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Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean

Oregano

A great plant for the culinary or ornamental garden!

Botanical Name: Origanum spp. Common Name: Oregano Family: Lamiaceae 

Description: Twenty species of perennials and evergreen and deciduous subshrubs from open habitats distributed through Eurasia (southern Europe, Mediterranean and North Africa). Ornamentals have aromatic foliage and purple-pink to white flowers, often with showy bracts with bushy, arching or prostrate growth. Many used medicinally and for culinary purposes. In the garden oreganos are excellent for edgings, borders and containers, as well as drought tolerant landscaping. They are attractive to bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Many cultivars available; flowers of some cultivars are useful for dried flower arrangements.

Cultivation: Prefers well-drained to dry, poor to moderately fertile, neutral to alkaline soil in full sun; dislikes winter wet and poor air circulation. Most hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9.

Propagation and Harvest: Can be seed sown in autumn or spring, vegetative propagated by basal cuttings in late spring, or divided in spring. Harvest plants when flowering begins or leaves during the growing season. Cut back old flower stems in early spring.

Common Problems: Usually little pest problems on the coast, may be attached by aphids and spider mites. Root and stem rot can be a problem in wet, poorly drained soils. Protect for excessive winter moisture.

Cultivars and Varieties that do well on the Mendocino Coast: Origanum dictamnus (Dittany of Crete)- dwarf, evergreen subshrub with arching stems and round, woolly gray-white leaves and tiny pink flowers enclosed by hop-like , purple-pink bracts in mid to late summer. Once used medicinally, now mostly ornamental. Needs sharp drainage and full sun. Native to Crete. Grows 5-6" tall by 8-16" wide.

Origanum 'Kent Beauty' – prostrate, semi-evergreen subshrub with trailing stems and rounded leaves. Small pink to mauve flowers are hidden within large, rose-pink bracts. Needs extremely well-drained soil in full sun. Ornamental. Grows 4" tall by 8" wide.

Origanum laevigatum – woody based perennial with erect, wiry red-purple stems and dark green leaves. Panicles of purple-pink flowers from spring to fall. Ornamental. Native to Turkey, Cyprus. Grows 20-24" tall by 18" wide.

O. laevigatum 'Herrenhausen' – purple flushed young leaves and dense whorls of pink flowers. Grows 18-30" tall by 18" wide.

O. laevigatum 'Hopley's Purple' (syn 'Hopley's) – large, deep pink flowers with large bracts held in tall, narrow whorls over a long time. Grows 24-36" tall by 18" wide.

Origanum majorana (sweet marjorum) – tender perennial evergreen subshrub grown as an annual with tiny pink or white flowers in early to late summer. Used as a culinary herb. Native to southwestern Europe, North Africa and Turkey. Grows 24-32" tall by 18" wide.

Origanum x majoricum (Italian oregano) – perennial, clump-forming subshrub with white flowers in early summer. Similar to O. majorana but hardier. Used as a culinary herb. Native to southwestern Europe. Grows 18-24" tall by 12-18" wide.

Origanum vulgare (oregano, wild marjoram) – bushy, rhizomatous perennial with purple-pink flowers in midsummer to early fall. Used as a culinary herb. Native to Europe. Grows 12-36" tall and wide.

O. vulgare 'Aureum' (golden oregano) – has olden yellow leaves and lavender pink flowers, spreads less vigorously than the species. Grows 12" tall by 12-18" wide.

O. vulgare 'White Anniversary' – has white margined leaves and forms a tighter clump, need to remove reverting green branches. Grows 8" tall by 6-8" wide.

O. vulgare ssp. hirtum (syn O. heracleoticum) (Greek oregano) – has a more compact growth habit, with smaller, hairy leaves, hairy green bracts, and small white flowers. Less invasive than the species (although it seeds prolifically), and has a more intense culinary taste. It is said that this oregano "is so spicy that fresh leaves numb the end of your tongue".

Resources: Bown, Deni. Encyclopedia of Herbs. New York, NY: Covent Garden Books, DK Publishing, Inc., 2005. Brickell, Christopher and Judith D. Zuk, eds. The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. New York, NY: DK Publishing, Inc., 1997. DeBaggio, Thomas and Arthur O. Tucker, Ph.D. Big Book of Herbs. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 2000. Kowalchik, Claire and William H. Hylton. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1997. Lingle's Herbs. Online. April 2007 www.linglesherbs.com Mountain Valley Growers. Online. April 2007 www.mountainvalleygrowers.com Richter's Herb Specialists. Online. April 2007 www.richters.com The Thyme Garden Herb Company. Online. April 2007 www.thymegarden.com

Submitted by Master Gardener Kristina Van Wert, 2007.