How to Plant, Grow and Care for Oregano

Thinking of growing oregano in your garden, but aren't sure where to start? Oregano is a low-maintenance garden herb that will grow easily in the right environment. In this article, gardening expert Logan Hailey shares everything you need to know about growing Oregano in your garden, including maintenance and care.

Oregano growing in a pot on a ledge

In the garden, Oregano is effortless to grow and generous with its yields. Oregano is an easygoing edible and ornamental herb that grows as a perennial in hardiness zones 5 through 12. It is self-seeding and eager to serve as a weed-smothering ground cover.

It also makes the perfect companion for other drought-tolerant Mediterranean perennials like rosemary, sage, and lavender.

Oregano is a resilient and robust little shrub that doesn’t ask for much. Let’s dig into everything you need to know about growing this delightful herb in your garden this season!


Oregano Overview

Garden herb oregano growing in garden
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Plant Maintenance: Low
Plant Family: Lamiaceae (Mint)
Plant Genus: Origanum
Plant Spacing: 8-12 inches
Plant Height: 1-2 feet
Fertility Needs: Low
Watering Needs: Low
Sun Exposure: Full Sun
Lifespan: 5-7 Years
Pests: Aphids, Spider Mites
Diseases: Root Rot, Botytis

About Oregano

The potted oregano plant has leaves that are small, oval-shaped, and green, which are arranged oppositely on the green stem. It is grown in a brown pot.
This is a low-growing perennial that can withstand both heat and cold.

Also known as Origanum vulgare or wild marjoram, oregano is a fragrant herb that belongs to the Lamiaceae, or mint family. It is closely related to marjoram and thyme. The spade-shaped leaves and purple flowers of this Mediterranean plant are used as a seasoning in many cuisines, namely Italian and Greek food. 

Oregano is a low-growing shrub that remains perennial in growing zones 5 through 12 and tolerates heat as well as cold. Most varieties grow from 1 to 2 feet tall and can spread up to 18 inches.

The evergreen leaves contain the essential oils thymol and carvacrol that give oregano its signature musty, balsam smell and spicy flavor. Oregano’s strong pest-repelling aroma and drought resilience make this plant the ideal low-maintenance perennial for both ornamental and edible landscapes

Native Regions

Oregano plants are growing behind the white rock with holes. It has oval-shaped leaves with a somewhat hairy texture that is dark green. Its green stems are soft and grow vertically.
This herb originates in the Mediterranean.

Oregano is a wild fragrant herb originated in the Mediterranean, north Africa, and western Asia. It was first domesticated some 5,000 years ago and cultivated in the rocky, poor soils of mountainous slopes.

To this day, wild oregano smothers Mediterranean mountains with a delightful fragrance and beautiful display of flowers. This robust plant has also made its way across the world and become naturalized in many parts of Mexico and the United States. 

As one of the first herbs grown in Greek gardens, the word “oregano” comes from the Greek words oros (mountain) and ganos (joy), meaning ”joy of the mountains”.


Several young oregano growths emerge from the dark soil, with little, delicate sprouts and light green, oval-shaped leaves.
Because of its self-seeding and underground rhizomes, it is easy to propagate and cultivate. 

Oregano’s prolific self-seeding capacity and underground rhizomes are the primary reasons for its global cultivation. This plant is so easy to propagate that it can thrive almost anywhere.

After a shrub is established, it will eagerly self-sow each year without any help from you. If you want to start a patch of oregano, you will be delighted to find how easy it is to grow this herb from seed, cutting, or division. 

Propagation From Seed

Oregano is incredibly easy to grow from seed. For a head start, you can start oregano indoors from late winter to mid-spring. This is the most reliable option because the temperature is more consistent on a heating pad.

However, you can also direct sow seeds in your garden right around the average last frost date for your region. Oregano needs soil temperatures of at least 45°F for germination but they prefer a cozy 60°F. Use a soil probe to determine your indoor or outdoor soil temperature before seeding.

Sow Seeds Shallowly on the Surface

A man places the tiny, black oregano seeds from the pack in the brown plug tray with dark soil. A green watering sits to the side of the plug tray.
Seeds should be planted shallowly, no deeper than ¼ inch.

Oregano seeds are tiny, which means they don’t need to be sown very deep. In the wild, the plant’s seeds will fall to the soil and germinate right on the surface.

In plug trays or garden beds, you can lightly sift a very fine layer of potting mix over the seeds to ensure they don’t wash or blow away. Seeds should never be buried more than ¼ inch. Lightly tapping into the soil helps to firm them in place. 

Sow More Than You Need

Many oregano plants are planted in large red pots. It has tiny, oval-shaped leaves that are green in color.
To ensure successful growth, it’s recommended to initially plant more seeds than needed.

It helps to plant more seeds than you need. You can always thin them later! The seeds are also so tiny that it can be difficult to cingulate them.

Most gardeners plant 2-5 seeds per cell or sprinkle seeds in rows in open flats. Once they germinate, you can thin the plants to one per cell or 8” between seedlings. Some growers keep the plants in clumps and allow them to proliferate as “matted” plantings. 

Maintain Consistent Moisture

Close-up of oregano leaves that are oval-shaped and slightly pointed at the tip, with a slightly fuzzy texture. The leaves range in size from small to medium and have a dark green color. Water drops cover its surface.
Consistently moist soil is required for seed germination which can be achieved through misting or gentle watering.

Oregano seeds need consistently moist soil for their 8-to-14-day germination period. You can water with a misting bottle or a very gentle spray of water from a hose to ensure that the seeds don’t get displaced.

Covering your seed tray with a plastic dome helps increase the humidity and speed up the process. 

When They Reach 4-6”, Transplant Seedlings

The gardener, who is wearing black gloves, is holding an oregano plant that has been taken from its pot. It is being placed in a dug hole. A pot and an oregano plant are in the background.
If cold weather persists, it is advised that the plants be re-potted into bigger pots.

Oregano grows fairly fast and you should have robust, 4” tall seedlings within a few weeks. If it is still freezing at night, you should up-pot to larger containers so it can continue growing indoors until the weather warms. If the danger of frost has passed, it is time to transplant this spicy herb into the garden. 

Propagation by Cuttings

Like many perennial herbs, oregano is also easy to replicate through cuttings. Cuttings are simply healthy stems that can be harvested from a mother plant and rooted in water or a soil medium. Each stem grows its own roots and eventually becomes a whole separate plant. 

Cuttings are considered vegetative or clonal propagation because they produce offspring that are genetically identical to the mother plant. Before you propagate by cutting, be sure that the mother plant is exactly the variety you’re hoping for!

Find Healthy, Pliable Stems

A close-up of little, spherical, green oregano leaves. Its leaves are oppositely placed on an erect, green stem. Moist water covers their surface.
Take cuttings from a non-flowering, lush plant with soft, pliable stems during late spring or early summer.

The best time to take cuttings is in the late spring and early summer when the danger of frost has passed and the mother plant is off to a vigorous start.

Find a vibrant, lush plant that has not yet flowered. It should have an abundance of green new growth with soft, pliable stems. Though you can root oregano from woody stems, it is much easier to grow from the non-woody new growth. 

Cut Just Above a Node

While holding the oregano plant, the man uses scissors to cut the upright, green stem. There are also other oregano plants with little, green leaves shown.
Make a diagonal cut directly above a leaf node, as this is the best spot for new roots to grow.

Use sharp pruning shears or scissors to take cuttings. If you’ve had disease problems in the past, it is best to sanitize your shears with a quick wipe of diluted bleach or alcohol. Take your 3-5” long cuttings by making a diagonal cut just above a leaf node.

Oregano leaf nodes are easy to find because they are the point where two of the oval leaves intersect with the stem. A node is the best place for new roots to sprout because there is an abundance of undifferentiated cells that are ready to spur new growth. 

Remove Lower Leaves

The man wearing gardening gloves holds a pruning shears in one hand and several green oregano plants in the other.
To promote root formation and prevent rotting, remove the bottom leaves and buds of the stem using fingers or shears.

Use your fingers or shears to remove the lower third of leaves and buds from the stems. This will ensure that the bottom leaves don’t rot or decay while roots are trying to form. There should be at least 2-4 leaves at the top of the stem to fuel photosynthesis while the cutting develops its roots.

Submerge in Water or Root in Soil

Oregano plants with tiny, round green leaves linked to a green stem, the lower half of which is submerged in water in a glass jar. The background is orange.
Place the bottom third of the stems in a shallow container filled with water.

Oregano cuttings sprout quickly and easily in water. Find a shallow container (preferably clear) and fill with water so that the bottom third of the stems can be fully submerged. Allow the green tops of the cuttings to stay above the surface.

Place in an area with bright, indirect sunlight and plenty of warmth. A windowsill tends to work great. Change the water every few days when it starts to appear cloudy.

You can also root cuttings in potting soil or a well-drained medium like coco coir. Fill a small pot with moistened soil and ensure there is plenty of drainage.

For greater success, dip the bottom of each stem cutting in a rooting hormone. Use a pencil to poke a hole in the pot and place each cutting inside, then firm around it and maintain consistent moisture.

Ensure that the soil is never soggy, otherwise your cuttings can easily rot. Soil-rooted cuttings should also be kept in a warm area with bright, indirect light.

Wait For Roots to Form

The man is carrying a little, green oregano plant with root hairs in one hand and a round brown pot with rich black soil in the other. It is surrounded by potted plants and a water spray bottle. They are all arranged on a concrete surface.
Allow 3-4 weeks for root hairs to grow in water cuttings, then another month for strong roots.

If growing cuttings in water, you will begin to see root hairs forming after 3-4 weeks. You want to wait at least another month for the roots to become robust enough to transplant. Soil-rooted cuttings can take a bit longer, but you will notice that they begin forming new leaves and stay in place when you gently tug them. 

Once the cuttings look healthy and strong, it is time to transplant. Water-rooted cuttings can be gently lifted and planted in soil just like regular seedlings. Soil-rooted cuttings can be dug up with a spoon or trowel and moved to a larger container or out into the garden. 

Propagation by Division

If you or your friend already has a thriving oregano patch, root division is the quickest and cheapest way to get large established plants. Coincidentally, taking divisions also helps fuel the growth of the existing patch because it prevents plants from getting overcrowded.

Like their cousins lemon balm and thyme, oregano plants tend to form large clumps that benefit from annual rejuvenation. Root divisions are best taken in the autumn.

Do a Hard Pruning of Old Stems

Pruned oregano plants with little, green leaves and thin stalks. They are placed in a rectangular white container with a brown wood table underneath. Above it is a pruning shear.
Trim old woody stems in late summer or early fall from a healthy plant.

Start with a healthy, non-diseased patch of oregano. In the late summer or early fall, grab your pruning shears and cut back all the old woody stems of your oregano plant. This ensures that your new divisions have young new growth without any decaying areas. 

Gently Lift the Plant Clump From the Soil

A man with white gardening gloves holds an oregano plant that has been removed from a pot. Its roots are visible in the dark soil.
Avoid exposing the bare roots to direct sunlight for too long.

Use a shovel or pitchfork to dig 8-12” under the oregano patch and gently lift up the roots. You can place the entire plant on a nearby tarp or soil so you can begin dividing. Avoid leaving the bare roots exposed to direct sunlight for an extended period of time. 

Divide the Root Balls

The man in white gardening gloves is splitting oregano plant roots into smaller clusters. A huge, round brown pot is located beneath it.
For successful transplantation, make sure each root ball division contains numerous leaves and is at least 4-6″ in diameter.

Use two pitchforks or your hands to divide the root ball into two or more smaller clumps. This process isn’t as delicate as it seems.

The plants are very resilient, and the roots can handle a fair amount cutting or prying apart. For the most success, ensure that each root ball division is at least 4-6” in diameter and has plenty of leaves to get it started in its new location. 

Replant Divisions in a New Area or Container

The gardener with white gloves is planting a little, green oregano in brown soil. On the side, there are potted oregano plants and a small blue shovel.
Water divisions generously and add kelp fertilizer to reduce transplant shock.

Each division can be spaced out to expand the patch or moved into a container to give to gardener friends. The mother plant can be replaced in its original hole to fill out the space.

The key to root division success is checking that the base of the plant ends up at the same soil level as it was originally. You don’t want to bury the crown too deep in the soil or it might rot. You also don’t want to leave any roots exposed above the surface. 

Give the divisions plenty of water and a sprinkle of kelp fertilizer to help alleviate transplant shock.

Freshly planted divisions may look wilted and sullen for a couple of weeks until they get established. Then, the plant should begin growing new leaves and sending new roots out into the surrounding soil. 


A man is holding a little, young oregano in a black pot.
Planting success depends on proper timing, soil preparation, and spacing.

Whether you’ve grown your own oregano starts or purchased a container from the store, this Mediterranean herb is super easy to plant. Proper timing, soil preparation, and spacing are key to oregano’s success. 

When to Plant

A shovel holds a new, young, green oregano plant with rich, black soil. Brown wood mulch surrounds it.
Ensuring that the soil temperature is at least 45°F, as it requires warmth to establish.

Oregano is best planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Although this herb can handle frost, it needs to get established in the warmth of spring and summer. Use a soil probe to check that your garden soil is at least 45°F

Plant Spacing

Close-up of oregano seedlings with tiny, delicate, green leaves. They are grown in a rich, dark soil.
Different varieties require varying amounts of space between them.

Most varieties of oregano need at least 8-10” of space between them. Larger cultivars can spread up to 18” and prefer a bit more space between the plants.

Vining types will grow long rambling stems that look beautiful as they cascade over the edges of garden beds or containers. Low-growing types also make an excellent creeping ground cover. 

Take care not to overcrowd. Otherwise, it can become more prone to disease and unsightly matted growth. Annual pruning helps maintain the shape and compact size of your plants. 


A little shovel is used by the man to transfer brown soil to a pot. Potted little oregano plants are placed on the side. They are all arranged on a cement surface.
Prepare well-drained soil with the right pH, and guarantee full sunshine or some shade in extra-warm areas.

Transplanting an oregano seedling is the same as planting any garden vegetable or herb. First, be sure that you have prepared well-drained soil with the proper pH as described below. The area should have full sunlight or slight shade in extra-warm climates.

Next, get your plants in the ground with these simple steps:

    1. Make a hole twice as large as the oregano root ball.
    2. Ensure that the soil is loose enough for new roots to grow outward.
    3. Loosen the seedling’s roots by gently massaging the bottom of the pot.
    4. Grasp the plant by the base stem(s).
    5. Turn it on its side to carefully remove the root ball from the container.
    6. Place the oregano in the hole, with the soil level the same as in the pot.
    7. Do not bury any leaves or stems.
    8. Backfill so that all the roots are tucked in.
    9. Avoid pressing or compacting the soil onto the young plant’s root zone.
    10. Generously water the plant and keep moist for a few weeks.
    11. Once rooted, oregano only needs about an inch of water per week.
    12. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
    13. Avoid over-irrigation.

How to Grow Oregano

Oregano plants are cultivated in a garden. It features little green leaves and thin green stems. They are exposed to sunlight.
The most critical requirements for thriving oregano plants are sunlight and loose soil.

Oregano has many of the same needs as its Mediterranean cousins such as thyme, marjoram, sage, rosemary, lavender, and savory. Sunshine and loose soil are the most important factors for happy oregano plants. 


Close-up of oregano leaves, which are oval-shaped, slightly hairy, and green in color. The rest of the oregano plant can be seen in the blurred background.
 Provide it with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunshine every day and avoid shadowing it with larger bushes.

Ensure that your oregano has abundant growth and strong flavor by providing it with plenty of direct sunlight. This low-growing herb does not like to be shaded out by taller shrubs. It needs at least 6-8 hours of sunshine per day.

If growing indoors, ensure that oregano is placed in a south-facing window with lots of direct light. Poor sun exposure can result in bland oregano with pale leaves. 


A water spray is being used to water a potted oregano plant. A wooden table contains the plant. More potted plants can be seen at the back.
To avoid over-watering and root rot, it’s important to let the soil dry out between waterings.

Over-watering is the most common mistake people make with oregano. While it appears to be delicate, this plant is quite hardy in times of drought. Too much water can lead to root rot. Oregano prefers that its soil can dry out between waterings.

Oregano thrives in unirrigated landscape borders and sandy or gravelly soils. Most varieties only need an inch of water per week. In many climates, this herb only needs additional water during the hottest months of summer.  

Combine plantings with drought-tolerant herbs like rosemary, lavender, sage, and thyme. Remember to keep oregano in the south-facing portion of these gardens so it doesn’t get shaded out. 


Several tiny, green oregano seedlings are planted in a dark, well-drained soil.
Oregano thrives in nutrient-poor, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0.

Oregano doesn’t need super loamy, fertile soil. In fact, most plants prefer nutrient-poor soil that is extra well-drained. A pH between 6.5 and 7.0 is ideal.

If your soil is heavy, acidic, or high in clay content, it is best to plant in a raised bed or container. Amend generously with pea gravel, horticultural sand, low-nutrient compost, coco coir, or crushed limestone.  

Climate and Temperature

A close-up of an oregano plant with little, oval-shaped, green leaves. The leaves are attached in opposing directions to a fleshy green stem. Water drops cover the surface of the leaves.
It may require winter protection and proper drainage in colder climates and some shade in hotter climates.

Oregano can be grown in hardiness zones 4 through 12. Colder climates may need to mulch and protect oregano in the winter and ensure plenty of drainage. Oregano is more likely to die from rotting in waterlogged soil than from cold weather. Hot climate gardeners need to provide slight shade during the warmest months.

Like all Mediterranean herbs, oregano prefers mild climates with 60-80°F daytime temperatures and 50-60°F at night.

However, this hardy perennial is more cold-tolerant than lavender or rosemary. With proper mulching and pruning, oregano will tolerate down to negative temperatures during its dormant phase!


Close-up of oval-shaped oregano leaves with a hairy texture and vivid green color.
Excessive nitrogen fertilizer can diminish its distinctive spicy flavor.

Oregano does not need to be fertilized. In fact, too much fertilizer (particularly nitrogen) can cause the herb to lose its signature spicy flavor. Nutrient-poor soil is ideal. If you amend with compost, be sure that it doesn’t have any manure or high nitrate content.

Maintenance and Pruning

The gardener is cutting some oregano plants with white scissors. The plant features clusters of little pink blooms.
Annual pruning of oregano is recommended, preferably in the fall alongside cutting back other perennials.

The only maintenance oregano asks for is annual pruning. The best time to prune is in the fall when you are cutting back other perennials. This is also a great time to dry large quantities for use in winter seasoning blends. 

Pruning encourages more new growth and can help the herb survive the winter. As you cut back the upper leaves, the plant will channel its energy into the roots to help conserve resources for the coldest months.

In the spring, oregano will grow back in a more desirable shape with less woody stems. This new growth is better for culinary use and will also produce more flowers for pollinators. 

Pruning Steps

    1. Start with sharp, sanitized garden shears.
    2. Make sure that your oregano is at least 4-6” tall before you prune it.
    3. Cut back one-third to two-thirds of the foliage.
    4. Established plants can be pruned down to the ground to encourage dormancy.
    5. Young plants should have no more than one-third of their tops removed.
    6. As you prune, harvest and bundle for drying as desired.
    7. Use your tool to create a mounded shape.


Potted plants are set horizontally on the side of the house in brown wood. The plants are green, with brown and black pots.
There exist numerous distinct types of this herb, each with its individual taste and applications.

While seasoning blends typically just say “oregano”, there are actually dozens of varieties of this herb. Each has its own unique flavor and uses. 

For Culinary Use

Greek oregano or Origanum vulgare var. hirtum is most commonly used in the kitchen. Also known as Italian oregano, this variety is beloved on pizzas, in sauces, and blended into meat rubs. The plants are widely adaptable to zones 5 through 10.

For Ornamental Use

‘Hopley’s Purple’ is a fragrant, attractive oregano that tolerates drought and heat. It has beautiful vibrant flowers and attracts a range of butterfly species.

For Ground Cover Use

Creeping oregano grows just 8” tall and easily spreads through the garden as an attractive groundcover. The plants are more shade tolerant than Greek oregano and have weed-smothering capabilities. Creeping oregano is an excellent pest-repelling companion for other perennial plants. It can even be used as a substitute for a lawn!

For Containers

Golden oregano is a popular dual-purpose plant that has gorgeous golden foliage and a mild flavor. With its low-creeping habit, it can remain compact in a wide, shallow pot or hanging basket.

Pests and Diseases

Thanks to its strong aroma, oregano rarely succumbs to insects. Those that are willing to eat the spicy herb are fairly easy to eradicate. However, oregano’s biggest enemy is root rot and fungal diseases. You need to take special steps to ensure that this Mediterranean herb stays healthy when exposed to excess moisture. 

Aphids and Spider Mites

Close-up of several oregano leaves that have been damaged and turned brown due to spider mites.
A vigorous spray of water or neem oil might be applied to get rid of aphids and spider mites.

Occasionally, aphids and spider mites can infest stressed out plants. A strong blast of water or a neem oil spray are the quickest ways to get rid of them.

Root Rot

A man is holding rotted, thin, brown roots. The roots are anchored in dark soil.
Beginner oregano growers often overwater their plants, which can lead to “wet feet” and soggy soil.

Overwatering is the most common mistake made by beginner oregano growers. This plant hates having “wet feet” and sitting in soggy soil. Excessive humidity and poorly drained soil can make the situation even worse. 

Symptoms of Root Rot Includes:

  • Yellowing or browning leaves
  • Slow growth
  • Overall wilted or droopy appearance
  • Mushy or rotten roots
  • Blackened stems and roots
  • Weak aroma or no smell

To save an plant from root rot, you need to dig it up. Use sanitized trimmers to cut away the infected portions of the roots. You can also prune back any dead leaves or foliage. Replant in an area with extremely well-drained soil.

Amend generously with coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, grit, sand, pea gravel, and/or shredded bark. Water sparingly and provide plenty of sunlight as the plant recovers.


Close-up of a little, white insect lingering on the surface of a green leaf.
This fungal disease can cause rotting in the middle of the shrub or grayish brown mold on the leaves.

Botrytis blight is another annoying fungal disease that can take hold of oregano in extra moist conditions. It often manifests as a rotten area in the center of the shrub or grayish brown mold on the leaves. There is no real cure for botrytis, but you can do your best to remove infected areas of the plant and protect nearby herbs from spread.

To prevent botrytis, remember to:

  • In humid climates, widen oregano spacing to 12-18” between plants.
  • Prune back overgrown portions of the plant.
  • Make sure oregano is growing in full sun.
  • Improve the drainage of the soil.
  • Avoid overhead irrigation. Only water from the base.
  • Sterilize your tools before pruning or harvesting oregano.
  • Apply a diluted neem oil spray as a preventative measure..

In the event of severe infection, you can apply an organic fungicide or baking soda spray (several tablespoons dissolved in water) to the affected areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is oregano easy to grow?

Oregano is one of the easiest herbs that you can plant. Once established, this perennial thrives with a little neglect. As long as it has well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight, it doesn’t require much water or maintenance. A quick fall pruning helps the plant stay healthy.

How do you pick oregano so it keeps growing?

Oregano benefits from regular harvesting and pruning because it promotes new growth. Simply grab a bundle and use kitchen scissors to cut back one-third to two-thirds of the stems. Leave a little bit of foliage near the base and watch the plant regenerate.  

Does oregano need full sun?

Oregano is a Mediterranean native herb that absolutely demands full sunlight. Shade-grown plants may have pale leaves that lack aroma and taste bland. Only in ultra hot climates like zones 10 through 12 is it recommended to plant in slight shade.

Final Thoughts

Oregano is not a needy herb to grow. Whether you’re making pizza, pesto, or seasoning blends, this low-maintenance perennial herb is a delight to have in the garden. As with rosemary and lavender, full sunlight and adequate soil drainage are the most important factors for oregano’s success. With these conditions, this plant will yield an abundance of aromatic leaves for years to come

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