Growing Oregano

growing oregano in the garden

image source: iStock.com

In the Garden

Oregano is a great plant to grow in a container.

Growing oregano in a container will help control it from spreading.


Oregano, an herb with a robust scent and flavor, loves to grow in pots where it can spill over an edge of a pot or low wall. However, its trailing growth also makes it a good seasonal ground cover, or it can serve as a nice edging along a path. In late summer, enjoy Greek or Italian oregano’s white flowers against its bright-green leaves. Grow oregano in an herb garden or in containers.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Oregano stems need to be trimmed back to control this spreading plant.

Pinch or trim the stems of oregano regularly to keep the plant bushy and tender.

Oregano prefers a sunny spot; however, in zone 7 and farther south, it benefits from a little afternoon shade. Set plants in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. Most herbs don’t like much fertilizer; feed occasionally with Bonnie Herb, Vegetable & Flower Plant Food throughout the growing season and always in early spring as the new season begins. Oregano spreads easily; in late spring, cut it back to one-third of its size in order to make the plant bushier. In milder climates (zone 8 and southward), oregano is evergreen. In zone 7 and northward, protect plants with mulch through the winter, or cover them with a cold frame. Small plants in containers can be moved indoors for the winter. Cut out dead stems in the spring before the plants begin new growth.

Troubleshooting

Oregano is easy to grow in full sun and the right soil.

Your oregano plant will take off in a sunny spot with good growing conditions.

Root rot, spider mites, and aphids can all attack oregano. Be sure oregano is well drained to prevent disease, and pick off any browning or spotted foliage. In the garden it is easy to mistake an oregano plant for look-alike sweet marjoram, although the two are easily distinguished by their flavors and scents.

Harvest and Storage

Before it flowers in summer, oregano grows taller in the garden.

Both Greek and Italian oregano produce white blooms in summer. This plant stretches tall as it gets ready to bloom.

Harvest plants often for continued new growth. Begin by snipping sprigs of oregano as soon as the plant is several inches tall. The flavor of oregano is most intense in mid-summer, just before it blooms, making this the best time to harvest leaves for drying. This herb is stronger dried than fresh. For a big harvest, cut the stems just above the plant’s lowest set of leaves; this encourages new growth for the next cutting in late summer. Oregano leaves may be dried, frozen, or refrigerated.

Uses

The “secret” ingredient in Aunt Bee’s spaghetti sauce, oregano adds deep flavor to Italian or Greek dishes, meat, fish, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, and vegetables such as beans and zucchini. A light sprinkling over a green salad before dressing it is a tasty enhancement. Oregano does not hold up well to prolonged cooking when used fresh, so add fresh leaves at the end of the cooking process or use dried leaves for sauces or anything that requires lengthy simmering. Dried oregano flower stalks may be used in craft-making (e.g. wreaths).

Download our How to Grow Herbs instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

My oregano looks bad after a hot, dry summer. Can I cut it back?

Yes, please do. Like most herbs oregano responds nicely to trimming. First, cut away all the dead stems. The long stems with leaves only at the ends can be cut in half. The new growth will appear as new branches from the portions of the stems that remain, as well as from the crown of the plant. Fertilize in early spring before growth begins. Use compost, dehydrated manure, or a liquid fertilizer like Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. If you are still in the first half of the growing season, a time-release fertilizer will keep plants growing for the remainder of the season.

How do I freeze my oregano?

Freezing oregano (as well as other winter-dormant herbs such as dill, marjoram, basil, fennel, chives, or tarragon) is a simple matter of putting cut leaves and tender stems in a food processor with enough olive oil to moisten them. Run the processor until the leaves are chopped, but not blended. Spoon this mixture into small plastic freezer containers or ice trays. Label well, because one frozen green herbal mass looks and smells like the next! When a recipe calls for oregano, chip a bit of oregano from the corner of the block in the container with a knife. Use as you would the fresh herb.

I can’t really taste the fresh oregano I’m adding to my recipes. What am I doing wrong?

It is possible that flavor is being lost during cooking, so you might add some fresh leaves near the end of the process. Also, due to the shrinkage of herbs as they dry, you will need to triple the amount of fresh oregano that you are substituting in a recipe calling for dried herbs. This is true for most herbs, with the exception of bay leaves.

19 Comments

Vicky Farrally

Were do you get fennel plants. cant fine them on your web site thank you. and how do they grow.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Vicky,
Fennel may not be available in your local stores from Bonnie Plants, but I am sure you can find them either by seed packets or as plants in home garden stores. There are different varieties of fennel. You can read about their growth habit, here. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Cheryl Peters

Rural King in Hamilton carries the fennel from Bonnie Plants

Sue T.

I live in south-central PA. Just started growing your greek oregano last summer. It is currently in an 8″ dia. pot. What is the ideal size pot to transplant it to and what is the best material for the pot to be made from to leave the plant out all year ? Thank You.

Danielle Carroll

Great questions, Sue.
Most herbs will grow well in a 14″ diameter pot. You can also grow several together in larger containers like strawberry jars. What Are Pots Made Of is a great article on the Bonnie Plants website that gives you the ins and outs of common types of pots. I would shy away from those that might crack in a freeze (if you live in an area with cold winters) like clay. -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Kitty

Yes, I was wondering if there was any way Oregano can have babies – or any other way to start a new plant. My mom bought your plant about 5 years ago, and I am just getting to a place of my own, and I was wanting something homegrown that I could plant and it would grow just fine.

Danielle Carroll

Congratulations on your new home, Kitty!
You can take soft wood cuttings to propagate oregano. Here are some details from Mother Earth Living. It will take a while for the cuttings to root and grow into a new plant. Good Luck! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Peggy M

In the past, I’ve had no trouble keeping my oregano plants mounded, as I was forever cutting it for use or drying it. However, this past year, I have learned my lesson.

Due to a car accident, my final cutting process did not occur for the fall/winter. My first trip to my herb garden this year shows how prolific this plant can be when not controlled. In just a few short months, it has almost taken over my garden. I am now preparing other areas of my yard to accept this wonderful plant…but only in contained areas!

Mary Beth

Hi Peggy,
Your oregano sounds very happy. I wonder what region of the country you’re in? It sounds like you (luckily) love oregano, so I’m glad you have it in abundance. Maybe other gardeners will chime in with their experiences. Happy Spring. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Renee

I am trying to rescue a container grown greek oregano, and much of the plant is brown, dried stems. I started trimming them, but there are so many, I’m wondering if I should just cut the whole thing back. Will it come back if I do?
Thanks!

Danielle Carroll

Hi Renee,
I usually remove a 1/3 of the oregano plant in the late Spring so it will start growing back fuller. If most of the container oregano is brown, you can try cutting back when the spring weather arrives and fertilizing well to promote good,healthy growth.
-Danielle

Lynn

I live in northern Connecticut and I just noticed that my Oregano is green and there are new plants growing! Can anyone explain this!

Mary Beth

Hi Lynn,
Sounds like your soil is warming up and the perennial plants are ready for Spring. Keep a good layer of mulch or leaf compost around your plants to regulate the soil temperature so they don’t put on too much tender growth as a new Winter freeze comes along. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

tricia

In metro west suburbs of Boston, I have strong smelling oregano growing in November, after many frosts and one light snow storm. How is this possible?

Mary Beth

Hi Tricia,
It sounds like a lucky break. Perhaps your placement of the plant has it slightly protected, maybe near a warm brick wall or facing south with a wind barrier around it? However it’s possible, enjoy it while you can. As you know, it will typically die back over winter and can use a little protection, such as putting winter cuttings of leaves or branches over it to break the cold wind and heavy snows. Use it on your table this Thanksgiving! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

ms. m. screechfield

hi I live in northern ca. and you know how cold it can get I’m growing single stem oregano plants I have about 6 little tree’s they are beautiful they are in the ground next to the mother plant but would like to put a couple of them in redwood box’s will use veggie mix a well draining material but would like to know if I should bring them in when it gets cold they are my babies ha, thanks marjorie s.

Mary Beth

Hello Marjorie,
They sound very pretty, though I’m not sure what oregano trees are! Would love to see a photo. The cold hardiness of oregano depends on the variety you are growing, as mentioned in this Southern Living article. Do you know what you have? If not, perhaps it’s better to play it safe and bring your “babies” indoors for the freeze. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Emily

Several months ago I purchased your greek oregano and planted it in a 7 gallon pot.

It’s now overflowing, and has a ton of white flowers growing out everywhere, but the oregano doesn’t really have that nice oregano smell or taste.

Should I cut back the flowers? Also, they are pretty but do they have any culinary value to them (garnish, etc) and can they be dried and used like the leaves?

And last but definitely not least- is there anything I can do to give my oregano stronger flavor? I know with basil you keep it from bolting. If I cut off all the flowers will it help the plant focus on its foliage?

Thanks!

Mary Beth

Hi Emily,
Thanks for writing! It sounds like your oregano, if flowering, is past the ideal point for harvest. Right before it blooms, the leaves have the most intense flavor. As you would expect, the energy then goes into the buds and flowers. As you are reading this article, did you see the tabs for “Troubleshooting” and “Harvest/Storage” and the Frequently Asked Questions (one about how and when to cut it back)? Some of your questions are answered within those gray tabs. And as for flowers, anything is a pretty garnish on the plate, though I don’t believe they can be used for flavoring like the leaves–it will be very mild. Go ahead and trim that oregano up and let us know how it grows! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Comments are closed.