Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 610 Origanum vulgare

Common Names: oregano, wild marjoram, Greek oregano Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)

Greek oregano
This is the culinary herb Greek oregano (O. vulgare subsp. hirtum). It is also sometimes referred to as O. heracleoticum.

Description

Oregano is a bushy, semi-woody sub-shrub with upright or spreading stems and branches. Some varieties grow in moundlike mats, spreading by underground stems (called rhizomes), and others with a more upright habit. The aromatic leaves are oval-shaped, about 1.5 in (3.8 cm) long and usually pubescent (fuzzy). Throughout the summer oregano bears tiny purple tube-shaped flowers that are about 1/8 in (0.3 cm) long. These peek out from whorls of purplish-green leafy 1 in (2.5 cm) long bracts that resemble little pinecones. This is an extremely variable species with several subspecies and named cultivars grown for ornamental, culinary and medicinal uses. 'Aureum' has yellow leaves and pink flowers; 'Aureum Crispum' has curly yellow leaves; 'Thumble's Variety' grows in a low mound. 'Heiderose' is more upright growing to 2 or 3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) tall and has pink flowers. 'Compactum' is very low and wide spreading and rarely flowers. The wild form is upright, to 3 ft (0.9 m) tall.

Greek oregano, O. vulgare subsp. hirtum (a.k.a. O. heracleoticum), is the popular culinary herb. It has hairy leaves and bracts, and white flowers. O. vulgare 'Viride', with white flowers and green bracts, also is used as a culinary herb.

Italian oregano (Origanum X majoricum) is a hybrid resulting from crossing oregano and sweet marjoram (O. majorana), and combines the pungency of Greek oregano with the sweetness of marjoram.

Location

Oregano, Origanum vulgare, is from the Mediterranean region of Europe and Asia. It has become naturalized in much of eastern US, where it is called wild marjoram. Greek oregano is from Greece and Turkey.


Culture

Grow all of the oreganos in well drained, neutral to alkaline soil (pH 6-8). Light: Full sun. It is said that the pungency of oregano is directly related to the amount of sun it gets. Moisture: Water sparingly. Too much water will cause root rot. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 9. In cold climates, grow in a pot and bring indoors in winter. Propagation: Oregano is easy to grow from seeds but you can't be sure what you'll get that way. If you want real Greek oregano for the kitchen, use O. vulgare subsp. hirtum. Propagate it with cuttings or root divisions from a plant you like the smell or taste of. If you don't care about the flavor, plant seeds but don't cover them - they germinate better in light.

Usage

Use a low, spreading variety of oregano as an edge in borders and around the herb garden. Oregano does great in a hanging basket.

Greek oregano should be pinched back to encourage branching, and dug up and divided every 2 or 3 years as it becomes woody and less productive. Flavor is at its best after the buds have formed but just before the flowers open.

Oregano, like other herbs, loses its distinctive flavor during cooking as the volatile oils evaporate, so always add it in the last few minutes. Use oregano in salads, casseroles, soups, sauces and poultry dishes. And, of course, pizzas! Dried oregano has a stronger flavor and goes especially well with tomatoes and rice dishes.

The dried flower bracts are used in arrangements.

oregano
This is the low growing variety 'Compactum'. It spreads indefinitely forming a green mat that stays about 6-8 in (15-20 cm) high.

Features

Ancient Mediterranean people used oregano as a meat preservative. Hippocrates, in the 5th century BC, prescribed oregano for curing various diseases, including stomach pain and respiratory diseases. Oregano is still used in modern herbal remedies for many ailments, but there is no clinical evidence supporting its efficacy. I grow sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana - indispensable!), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis), and I have a beautiful, spreading mound of oregano in my garden that I started from a plant I got at the local nursery. It has all the flavor of lawn clippings. (Obviously, it's not the true Greek oregano.) When I need the flavor of oregano, I take a few leaves from a nearby spotted bee-balm (Monarda punctata), which tastes more like oregano than most oreganos!

Steve Christman 12/18/99; updated 5/7/03



Master Plant List

Click here to find plants in our Encyclopedia using the Master Plant List grid. Use this widget to search, sort and filter Floridata's plant database to easily locate Plant Profile pages. Use the dropdown menus to filter the grid to display items matching the selected Plant Type and Feature tags.

Plant Type Tags

tree icon
shrub icon
palm
perennial plant icon
aquatic plant icon
cactus and succulents icon
grass icon
vine icon

Feature Tags

Attracts Birds
Attracts butterflies
Attracts Hummingbirds
Edible Plants
Cutting and Arranging
medicinal
for pots and containers
indoors
shade
drought tolerant plants
grows in wet soils
flowers
ornamental fruits
fall color
foliage plants
evergreen
easy to grow plants
fast growing

Site Search

Use Google to search all of the pages on Floridata including the Plant Profile pages




Origanum species profiled on Floridata:


Origanum majorana

( sweet marjoram, knotted marjoram, wurstkraut )

Origanum vulgare

( oregano, wild marjoram, Greek oregano )

Copyright 2015 Floridata.com LLC