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Zones 2B, 3-24, 31-41
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Moderate, Minimal

Origanum rotundifolium

Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Herbs, Perennials

ORIGANUM

Mint relatives with tight clusters of small flowers. Each blossom has a collar of bracts—large, colorful, and quite decorative in some species—that can overlap to give the inflorescence the look of a small pinecone. Blossoms are especially attractive to bees and butterflies. Many species have aromatic foliage, and the leaves of several have culinary use. Some are good as groundcovers, as trailers to cascade over rocks or retaining walls, or in hanging baskets. Those with conspicuous bracts are attractive dried and used in wreaths and arrangements; cut and hang just as the first flowers open.

Not fussy about soil type but need good drainage. In milder climates, many species can become woody with age, but wood of previous seasons is seldom as productive as new growth from the base. For best results, cut the previous year’s stems to the ground in winter or early spring. Propagate by division or from cuttings taken before flower buds form. The various species hybridize freely, and seedlings may not resemble the parents. Colored leaf varieties need a half day of direct sun for best color but can burn in afternoon sun in hot-summer areas.

Origanum rotundifolium

Native to Turkey, Armenia, and Georgia. Dense, suckering plant grows to 8 in. high and 1 ft. wide, bearing numerous wiry stems set with pairs of virtually stemless, blue-green, 1-in. leaves that have a rounded heart shape. Blooms throughout summer, bearing spikes of small pale pink blossoms and green, 2–3-in.-long bracts like those of hop (Humulus) at the stem ends (bracts almost obscure the flowers).

‘Kent Beauty’ is a hybrid with O. scabrum; it has a more compact habit (4 in. high and 8 in. wide) and bears conspicuous mauve-toned pink blossoms and deep rose bracts in the summer. ‘Rose Beauty’ has even darker reddish bracts. ‘Barbara Tingey’ is a hybrid with O. calcaratum and similar to ‘Kent Beauty’; its rose-pink flowers peep out from under light green bracts that age to deep purplish pink.

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