Types of marjoram

There is often a lot of confusion around different sorts of oregano and marjoram and names are often used to refer to more than one type of plant. There are three types of marjoram that are commonly grown, wild marjoram (also called oregano in some parts of the world), pot marjoram and sweet or knotted marjoram. Marjoram will be grown as an annual in most gardens since it is a Mediterranean plant and will not usually survive a harsh winter – though some varieties will survive in the roots and regrow in the spring. Fresh and dried, marjoram can add depth and variety to your cooking.

Growing marjoram:

Marjoram, as a Mediterranean plant, is fairly tolerant of neglect and will thrive even in poor, low fertility soils but it will require a sheltered site in full sun. Soil must be well-draining and though the plants are fairly sturdy they cannot cope with waterlogged or very heavy soils. Marjoram can be grown either in a suitable spot in the garden or in a pot on a sunny windowsill.

If sowing seeds outside, seeds are best sown in spring in a well-prepared seed bed. Plant seeds around 15cm apart at a depth of around 2cm in April. After around 2-3 weeks you can thin seedlings to around 30cm apart to give them space to grow to their full size. Alternatively, sow seeds into small pots in March and pot up to 30cm pots in May. Grit can be added to pots to make sure there are no problems with drainage. Care should be taken not to let seedlings dry out, but equally, young plants should not be overwatered. In general, marjoram is fairly drought tolerant.

Wild marjoram (oregano) is most commonly used as a dried herb. Pick the leaves on a dry day and put them somewhere warm to dry. When the leaves are crumbly, crush them up. The dried leaves can be stored in an airtight container and will keep their flavour for up to six months. Sweet or knotted marjoram, on the other hand, is more frequently used as a fresh herb and so should simply be harvested as and when you require them for use in the kitchen.

Why grow marjoram in the garden?

In terms of flavour for effort, marjoram is a good herb to grow in the garden. Just a few harvested leaves will add oomph to your cooking. Marjoram is a good addition to a number of dishes, including Italian favourites like pizza and pasta.

Marjoram can give good ground cover. It grows well alongside other oregano varieties though may cross-pollinate so should be kept separate if you wish to save the seeds. It will also grow well with all other Mediterranean herbs with which it is found in the wild. Marjoram can also be used as a companion plant for tomatoes and peppers as it not only helps, as an understory, to retain moisture but also attracts insects which prey on pests.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Origanum majorana