Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano is a small-leafed, prostrate culinary herb from the Mediterranean and other parts of Europe and is part of the mint family. Its small dark green, oval leaves are widely used in cooking where it is often teamed with tomato and lamb. It can also be dried to use year-round.

It can be grown in the ground in well-drained soil or in containers such as a pot or trough. It grows happily in among paving stones or to edge steps and can spread 1.5m across. Flowers are seen mainly in summer and are usually pinky purple. Plants may die back in areas with cold winters but will resprout in spring.

New plants can be grown from division of an established plant, cuttings taken in summer, or seed sown in spring. Also look for plants in the herb section at your local hardware or garden centre. If you are unsure of a variety to suit your garden, talk to horticultural staff who can help you with your selection. Here are a couple to consider:

  • ‘Aureum’ is a variety with attractive golden leaves widely grown as an ornamental plant.
  • ‘Greek’ is highly aromatic and pungent than the common variety, with bright green foliage.
  • Rosenkuppel’ an ornamental plant with dark purple bracts and mauve flowers.

Oregano is closely related to marjoram (O. marjorana), which is also an easy-care culinary herb.

Note: Oregano may be toxic to pets.

How to grow and look after thyme for a bumper crop of aromatic oregano
How to grow and look after thyme for a bumper aromatic crop

General care

Watering Plants will need to be watered while establishing. Once established, oregano is drought hardy. Water more frequently if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions or growing in containers.

Feeding and mulching Oregano plants are not heavy feeders so feed seasonally with a controlled release fertiliser such as PowerFeed Controlled Release All Purpose including Natives. Plants will also benefit from a liquid feed monthly with a fertiliser such as PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives.

Mulch around plants with fine gravel or eucalyptus mulch.

Pruning Pick sprigs regularly for cooking to keep plants compact. Although a groundcover plant, oregano can reach 60cm high so benefits from a cut back if it gets too bushy. Its leaves develop their best flavour in spring and summer before flowering. Regular light pruning prolongs leafiness and postpones flowering.

Watch out Oregano has few pest problems, but the leaves may occasionally be attacked by caterpillars (remove by hand). Plants in highly humid locations or that are not well drained may die back. Old plants may become woody so replant every four to five years.