Oregano is a popular culinary herb that is often used in Italian, Spanish and Mexican cooking. While many of us will be more used to seeing this versatile herb in its dried form, the taste of fresh oregano can enhance many dishes. Greek oregano, as it is often called, will grow quite happily in many gardens, though as it is a half-hardy annual it will not usually survive a harsh winter. There are a variety of different oregano types, some of which will do better than others in northern latitudes. Growing oregano in a pot on the windowsill will give you a supply of fresh herbs all year round.

Oregano growing conditions

Greek oregano requires a site with full sun and good drainage. It prefers a sandy, rocky or low quality soil with a low to average fertility. It can cope with chalky sites and drought conditions and it is rather low maintenance, though it will not tolerate waterlogging or very heavy soils. This is a Mediterranean plant and does not enjoy wet conditions.

You can sow oregano seeds in a pot indoors, or straight into the soil around late April. Seeds should be spaced at 15cm intervals at a depth of around 2cm. After two or three weeks the seedlings can be thinned to around 30cm intervals to allow them to grow to their full size. If you are growing oregano in a container then do not let the young seedlings dry out entirely, but do not over water. It is a good idea to add grit to your pot to aid with drainage. If growing in a pot, start seeds in small pots in March and then pot up to a 30cm pot in May. Feeding oregano or using soil that is too rich can impair the flavour of the leaves.

Oregano has a strong flavour and only a few leaves are needed to enhance the flavour of a dish. Cut stems back to the earth to encourage more bushy growth. Oregano leaves are best harvested in July, just before the flowers appear. Once the oregano has flowered the leaves can become a little bitter. Removing flower heads as soon as they appear will mean that you can keep harvesting your oregano for several more months.

Why grow oregano in the garden?

Oregano will be a helpful addition to your kitchen or herb garden. Fresh or dried for winter use, oregano will help you to add that extra-special something to your culinary efforts. Try oregano on a pizza or in a pasta dish.

It can also be a helpful companion plant. Basil, tomatoes and peppers will all benefit from oregano planted nearby in a greenhouse or polytunnel. Oregano provides useful ground cover and can attract predatory insects which prey on aphids. Oregano can also be used as an edging plant in warm, sunny rockeries and garden beds and will add a delightful scent of the Mediterranean to your garden.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Origanum heracleoticum