Varieties of the oregano are native to southern and central Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe. Known also by its Latin name, "Origanum vulgare," or the Greek variety, "Oregano heracleoticum," these perennial herbs grow beautiful 1" purple, pink or white flowers standing in upright clusters of barbs. The potentially 30" tall plant possesses opposite simple elliptic leaves whose distinctive flavor makes the oregano a widely used staple ingredient for various types of world cuisine, most notably Italian and Greek. Oregano is well adapted to USDA Zones 5-10.
Dried oregano is also readily recognizable by its warming aromatic flavor which has a slight bitter component. Good oregano can be strong enough to numb the tongue, and the climate, soil and seasonal conditions under which a particular plant was grown can determine much of its flavor taste characteristics. Adding oregano to your garden plot will allow you to additionally reap the health benefits of the antioxidant-rich plant, whose essential oils are often used for their antimicrobial, antiseptic and carminative properties.
Growing oregano is simple. Given partial shade and a minimal amount of care, your plants will be ready to harvest when they reach 4-5" tall. The leaves have the best taste when harvested prior to flowering the plant, and can be easily removed by running your finger down the stem. Repeated harvesting of the oregano will cause an individual plant to spread out rapidly, and it is for this reason that it is often used as a very effective flowering ground cover.
Oregano is a stout, healthy plant that can be started from seeds, cuttings or divisions. Different oregano species can, and often do, cross-pollinate. and seeds are best germinated in shallow soil under very bright light indoors, and plants are best transplanted only when temperatures remain higher than 45°F. Oregano is largely pest resistant, with the exceptions of spider mites and aphids, and it enjoys strong growth in well-drained soil that is not too rich. During winter, oregano grown in USDA Zone 5 or lower can be protected simply by covering it with an evergreen bough to protect from wind damage when the ground is frozen.