, so don’t be surprised that it is a sun lover. For location, select a sunny location, either outdoors or on a sunny windowsill. For growing zones 7-10 select a location that will provide the plants with shade in the afternoon. Although oregano is a hardy evergreen perennial herb plant in growing zones 5 and higher, but below zone 4, it should be brought indoors for the winter.

oregano herb
Oregano, the humble herb with many benefits.

Soil Requirements

Oregano needs well-draining, nutrient-rich soil with a neutral pH of 6.5-7. Working compost into the soil before planting seeds will increase fertility and neutralize acidity. The compost will also help soil retain moisture and prevent compaction. Wood ash may be used for this.

While oregano is not demanding when it comes to soil requirements, the soil needs to be well drained. If the soil is not well drained, you can create raised beds to improve drainage.

oregano blooms
The blooms of oregano serve as a bee and butterfly magnet.

Planting Seeds

Oregano is generally planted in the spring after all frosts have passed. Wait until the soil has warmed up in mid-spring before planting seeds outdoors. Seeds can be planted in containers and kept indoors in a warm location at any time of the year.

Prepare soil in an outdoor bed or container. Place seeds 8-inches apart on top of soil. Mist with water and cover with 1/4-inch of soil or compost. Mist with water again to saturate soil. Keep the soil moist at all times but don’t overwater. Cover the container with cheesecloth to help hold in moisture. Place the container in a sunny, warm location. The oregano seeds will germinate in 10-15 days.

Besides growing from seed, oregano can be grown from cuttings. When taking cuttings from oregano, cut stems about 3-5 inches long. Cut the stems just above a node, which is the point where leaves sprout. You can remove the leaves from the lower 2/3 of the stem and only leave the leaves near the top of the stem. The stems can then be rooted in shallow water before planting. Once the cuttings develop roots about 1-2 inches long (after about 2 weeks), transfer them over to soil.

oregano herbs with frost
Oregano is able to withstand some frost in Zones 5-10, but not harsh, freezing cold climates.

Common Pests

Oregano is a hardy plant with few pests; however, there are a few that commonly target it. Aphids and spider mites may be a problem in some cases. Use the homemade pesticides suggested here to get rid of them. For other cases where it is impossible to get rid of the pests, such as leaf miners, plucking off the affected leaves will do.

Harvest Time

Oregano can grow to over 2 feet tall when fully grown. Harvest oregano any time after the plant is 6-inches tall. Use scissors to cut back stems to just above a node or set of leaves on the stem. This encourages new growth of leaves. Harvest the herb often to promote new growth.

The flavor of oregano will be at its peak in mid-summer just before it blooms, when the flower buds have formed. Oregano flavor is more intense when the plant is dried, but it can be frozen or stored in the refrigerator.

For drying, you can either pull off the leaves and dry them separately, or dry the whole stem first and then take out the leaves later. Follow the tips here on drying and preserving herbs.

dried oregano
A spoonful of dried oregano.

Health Benefits

I just love oregano for its wonderful scent and great health benefits. Oregano has a long list of health benefits which have been validated throughout its long history of use. Among them include being a strong natural immune system booster. The scent of oregano is said to induce sleep and deep feelings of relaxation, while being beneficial for the lungs at the same time.

Feeling a cold or flu come on? Have some oregano oil, which is the oil extracted from the leaves and stems of the plant. The main compound of oregano oil is carvacrol (with lesser amounts of thymol), which has potent antibiotic, antioxidant, and antifungal properties. Oregano oil also helps with digestion and enhances gut health. It is also believed to have anti-cancer properties as well as aid in weight loss. Now that is an impressive list of health benefits!

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