Oregano-Italian

  • Plant Type: Perennial, zones 5 to 10
  • Sun: Full sun to part shade
  • Plant Size: 12 to 18 inches tall, 18 to 24 inches wide
  • Culinary Use: Fresh, dried, or frozen leaves for flavoring Italian, Mexican, or Greek cuisine

If your family craves classic Italian cuisine, make room for Italian oregano. Native to the Mediterraean region, this is the oregano you’ll want for pasta sauce, homemade pizza, and other Italian favorites. Fuss-free and undemanding in the garden or pot, Italian oregano can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. Like all oregano, dried leaves boast stronger flavor than fresh or frozen ones.

Plants form a nicely rounded mound with multiple trailing stems that root along their length. Use oregano to edge planting beds or top short garden walls. Oregano also thrives in gravel gardens and containers. In coldest zones, plants die to the ground in winter and grow back in spring. In zones 7 and higher, oregano remains evergreen.

Plant Spacing: 12 to 18 inches. Plants Per Person: For fresh eating, 1 plant for two people in warmer regions; 2 plants per couple in colder zones with shorter growing seasons. For drying, plan an additional plant or two, depending on how much dried oregano you want for household use and gift-giving.

Secrets to Success »

Tuck plants into well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. In hottest southern and desert zones, afternoon shade is a must. Avoid frequent fertilizing, which dilutes essential oil concentration and flavor. Feed established plants annually as new growth emerges in spring with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food.

In coldest zones, mulch in-ground plants and move containers indoors during winter. With established plants, remove woody stems in early spring. Follow up with a simple trim in late spring to produce branched, bushy plants.

Harvest and Use »

Pick leaves frequently for fresh use. Flavor peaks just as flower buds start forming in midsummer. If you plan to preserve oregano, this is the time to harvest the stems. The best time of day to harvest oregano is morning, after the dew dries. Pick individual leaves or snip entire stems and remove leaves later.

Use Italian oregano to season salads, sauces, meats, or vegetable dishes. Leaves add rich flavor to red sauces and soups. To preserve oregano, dry whole leaves and store in sealed containers in a dark, cool place. To release flavor, break leaves just before using. You can also freeze oregano, whole or chopped, in ice cube trays filled with water or olive oil. Or blend chopped leaves into softened butter. Store butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or form into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet. Store frozen balls in zipper bags, using them to flavor vegetables, noodles, and soups.

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