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Growing Marjoram and Oregano

Marjoram and Oregano
The three varieties normally grown are 'wild marjoram' (common oregano), pot marjoram and sweet or knotted marjoram.



Latin Name
Origanum vulgare/onites/marjorana

Oregano - hardy perennial
Marjoram - half hardy annual

Site and Soil
Full sun, light well-drained soil

Plant to Harvest Time
June to November outside, all year with protection.

They are all easy to grow, well-suited to containers and very useful in the kitchen. Because their leaves are very flavourful, a few leaves go a long way. The leaves of a one year old plant can be harvested from June to November when grown in the open, and all year round if some form of protection is available. They do very well as indoor pot plants.  

Although most renowned for flavouring Italian pizzas and pasta dishes, in all probability they originated from their Greece - in Greek their name means 'joy of the mountain' - click on the Folklore link in the right hand box to find out why.

Marjoram or Oregano?
To clear up some confusion, take it from GardenAction that all marjoram varieties are oreganos, (the genus name for both is now 'origanum'), and 'wild marjoram' is in fact common oregano (Origanum vulgare). 

Where To Grow Oregano
All varieties do best in full sun, indicating their Mediterranean origins. Light (chalky is ideal) well-drained soil suits them best, and they require little or no feeding. 

Planting and Care of Oregano
marjoram herb pictureOregano is very tolerant of most conditions and requires very little care. Ensure that they they do not dry out to much in the first few months, but after that they will tolerate drought very well. The leaves should be harvested just before they begin to flower in July time - if harvested when the flowers have set seed, the taste becomes more bitter. An alternative is to trim off the flower heads when they form - in this way, the leaves can be harvested in small amounts through to November.

The leaves of wild and pot marjoram will die down soon after frost occurs, but the roots will survive and provide new plants the next Spring. Oregano is not tolerant of very severe frosts, so any protection such as leaves over the dormant roots in winter will increase their survival rate.

marjoram picture, the herbWild and pot marjoram can be sown in a seed bed directly outside in April. Sow the seed 2cm (3/4in) deep and 15cm (6in) apart - thin to 30cm (12in) apart when the seedlings emerge two weeks later. 

In the case of sweet/knotted marjoram (more frost tender) and all plants for container growing, sow indoors in pots during March, gradually hardening off the plants in April, after which they can be potted up or planted outside.

Container Growing
Grow from seed as described above and transplants into a 30cm (12in) pot in May. Water when the soil dries out. Feed the plants only twice in the growing season to preserve the flavour of the leaves.

Harvesting Oregano
Wild marjoram is best used as a dried herb - pick the leaves on a dry day and place them in a dark, dry and moderately warm place until they have thoroughly dried. They can then be stored in an airtight container as whole or crumbled leaves - they will retain their flavour for three months or more. 

Sweet or knotted marjoram is best used as a fresh herb, and the leaves should be harvested whenever required.


Name: Bill Hewitt
Date posted: December 15, 2011 - 09:28 am
Message: I never knew about this. I have been cultivating a marjoram plant next to where your oregano was on the window sill, and it is doing beautifully. (Penny Hunt Solum has a great recipe for Chicken Kiev which depends on marjoram.) They certainly look very much alike.