Oregano is a versatile herb with many ornamental and culinary uses. Grow different varieties of oregano in your home garden or container garden if you want access to a fragrant, flavorful herb. (h/t to TheHomesteadingHippy.com)
3 Oregano varieties for your home garden
Choose among the three oregano varieties below and plant one that suits your culinary needs.
Common oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Common oregano is a woody perennial that’s native to Europe and Africa. This variety has square stems with fragrant, oval leaves. These leaves release a more pungent aroma when they’re damaged or crushed.
Common oregano blooms from the middle of summer to fall, with pretty flowers that are either pink, purple, or white. It should be planted in well-draining, gritty soil and grown in full sun. Once it is established, water it occasionally. You can harvest and use it fresh at any time of year when the plant is taller than six inches tall.
Common oregano is often used in Mediterranean cuisine. Its flavor will differ between varieties, but oregano grown in the hottest and driest climates will produce the most flavorsome herbs.
For the best flavor, harvest common oregano in early summer before it bears flowers. The leaves of the plant can then be dried and kept for cooking throughout the year.
Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum)
Greek oregano is sometimes called Italian oregano or European oregano. It originated from the rocky hillsides of the Mediterranean and it adapted to become drought-tolerant and is easy to grow.
Greek oregano has small, dark green foliage and bears tiny white flowers during the middle of summer. You can grow it from seed or propagate it from cuttings.
However, if you are growing Greek oregano for its culinary uses you need to grow it from cuttings because it doesn’t grow true to seed. This plant thrives in dry soils and hot environments, so leave it in full sun and don’t overwater it.
After you grow Greek oregano, you can harvest it at any time of the year and use it as a fresh herb when cooking. You can also dry it for later use. That said, to get the best-tasting Greek oregano, harvest it in early summer just before the plant bears flowers.
Even if you don’t cook with Greek oregano, you can grow it in your garden to attract bees that love the herb. Greek oregano is a relative of marjoram, but the texture of its leaves is coarser, with a stronger flavor.
Greek oregano belongs to the mint family and has a savory, earthy taste. The herb is often added to pizza and Mediterranean-style tomato-based sauces, giving them a unique flavor.
Lebanese oregano (Origanum syriacum)
Lebanese oregano, also called Syrian oregano or Bible hyssop, is a tall-growing plant that may reach at least four feet in height. It’s easy to maintain Lebanese oregano in a garden because it creeps and spreads like Greek oregano.
Plant Lebanese oregano in well-draining, alkaline, sandy soil and keep it in full sun. The plant grows quickly with silvery green leaves.
Take note that Lebanese oregano grows large, so plant bushes three feet apart to give them room to spread. Trim your plant regularly to encourage bushier growth.
Lebanese oregano can be substituted for Greek oregano.
When to plant oregano
Plant oregano after the last frost is past. In frost-free zones, oregano will last for up to five years.
However, if your area gets frost, plants need to be overwintered indoors or you must plant new seeds in spring.
Growing oregano in containers
Greek oregano will creep, send out runners and put down roots, resulting in a rather untidy growth. Grow Greek oregano in containers outdoors in full sun. (Related: Step-by-step guide to effortlessly grow oregano.)
Lebanese oregano doesn’t grow well in containers so it’s better to plant it in the ground.
How to use Oregano
Oregano is often used in Mediterranean, Lebanese and Mexican cooking.
- Leave a fresh sprig of oregano in a bottle of olive oil or vinegar and leave it in a sunny spot for a few days to infuse the flavor into the liquid.
- Chop oregano leaves and mix them with softened butter to make delicious herb butter. Serve the butter soft or store the oregano butter in a plastic bag and roll it into a long sausage shape. Let the oregano butter freeze in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to cook, take out the frozen butter and slice “coins” of herb butter to place on top of grilled steaks or other savory dishes.
- You can also add oregano leaves to bath salts.
- Add dried oregano flowers to potpourri bowls.
- Use fresh sprigs of oregano to make fragrant wreaths and flower crowns.
Plant the oregano variety that suits your cooking or ornamental needs and cook with fresh or dried oregano to make tasty, fragrant dishes.