Oregano Leaves: Growing, Care, and Harvesting

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oregano leaves

Do you know that dried oregano leaves have a number of health benefits?

Oregano is a popular herb with a robust scent and flavor, it thrives in pots where it may also outgrow the edge of the pots.

However, due to its trailing growth, it is also an excellent seasonal ground cover or it can also serve as a nice edging along a path.

You can start the plant in spring or grow it in containers or even as ground covers.

Moreover, in late summer, Greek or Italian oregano white flowers grow in contrast to its bright green leaves which look stunning.

Due to its growth and harvests, many herb gardeners prefer to grow oregano leaves in the yard or garden.

Keep on reading to learn more about oregano leaves.

Oregano Leaves: Quick Facts

The Oreganum genus has a number of perennial herbs and subshrubs that tend to be native to western Asia and the Mediterranean region.

However, some of these have been neutralized in North America.

The most common species you may be familiar with in culinary herbs include Origanum vulgare and Origanum majorana.

Moreover, oregano leaves tend to be oval, and dark green, and tend to occur in opposite pairs along the stem, while some varieties have fuzzy leaves.

It is important to note that oregano leaves tend to begin as a ground-hugging rosette of leaves, however, it can grow about 2 feet tall easily.

You can plant them in spring and will grow rapidly, thus, providing leaves that are suitable for cooking readily.

However, it is important to note that oregano tends to be toxic to pets, therefore, be mindful of where you plant oregano leaves.

Common Name Oregano
Botanical Name Origanum spp.
Family Lamiaceae
Plant Type Perennial, herb
Size 1–2 ft. tall, 1.5 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Hardiness Zones 4–10 (USDA)
Native Area Europe, Asia, Mediterranean
Toxicity Toxic to pets

Learn more about Herb Garden: Tips and The Best Ones to Grow here.

Planting Oregano Leaves

When planting oregano, keep the following in mind:

When to Plant: You will need to plant oregano in spring after the threat of frost has passed.

It is important to note that you can grow oregano from both seeds or cuttings indoors about 6 to 10 weeks before the area you reside in predicts spring frost.

While the outdoor soil temperature should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit for planting outdoors.

Selecting a Planting Site: This plant is one of the Mediterranean herbs that tend to grow well in full sun and lean to average soil that is well-draining.

Moreover, rich soil can dilute the pungency of the herb.

growth

Therefore, oregano is a good choice if you live in a sunny area or the part of the garden that is sunny.

Also, it should have poor soil that is not suitable for many other plants.

However, it is important to make sure that it is not planted too close to a taller plant that may leaf out and shade your plant.

Spacing, Depth, and Support: You will need to space oregano about 8 to 10 inches apart.

And press the seeds slightly into the soil, as they need light to germinate.

While in the case of nursery plants, you should make sure to plant them at th same depth just like when they were growing in their container.

A support structure is not necessary for this plant.

Oregano Leaves Care

The growing requirements for oregano are as follows:

Light: It is important to note that most varieties of this plant tend to thrive in full sun which means that they will need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight on most days.

However, some of its varieties including golden oregano will need a little shape from strong sunlight.

This will help prevent the leaves of the plant from scorching.

Soil: When planting this plant, sandy loam soil tends to be ideal for them.

However, if the soil is moist with a lot of organic matter, your plant will not grow as well as it will in well-drained, light, dry soil.

Moreover, slightly acidic soil to neutral soil pH is important for the growth of oregano.

Water: This plant will need only about an inch of water per well and is well-tolerant to moderate drought.

planting oregano leaves

It is important that you allow the soil to dry out between watering as overwatering will lead to root rot and other issues.

Temperature and Humidity: Oregano tends to tolerate heat and cold temperatures, depending on the variety you are growing.

The ideal growing conditions tend to range between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, this plant does not like high humidity and will need sharp soil drainage and good air circulation in humid climates.

Fertilizer: Oregano does not need fertilization in most cases, as it can thrive in poor soil.

In fact, large amounts of nutrients like nitrogen can change the flavor of the herb.

Pollination: It is a herb that attracts a lot of beneficial pollinators to your garden.

Bees and other insects help to pollinate small flowers of oregano.

Types to Consider

The following are the common oregano varieties to consider:

Origanum vulgare or Common Oregano

This one is the oregano that you most often use for cooking.

Golden Oregano, Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’

This cultivator tends to have lighter leaves and a milder flavor than the main species plant.

Moreover, it is a more popular ornamental plant than a cooking herb.

Green Oregano, Origanum heracleoticum

This species is also used for cooking and has a fairly strong flavor.

Oregano vs. Thyme: One of the important things to note is both oregano and thyme tend to thrive in the same growing conditions.

These two will needs a lot of light and fairly dry soil.

Moreover, they also tend to look the same at first, however, oregano leaves are slightly wider and greener than thyme which is typically narrow, gray-green foliage.

Oregan will have more of a pungent earthy aroma than the light and floral scent of thyme.

Harvesting Oregano

Once your oregano plant reaches about 4 to 5 inches tall, you can begin harvesting your plant.

You will simply need to trim off sprigs with just the leaves you need for cooking at a time, leaving the rest to continue growing.

Run off your finger down the stem to strip off the leaves, lastly.

The most flavorful oregano leaves tend to be right before the plant blooms in summer.

Therefore, if you plan to take sprigs for drying, that is the best time to do so.

harvesting

However, you can also snip off leaves at any point during the growing season for cooking or drying.

You can refrigerate fresh sprigs for about a week or freeze them for about a year.

Hang the sprigs upside down in a dark, cool spot with good air circulation to dry them.

Then, strip the leaves and store them in a zip log or airtight container.

Dried oregano will have a stronger flavor than fresh ones and it should be good to use for 2 to 3 years.

Growing Oregano in Pots

One of the important things to note about oregano is that it loves to thrive in pots and is a good choice for a windowsill herb garden indoors.

Containers often dry out quicker than garden soil, so this can help to create a fairly dry environment for this plant.

However, it is important to make sure that the container you select tends to have an adequate drainage hole.

oregano leaves in pot

Unglazed clay is also ideal as it allows excess moisture to evaporate through the walls as well.

While a container that is about 10 to 14 inches across and 6 to 8 inches deep is ideal for growing oregano leaves in pots.

Learn more about A Guide to Growing Herbal Plants here.

Pruning and Propating your Plant

You will need to regularly pinch the oregano back of its growing tips when it is about 4 inches tall.

This helps to promote a bushy growth habit and will prevent leggy, straggly growth.

Moreover, it can also help delay flowering, which is best if you want to use the leaves for culinary use.

As the plant grows larger, this technique should be a weekly thing.

However, if your plant is overly woody, you will need to cut the stems all the way back to the ground.

This will encourage more stems to sprout from the base and will result in a fuller plant.

From divisions or cuttings, you can propagate oregano leaves.

This is because different species of oregano can cross-pollinate, and you may not get what you want from seeds you save from garden plants.

Both processes of propagation, ie. dividing the mature plant and taking cuttings can help to rejuvenate your plant.

It results in bushier growth and a healthy harvest.

 

The best time to divide a plant is in early spring or fall. Here’s how you can do it:

  • dig up a mature oregano plant gently, keeping its rootball intact
  • use a sharp spade or simply your fingers to divide the roots
  • make sure to tease as many roots apart as you can, rather than cutting them
  • replant each segment in a suitable growing place

When when you take cuttings when the plant is growing, spring and early summer are the best time to do so.

This is because the stems are still green and pliable. Follow the steps below:

  • with the help of sterile pruners or scissors, cut about a 5-inch portion of a healthy stem and make a diagonal cut above the leaf node
  • strip off the leaves at the bottom half of the cutting
  • place it in a container of water in a warm, bright spot, however, make sure to not place it in direct sunlight
  • refresh water every few days
  • you will begin to see roots in about a week and give your plant a few weeks for a good network of roots to form before planting it

Growing Oregano Leaves from Seeds

You will need to cover the seeds lightly with soil as the seeds of oregano will need some light to germinate.

With a help of seed-starting mix in a small container, place the seeds, and keep the mix moist but not soggy.

grwoing from seeds

Place the container in a warm place, roughly at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and in bright, indirect sunlight.

Germination will take place in a week.

Then, harden off the seedlings before planting your plant outside in the yard or garden.

Learn more about the Germination of Seeds here.

Potting, Repotting, and Overwintering

In case your oregano plant is in pots, you can use a welling draining, general-purpose potting mix.

However, to improve drainage, you will need to consider blending it with some extra sand, perlite, or vermiculite.

It is a good idea to repot your plant every couple of years, as dividing is important to make sure that light reaches all areas of your plant.

One of the important things to note about the oregano plant is that it will only need overwintering in zones 4 or colder.

Though you need to be sure to check the growing requirements in your variety.

In colder climates, you will have to cut back the stems of the plant after the first frost kills the foliage,

Then leave the short umbrella of stems to protect the root ball.

Moreover, cover the soil with at least 3 to 4 inches of dry mulch for the winter and remove it in spring as soon as the snow melt.s.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Your oregano plant will have few pests and diseases to bother it.

However, you will still need to keep an eye out for:

  • spider mites
  • aphids on the foliage

Moreover, make sure to look out for root rot and other fungal diseases as they can arise in wet soil.

Correcting the growing conditions of your plant can help to resolve and treat minor pest infestations, and disease issues.

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