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ORIGANUM majorana

Image of Origanum majorana

James H. Schutte

Family

Lamiaceae

Botanical Name

ORIGANUM majorana

Plant Common Name

Sweet Marjoram

General Description

The aromatic foliage of this Mediterranean native has been used in regional cooking for centuries. Sweet marjoram leaves are used fresh or dried and lend a spicy, sweet, almost piney flavor that compliments vegetables, sauces and meats. Overall, the taste is milder than that of standard oregano. It is a shrubby perennial herb that’s evergreen and semi-woody in frost-free climates and deciduous in its northernmost hardiness zones. It spreads by rhizomes and can become quite aggressive if not divided regularly.

This clump-forming herb has upright, branched stems bearing oval, slightly hairy, gray-green leaves. In early to midsummer, clusters of small flowers appear at the stem tips. The tubular, two-lipped blooms may be lavender-pink or white and are supported by gray-green bracts (petal-like leaves). The lightly fragrant flowers are much loved by butterflies and bees. Cut off the dying blooms to prevent seed development and encourage foliar growth.

Grow sweet marjoram in full sun and well-drained soil with average fertility. Neutral to alkaline soil is preferred. Divide plants every two or three years, and share the divisions with herb-loving friends. Marjoram tolerates some drought once established and tends to grow poorly where summers are highly moist and humid. It is only moderately hardy, much less so than standard oregano, and especially intolerant of cold, wet winter weather.

This herb garden staple is easy to grow. It is ideal for containers and rock gardens as well as kitchen gardens and herbal borders. There are ornamental cultivars, such as the golden leaved ‘Aureum’, that look equally at home along garden edges and walkways.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    10 - 2

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    7 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Herb

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    18"-24" / 45.7cm - 61.0cm

  • Width

    24"-36" / 61.0cm - 91.4cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Mediterranean, Turkey

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Pink, Lavender

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Edging, Edible, Groundcover, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes