Oregano: Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Oregano Plants | The Old Farmer's Almanac


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Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Oregano Plants

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A must-have herb in a culinary garden, oregano is easy to grow and perfect for beginners. Started in spring, oregano grows well in containers or even as ground cover along a path. Here’s how to plant, grow, and harvest oregano—plus how to use oregano!

Belonging to the mint family, or Lamiaceae, oregano is a woody perennial plant. It’s a robust herb with a peppery bite and a minty aroma. In the Greek language, the word oregano means “joy of the mountain” and it’s certainly a popular herb for any Mediterranean cuisine.

Oregano adds savory flavor to pizza, tomato sauce, and really anything tomato as well as cooked summer vegetables such as zucchini and eggplant, a Greek salad, kabobs, roasted potatoes, white beans, a vinaigrette, and any egg dish.

The perennial herb produces long trailing stems which looks pretty spilling over a container or as a bright green leafy ground cover, especially along a path. White flowers bloom in late summer.

Oregano also makes a good companion plant in the vegetable garden.

  • Oregano loves the sun, so ensure that your placement has full sun for strong flavor. Offer partial shade if growing in hot climates.
  • Plant anytime in the spring, once you’re well past chance of frost. Some folks plant later in the season for assured warm weather. The soil should be around 70ºF.
  • For a head start, plant the seeds/cuttings 6 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost. (See local frost dates.)
  • Oregano can easily be started from seeds, though you can also use cuttings from an established plant.
  • Before planting, mix in several inches of organic matter such as compost. If you’re growing in containers, use a quality potting mix. 
  • Plant 8 to 10 inches apart. The plants will grow 1 to 2 feet tall and spread about 18 inches.
  • Allow oregano plants to grow to about 4 inches tall and then pinch or trim lightly to encourage a denser and bushier plant. Regular trimming will not only cause the plant to branch again, but also avoid legginess.
  • Oregano doesn’t need quite as much water as most herbs. As the amount of watering depends on many variables, just water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Remember that it’s better to water thoroughly and less often.
  • If you have a container, water until the water comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the container.
  • At the end of the season, you can move pots indoors for the winter;  cut dead stems in the spring before new growth. In warmer climates, protect plants with mulch.
  • To ensure the best-quality plants, thin out plants that are 3 or 4 years old in the early spring. Oregano is self-seeding, so the plants will easily grow back.
  • You can divide the plants in late spring if you want to put one indoors.
  • Harvest the leaves with sharp shears as you need them, once the plant is several inches tall. This will encourage new growth. Just don’t harvest more than one-third of the plant at a time.
  • The most flavor-filled leaves are found in mid-summer, right before the flowers bloom.
  • You can freeze the leaves to use during the winter. Oregano leaves store well and are easily dried. Keep them in an airtight container once dried.

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Wit and Wisdom
  • Oregano tea relaxes nerves and settles an upset stomach.
  • Fresh oregano is a great antibacterial agent and loaded with antioxidants as well as an excellent source of fiber, vitamin K, iron, vitamin E, and calcium. It was once used in many old-fashioned herbal remedies.
  • Oregano plants are said to symbolize “substance.” Find out more about plant meanings here.
Cooking Notes

Crush or chop oregano leaves by hand before adding them to a dish in order to release the flavorful essential oils contained within. For cooked dishes, it’s best to add oregano leaves at the end of cooking process or they won’t hold up well.