Growing oregano (Origanum vulgare) in your garden is a great way to have this wonderful fresh herb all year round. Oregano’s flavor complements many foods, and it can be used for so many things, including pesto or as an aromatic in sauces. It is also relatively straightforward to grow oregano from seed!
We always grow oregano from seed and plant indoors in plastic starter pots in early spring, around March and April.
If you do not want to grow oregano from seed, we will tell you how to grow it from cuttings or container plants bought at your garden center or local supermarket.
How to Grow oregano from seed indoors (5 steps)
1: When to plant indoors
You can plant indoors anytime if you can provide sufficient lighting.
I always plant around March and April to allow the seedlings to develop indoors. Planting this time of year will let me move the seedlings outdoors when they are ready.
Pro tip: Starting too early in the year will land you in a position where you have to care for the young plant indoors until the climate lets you move the plant outdoors. Plant your seeds a couple of weeks before the last expected frost to allow for a seamless transplanting to the outdoors.
2: Select soil and pot
When we plant seeds, we aim to provide the best possible environment for the seeds to germinate.
I recommend using recyclable plastic starter pots (7 centimeters or 3 inches) to help control soil moisture. The pots always come with drain holes to help with drainage.
I use a 50/50 mix of cactus soil mix and regular potting soil.
I add the regular potting soil in the bottom of the pot and then fill it up with a cactus soil mix with a looser structure.
This mix of soils works well for me and helps keep the soil moist but not wet. And as the seeds germinate and develop, the roots find more nutritious soil at the bottom of the pot.
You can use regular regular potting soil. I prefer using the looser cactus soil on top to minimize the risk of burning the new roots as the seeds germinate.
When the pot is ready, we water the soil thoroughly to make sure that the soil is moist but not soaking wet.
The difference between soaking wet and moist? Use your hands to make a ball of soil. Squeeze hard. The soil is too wet if you see water dripping.
3: Plant the oregano seeds
Oregano seeds are small and delicate to handle.
Plant a minimum of 3-5 seeds per pot. In theory, each seed should grow into a plant. In reality, I plant 5-10 seeds per pot and thin out the seedlings later if necessary.
To speed up the germination, soak the seeds in room-temperature water overnight.
We then plant the seeds very shallowly by spreading them across the soil. Press the seeds gently with your finger to ensure contact between the soil and the seed.
I place the pots in a warm but not hot place and keep a spray bottle handy to avoid dry outs.
Cover the pot with a cheesecloth or a plastic sheet to keep the seeds moist. Make sure that the material will let through light. Also, ensure that you create holes for air to circulate. You do not want a wholly sealed environment, as the seeds may rot.
Pro tip: Cut a plastic bottle in half and place it on top of your pot. You have now created a mini greenhouse. Do make sure that you make holes for air to circulate.
Oregano seeds take approximately 1-2 weeks to germinate. Seeds germinate best in a warm spot with good light. A windowsill or another bright spot at 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) offers ideal conditions.
4: Transplant seedlings
When the oregano seedlings grow to 15 cm (6 inches), we transplant the seedlings into new larger pots to allow the herb to develop.
Take great care, and if possible, transfer the full content of the starter pot to your new and larger pot.
The oregano plant likes to dry out between waterings, so you should use looser structured soil that offers good drainage. The critical point is to use mulch-rich and well-drained soil.
Fact: Oregano is an interesting herb in that it actually grows quite well even in poor soil.
You may also find it helpful to use a terracotta pot where the material breathes and help you avoid overwatering.
Oregano prefers a sunny spot but does tolerate partial shade, especially in hot climates.
You can transplant the seedling outdoors anytime in spring when the soil temperature reaches 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) or above.
5: Care for the oregano plant
Oregano is a perennial and will grow more robust if you look after the plant. And generally speaking, oregano is an easy plant to care for.
Most importantly, provide a spot with at least partial sun and make sure not to overwater. Oregano will wither and die if roots are sat in wet soil.
Grow oregano from an established plant
You can grow oregano plants from established plants in your herb garden or a purchased container plant.
The easiest way is to divide the plant by the roots. Gently expose the root system by squeezing the pot and then divide the root system into equal parts.
Plant each new plant in a separate pot using mulch-rich and well-draining soil.
You can harvest oregano throughout summer and into fall.
If you plan to let the plant overwinter, you should not harvest late in the fall. The plant benefits from being left alone to prepare for overwintering.
Do not use herb scissors on the plant. Instead, use regular sharp scissors to cut off stems from the oregano plant. Cut the stem above a fresh-looking pair of leaves to allow the plant to branch out and grow back.
The oregano plant will bloom if you let it. But you should remember that the leaves will lose flavor if you let the herb bloom.
Read the article "When to harvest oregano (proven method)" for more detailed information about harvesting and preserving oregano.
You can use fresh oregano (strong flavor) or freeze the herb for later use. But most often, we dry the herb for later use.
You should take care to harvest your oregano before blooming if you are planning to dry the herb. When oregano blooms the
Harvest whole stems, tie them together, and place them in a brown paper bag with the stems facing up.
Tie a string around the paper bag and stem, and hang the paper bag in a dry and dark place with a good air supply. An attic could, for example, be a great place to dry oregano.
How to use oregano
Oregano is traditionally used in Italian dishes like pizza and tomato-based pasta sauces. But oregano is an ideal herb in most meat-based dishes and soups or fresh in a green or tomato salad.
Herb cooking tip: When you cook with fresh oregano you should add the herb late in the cooking process. Oregano will lose a lot of its flavor if it is left to cook. And do remember that fresh oregano packs quite a strong flavor so taste as you go along.
Testing different pots growing oregano from seed
We do enjoy testing how to grow herbs in different ways.
We tested planting oregano seeds in plastic pots, organic peat pellets, and ceramic pots a while back.
We were curious to learn if plastic starter pots were the best alternative.
Result-wise, we could develop healthy seedlings in all three types of pots. It was, however, easier to control the moisture level in a plastic starter pot.
The organic peat pellets would dry out fast. And the ceramic pot did not have a drain hole, so the fear of overwatering was always a factor.
And we still find plastic starter pots the best alternative as they are easy to use, store, and more economical.