Grown for its strong tasting and pungent leaves, oregano is a perennial herb that thrives in a warm, sunny position. An important herb in Italian, Greek and Mexican cooking, oregano is often used dried rather than fresh in strongly flavoured dishes in which ingredients such as chilli, garlic, tomatoes, onions, olives and wine predominate. Leaves and flowering tops are infused for tea.
Jobs to do now
- Prick out individual seedlings into pots
- Place young plants grown from seed outdoors
Month by month
Oregano can be brought as ready-grown plants from garden centres or grown from seed.
Common oregano can be started from seed sown indoors from February to May. Fill a small pot with seed compost and sow a few seeds on the surface. Cover with a light layer of sieved compost, water and place in a propagator to germinate. When seedlings are large enough to handle, prick three out into an 8cm (3in) pot of multi-purpose compost.
Water pots regularly, but avoid overwatering or the roots may rot. Keep plants compact by trimming growth after flowers fade in summer, then give pot-grown plants a boost by applying a liquid fertiliser.
Cut back dead stems to the base in winter. Plants do not like to be too wet in winter, so place pots in a sheltered spot and raise onto pot feet to allow excess water to drain away. For a winter supply of leaves, lift plants in autumn, pot them up and place them in a well lit spot under cover.
Grow indoors until early summer or until all danger of frost has passed, then plant in a sunny, sheltered spot in well-drained soil. Alternatively, plant into a 15cm (6in) pot filled with multi-purpose compost.
Harvest oregano leaves as required from late spring onwards – simply snip off a few shoots, then strip off the leaves. The flavour is best before the flowers open.
Use the leaves fresh or dried. They can also be frozen in ice-cube trays.
To dry oregano leaves, hang up sprigs in a dark, well-ventilated place for a few weeks. When fully dried, strip off the leaves and store in an air-tight jar.
Look for colonies of greenfly on the soft shoot tips of plants or on leaves. They suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew, encouraging the growth of black sooty moulds.
Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.
Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite
Leaves become mottled, pale and covered in webbing, on which the mites can be clearly seen; leaves also drop prematurely.
They thrive in hot, dry conditions, so mist plants regularly. Use biological control in the greenhouse.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.