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Zones 1-24, 30-45
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Moderate, Minimal

Origanum vulgare

Oregano, Wild Marjoram
Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Evergreen, 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 vulgare

Native to most of Europe and temperate Asia. Upright growth to 2 1/2 ft. tall and 2–3 ft. wide. Oval dark green leaves to 1 1/2 in. long and 3/4 in. wide; white or purplish pink blossoms from midsummer to early fall.

Fresh or dried leaves are used in many dishes, especially Spanish and Italian ones. Most wild forms have scentless leaves; be sure to choose a selected form with a good aroma and a flavor that you like.

For best flavor, keep this plant trimmed to prevent flowering, but let some clumps bloom for bees and butterflies to enjoy.

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