Everything You Need to Know About Growing Oregano

updated Jun 21, 2021
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Oregano on kitchen counter
Credit: Kristin Prough

The Greeks got it right when they described oregano as “joy of the mountain.” This ancient culinary herb originates from the hilly, Greek countryside and is now grown all over the world.

As many chefs know, oregano is a must-have herb in a culinary garden. Pungent, spicy, and slightly bitter, aromatic oregano pairs well with almost any veggie preparation. Plus, it’s easy to grow, making it another go-to for a beginner gardener. If you’re trying to grow oregano for the first time, we have all the tips and tricks for you below!

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

Why Grow Oregano?

Oregano is a low-maintenance herb, and it performs well both in the garden or indoors, given the right conditions. There are actually two main categories of oregano: Mediterranean and Mexican. The main difference is that Mediterranean oregano is a member of the mint family, while Mexican oregano is a relative of lemon verbena. The flavors of each are slightly different, but the means to grow them are similar.

Although oregano thrives in a warm climate, it’s a hardy perennial that returns year after year — and without much work! Oregano has the ability to even withstand snowstorms and still continue to produce healthy, vibrantly colored leaves. Older plants yield delicious leaves, but potency decreases once they reach three or four years in age.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

How to Plant Oregano

  • Where: Oregano is one of those plants that looks beautiful planted within garden landscaping or along a path. In fact, it’s a “garden anchor” that comes back every spring, providing height and dimension within the garden. Oregano also grows well in containers, so if you live in a high-rise apartment or have a limited growing space, it’s a great option. Oregano also performs well indoors, when given enough light and warmth.
  • When: You can also grow oregano from seed — by dividing, or from a cutting taken from a healthy, established plant. If planting from seed, plant seeds outdoors about six weeks before the last frost. If you’re planting a cutting or transplanting a seedling or small plant, make sure the ground temperature is at least 70°F.

How to Cultivate Oregano

  • Soil: Plant oregano in light, well-drained soil. Oregano actually grows better in moderately fertile soil, so no fertilization or addition of compost is necessary. Let your oregano do what it does on its own — just know it can be difficult to keep up with the harvest!
  • Sun: Oregano performs well in part to full sun, but the flavors intensify when it receives a full day of sunshine. Oregano will also grow well indoors, but it’s important that the plant receives adequate heat and sunshine.
  • Water: Don’t over-water oregano. Water thoroughly, only when the soil is dry to the touch.
  • Spacing: Plant oregano eight to 10 inches apart in your garden. Oregano grows up to two feet tall and spans about 18 inches across. If you’re planting oregano in a container, be sure the pot is about 12 inches in diameter, as oregano is a prolific grower.
  • Companion planting: Oregano is a great companion plant to almost anything, so don’t worry about planting it next to something it won’t get along with. Try planting oregano alongside tomatoes and peppers. Oregano keeps away a tomato’s archenemy — aphids — by means of predation. Aphids actually love oregano, but oregano attracts syrphidae (flower flies), which dine upon the small bugs. Peppers are another good companion option; oregano’s thick foliage provides humidity and supports pepper growth.

How to Harvest Oregano

Harvesting oregano couldn’t be simpler! Harvest oregano once the stems are at least four inches tall. As a general guide, let them grow to about eight inches tall, and then cut back up to 2/3 of the plant. Don’t worry if you’ve cut the oregano too much — regular trimming encourages new growth!

Tip: If you won’t be drying your oregano by the bunch, and you only need the leaves, simply grab the stem about 2/3 down the length of the plant and run your fingers along the stem. The leaves will collect in your hand, and then all you’ll have to do is trim the now-leafless stem.

To obtain the optimum potency of flavor, harvest oregano leaves just before the plant flowers. Even the subtly flavored flowers are great topped on salads. Otherwise, clip as needed, or trim oregano plants all at once and use a dehydrator. Happy planting!

Using oregano: To get motivated with your new herb-growing knowledge, we’ve gathered a few super tasty recipes using oregano!

Have you tried growing oregano? Tell us about your gardening experience in the comments below!