A member of the mint family, oregano
is commonly used in Italian dishes and is a component of chili powder. This low-growing plant also makes an attractive ground cover.
About This Plant
The oregano most often used in cooking goes by the common names Greek oregano, winter sweet marjoram, and Italian oregano. It's a hardy plant that establishes quickly, getting no taller than 6 to 8 inches. Be sure to buy Greek oregano, (Origanum vulgare hirtum)
rather than common oregano (Origanum vulgare)
if you want to cook with it. Common oregano has no real flavor, though it is covered with ornamental lavender flowers in summer, which dry well and are often used in wreaths. Golden oregano can be used for a ground cover or in container plantings. For culinary oregano, purchase a plant or plants from a reputable herb nursery to ensure a flavorful, hardy plant.
A site with full sun and rich, fertile soil is best.
Oregano is easily started from seed after the last spring frost; you can also divide an established bed to get new plants. Thin plants to stand 8 to 10 inches apart.
Trim back before flowering (approximately 5 to 6 weeks after planting) to stimulate a denser, bushier growth habit. Plants will self-seed easily so you can thin out 3- to 4- year old plants to keep the bed quality high.
Harvest leaves as you need them; the optimal flavor period is just before flowers bloom. Leaves dry easily and store well; they can be frozen, too.