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ORIGANUM vulgare

Image of Origanum vulgare

Jesse Saylor

Family

Lamiaceae

Botanical Name

ORIGANUM vulgare

Plant Common Name

Common Oregano

General Description

The beauty of this herb is that it is as effortless to grow as it is flavorful and culinarily useful. Common oregano is one of the many beloved European herbs in the mint family. Its flavor is especially prominent in southern Italian, Spanish and Greek cooking. The tough herbaceous perennial is quite hardy and spreads vigorously via rhizomes. In fact, it can become quite weedy if not regularly maintained.

The upright stems of this clump-forming herb are lined with highly fragrant, small, oval leaves that may be bright or dark green. The strong fragrance comes from oil-filled hairs along the surface of the leaves, called trichomes. In summer, clusters of small white, lavender or pink flowers appear at the stem tips. These attract many insect pollinators, especially bees. Once spent, the flowers should be cut off to keep the plants looking clean and to encourage foliage development rather than seed.

There are a number of excellent cultivars available, some that are ornamental and others for cooking. The less aggressive 'Aureum Crispum' has ruffled chartreuse leaves, and the tidy, mound-forming 'Compactum' is a bit smaller than average.

Full sun and moderate to poor soil with good drainage will suffice for this Mediterranean plant. It is not picky. Plants that are too happy become rampant fast, a lot like vigorous Monarda. Gardeners remedy this problem several ways. Some plant oregano in large pots to keep them contained. Others simply divide them every two years or so and share the divisions with herb-loving friends.

An herb garden is not complete without oregano. The leaves can be enjoyed fresh or dried and taste excellent in pasta sauce, on meat, fish and vegetables. Mix a little crushed oregano, fresh chopped garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice with some olive oil for a light all purpose marinade for barbeque.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    10 - 2

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Herb

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    12"-30" / 30.5cm - 76.2cm

  • Width

    12"-16" / 30.5cm - 40.6cm

  • Bloom Time

    Summer, Late Summer

  • Native To

    Europe, Mediterranean

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Light Pink, Lavender

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark 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

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    No