To be completely honest, I’m still not sure whether the plant I have is marjoram or oregano. I’m pretty sure it’s a variety of oregano going off of this article by Linda Gilbert but it’s so hard to tell. Since I grew it as a cutting I got from the community garden I guess we’ll never know, but we’re going to pretend okay?
What is commonly known as oregano actually consists of a group of species in the Origanum genus. The some of the most common are O. vulgare, O. onites (pot marjoram), and O. majorana (sweet marjoram). Marjoram and oregano are often used interchangeably even though marjoram is a species in the oregano genus. Other plants that are called “oregano” but are not true oreganos are Coleus amboinicus (Cuban oregano), Thymus nummularius (a species of thyme), and Lippia graveolens (Mexican oregano). This can lead to some confusion and the recommendation to think of oregano as a flavor instead of a plant. Oregano can also be grown for landscaping instead of culinary purposes.
The plants originate from the Mediterranean and Eurasia and have been cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes for around 3000 years. Throughout history oregano has been used to treat medical ailments ranging from colds to poisonings. The oregano genus has also been associated with both love and protection in folklore. It plays a prominent role in Mediterranean cuisine, notably Greek and Italian.
Oregano Growing and Care
Size: Oreganos can grow to be 12-24 in (30-60 cm) tall and 12-18 in (30-45cm) wide.
Water Requirements: Sparse watering is ideal, as is good drainage.
Soil Requirements: Origanum plants can tolerate a wide variety of soils but prefer well-drained rocky soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
Light Requirements: Being grown in full sun to light shade will make oregano the happiest.
Temperature Requirements: Oregano grows best in USDA zones 5-9 (minimum annual temperature ranging from -15°F/-28.9°C to 30°F/-3.9°C).
Nutrient Requirements: Oregano prefers low nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizer.
Pruning: Cut oregano back severely just before it blooms. These cuttings can be rooted to get new plants (see my post Cutting and Cloning for instructions how to do this). If left unchecked, some species of oregano can become invasive.
Pests: Origanum species are susceptible to root rot, spider mites, aphids, and rust fungus among other pests and diseases.
Companion Planting: Almost all vegetables and herbs are compatible with oregano.
Growing Indoors: Oreganos must be grown in pots at least 6 in (15 cm) deep. The plants are well suited for container gardening.
Harvesting and Use: Harvest oreganos regularly for continued growth, cutting sprigs as needed. For the most intense taste, harvest just before the plant blooms. Leaves can be dried frozen or refrigerated.
Bonnie Plants Growing Oregano – general growing information
Oregano…or is it Marjoram? – Exactly what it sounds like. An article discussing the differences between oreganos and marjorams.
The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide by Stephen Albert (p 221-223) – Again, one of my favorite gardening books. Has tons of information laid out in an easy to read manner
The Herb Society of America’s Guide to the Genus Origanum – A very detailed guide covering everything from Folklore and Mythology to Recipes, and of course, care instructions.