Oregano is one of those herbs that every home gardener and cook should consider growing. It helps to spice up Mediterranean dishes but can be used in all types of cooking to add some extra flavor. It’s also super easy to grow in pots.
To grow oregano select a pot that’s around 12 inches (30 cm) deep. Use the potting mix with pH 5.5 to 7.0. Oregano only requires watering when the top inch of the soil feels dry and should be cut regularly to keep the plant bushy.
Here are nine tips for growing oregano in pots.
1. Select The Correct Size Of Pot
When grown in a pot, oregano will generally only get around 18 inches (45 cm) tall, but it will spread if allowed to do so. But don’t worry because you can keep the plant as compact as you want by trimming it regularly.
To give the roots of the oregano plant plenty of room to grow, you should select a pot that’s around 12 inches (30 cm) deep and around the same or a little smaller in width. Always bear in mind that larger pots will allow your plant more room to grow.
For growing indoors, you can select either a decorative ceramic pot, a terracotta one, or even a nice plastic pot. Just make sure that the pot has drainage holes so that the plant is not sitting in constantly wet soil.
If you choose a terracotta pot, understand that the terracotta is porous, and your soil will dry out a little faster than if you were using a glazed ceramic or plastic pot. Therefore, you’ll need to monitor your plant more closely to ensure that it’s getting enough water. In saying that, terracotta is ideal for Mediterranean herbs like oregano because they prefer to be a little on the drier side.
Due to its sprawling habit, you can even grow oregano in a hanging pot or planter. This would look lovely hanging in your kitchen in front of a nice, bright window.
2. Use A Potting Mix That Is High In Organic Matter
Oregano does like a fair amount of nutrients in its potting mix, so you should select a commercial mix that has organic matter added. You can also enrich the potting mix that you buy with around one-third of mature compost or aged manure. Oregano prefers a slightly acid to neutral pH (5.5 to 7), so the addition of some compost or manure will add a little extra acidity to the mix.
Make sure that the potting soil is free-draining and will not stay soggy for long periods of time. You can also make up your own mix if you plan on growing a variety of herbs in containers.
Here’s a simple recipe to use:
- 3 parts potting mix for the base
- 1 part compost or aged manure for extra nutrients
- 1 part perlite or coarse builder’s sand for added drainage
When making your own mix remember to use a volume measure rather than measuring your ingredients by weight, this is because some ingredients will weigh more even though their volume is smaller.
You can use a large plastic tub to make your mix or even a large plastic garbage can. Then, use a small bucket or plant pot to measure out the ingredients in the volumes suggested in the recipes above.
Always make sure that the tools and containers that you’re using are clean and sterilized so that you don’t add any bacteria or soil-borne fungus to the mix. You can use a simple bleach solution to clean your containers and tools beforehand.
3. Plant Oregano From Seed Or Seedlings In Spring
Originating from the Mediterranean, oregano does like the warm weather. Therefore, if you’re just starting out with your first plant, sow your seeds or plant your purchased seedling in the spring. This will ensure that the plant gets plenty of warmth to grow nice and lush.
If you’ve chosen to start your plant from seed, you might even like to start these indoors in late winter. This gives the seeds time to germinate, and the tiny seedlings will get off to a good start once the warm weather arrives.
When planting your seeds, don’t plant too deeply, as the shoots have to be able to break through the surface of the soil before the little seed runs out of energy. A good guide with most small seeds is to just scatter them over the top of the soil and then cover them very lightly with some seed-raising mix or coarse builder’s sand.
If you’re starting your oregano growing journey by using a seedling or transplant, this can be planted straight into the pot that you’ve filled with either commercial or homemade potting soil.
4. Water Only When The Soil Feels Dry
Most oregano varieties originate from Mediterranean climates. Therefore, this plant has adapted to periods of hot, dry weather. You should only water the plant when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch.
To check this, you can either poke your finger into the soil or use a moisture meter that will tell you exactly how much moisture the soil contains.
When you do water, always ensure that you water the pot thoroughly until you see excess water coming out through the drainage holes. Then, remember to empty the water from the saucer under your pot to avoid any issues with root rot.
5. Keep Your Plant Well Trimmed
To encourage bushy growth and plenty of it, you should constantly trim your oregano plant. Of course, this shouldn’t be difficult if you’re using the herb in your cooking often.
The best way to encourage bushy growth is to cut or pinch off the tip of each stem back to a leaf node. When you do this, you’ll notice that new growth will develop on either side of the stem at the nodes just below your cut. Therefore, instead of one growth tip, you now have two from the same stem.
In fact, this method of tip pruning can be used on many different types of plants, not just oregano. Therefore, it’s a good tip to remember.
If you’re constantly trimming your plant, but you’re not using all that you’ve cut off, why not dry the leaves and store them in an airtight container for use at another time. Dried herbs in pretty glass jars that you’ve decorated yourself also make great gifts for family or friends. And, if you have plenty, you could even take them to a local farmers market and make some money from your hobby.
6. Feed Your Plant Once A Month
Oregano is not a heavy feeder, but it does like some added fertilizer at least once a month to keep it actively growing. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer that you’ve diluted to half strength. Apply this when it’s time to add some more water so you’ll be watering and feeding your plant at the same time.
A fish emulsion liquid fertilizer is good for this, or you could use some compost tea or even worm tea if you have a worm farm.
7. Harvest Your Oregano Often
When growing a herb like oregano, it’s important to ensure that you harvest the leaves often. This helps to keep the plant nice and compact and means it will continue to put on new growth.
You can start harvesting your oregano leaves once the plant reaches a height of around 6 inches (15 cm). Remember to just snip off the top leaves, as this will encourage your plant to get bushier.
When harvesting, never take off more than two-thirds of the leaves, so there is enough foliage left for your plant to continue to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll. This ensures that your plant can continue to grow and produce more of those aromatic leaves.
Bear in mind that the leaves will start to lose their flavor if you allow the plant to flower. This is because the plant is now putting all its energy into producing blooms and eventually seeds. You can easily snip off any emerging blooms to stop this from happening.
Otherwise, you might like to let your plant flower and produce seeds. You can then collect these seeds and plant them in a new pot. This way, you can have a succession of oregano plants that you’ll always be able to harvest leaves from.
8. Move Your Pots Outside In The Warmer Weather
Although your oregano will grow quite happily indoors on a bright windowsill, it will benefit from being moved outdoors when the weather is warm. This will allow your plant to get some fresh air and sunshine and maybe even a spot of lovely, fresh rain.
Indoor-grown herbs really do benefit from being placed out in the rain occasionally as long as the weather is not too cold. The rain just seems to invigorate them and give them a new lease of life.
When you first place your pots of oregano outside, make sure you only expose them to some early morning sunshine and keep them shaded from the harsh midday and afternoon sun. Exposing your plants to too much sunshine all at once will burn the leaves.
Growing your oregano and other herbs in pots gives you lots of versatility as to where you place them. You can keep your plants inside when the weather is cold and then move them outdoors onto a patio or veranda once the weather starts to warm up.
You can even place your pots strategically to fill any seasonal gaps in your vegetable or flower garden. And, don’t forget the sensory aspects of growing oregano. If you have steps leading up to your front door, consider placing your oregano as well as other herbs in pots staggered up the steps. This way, every time you brush past them, you’ll get the most delicious aroma.
9. Freshen Up Your Plant During The Winter
As you’re now probably aware, oregano grows its best in the warmer months of the year. Even when you grow it indoors. Therefore, you might find that during winter, your plant will slow its growth and even look a little sad if it’s not getting enough warmth.
But don’t worry. Your plant will come back again once the weather starts to warm up. However, this is a great time to freshen up your oregano to give it a great head start in spring.
As you know, oregano does grow quite thickly and produces many roots. After some time, this reduces the air pockets in the soil, and the roots aren’t able to get the water and nutrients that they need.
Here’s a simple way to fix this and give your oregano plant a new lease of life.
- Cut all the foliage back to almost soil level. Don’t worry. This won’t harm the plant at all and it will come back again once it gets some warmth.
- Next, grab a small garden fork or even an old fork from the kitchen and push it through the plant into the soil all around the pot. This helps to break up the thatch and adds valuable air pockets into the growing mix.
- Put a thin layer of aged compost on top of the soil and water this in thoroughly.
Once you’ve done this, place your pot in a warm spot and watch what happens. You’ll notice that new growth will start to appear, usually around the edges of the pot. Eventually, the plant will continue to grow toward the center, and finally, it will be lush and bushy again.
With this method, you will be able to grow the same pot of oregano for many, many years and always have lots of lovely fresh leaves to pick and add to your favorite Mediterranean dishes.