10 Tips For Growing Amazing Oregano in Pots or Containers

If you’re craving some fresh oregano for your latest culinary creation, nothing beats walking out to the garden and snipping some directly from the plant. In this article, gardening expert Danielle Sherwood gives you tips on growing this tasty herb in containers.

oregano in containers

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Have you always wanted your own herb garden? Start with oregano! Growing this hardy herb couldn’t be easier. Growing oregano in a container is simple and gives you the flexibility to locate it in an ideal spot. Native to mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, oregano is a robust plant with few demands.

Oregano is also a fantastic ornamental plant. While each variety is a bit different, all oreganos have attractive foliage and pretty pollinator-friendly blooms when allowed to flower. You can even highlight it in a patio pot or at the entry to your raised bed garden.

Oregano is full of antioxidants, calcium, and vitamin A. Most of us are familiar with its delicious flavor in cooking. Bring all of this goodness to your garden by planting some oregano in a container, which is by far the easiest way to grow this appealing and useful herb. Let’s dig into some helpful tips so you can get growing!

Pick the Right Container

Close-up of oregano growing in a large clay container on a wooden table in the backyard, with other potted herbaceous plants in the background. Oregano is a perennial herb with upright thin stems covered with many bright green oval leaves.
Oregano can grow in various containers and environments, but size and drainage are crucial.

Oregano is a forgiving plant. You can grow it in a round pot, a garden border, or a raised bed. The most important considerations are:

Size

Oregano likes to spread out. It has woody, upright stems that will gladly grow up to 2 feet tall and wide. If you prefer to stick to a smaller container, pick one at least 12 inches in diameter. Even better is a larger bed where you can let it do its thing.

Drainage

Oregano will weaken and potentially rot if left to sit in soggy soil. Good, well-drained soil and a container that lets water run through freely are crucial for a healthy plant.

I have my oregano, which is about 6 years old, thriving in a raised bed with some other herbs. It loves the ability to spread out, and I love how it looks at the entrance of my raised bed garden.

If you’re searching for a good option for your oregano, try Birdie’s Metal Raised Garden Beds. They’re made of durable galvanized steel coated in long-lasting, non-toxic paint. They’ll hold in warmth for the oregano during the cold season, allow for good drainage, and look stylish.

If you prefer the flexibility of moving the oregano whenever you want, check out Epic Grow Bags made of a permeable felt that allows water to drain and the roots to breathe. They’re lightweight and will make moving your herbs to a sunny location easy. They can be used indoors, too with a tray underneath them!

Choose the Right Spot

Close-up of potted oregano on a light windowsill next to lemon balm. Oregano has thin pale green hairy stems covered with oval green leaves that are slightly hairy.
For optimal growth, oregano requires 6 hours of full sun, temperatures between 60-80℉.

Oregano needs at least 6 hours of full sun to perform well. Its ideal conditions are between 60-80℉, followed by cooler nights. If you have especially hot summers, it will appreciate a bit of afternoon shade.

When picking a spot, keep in mind the mature size of the plant (this is a member of the mint family, after all!). It will gladly fill a gallon pot all on its own and take up a significant portion of a raised bed. My oregano recently choked out some of my alpine strawberries!

While its shallow roots are easy to pull out (and gift to a friend), space it at minimum 1-2 feet from other plants if you want them to live. 

Oregano can handle winters down to -20 ℉. If your climate dips below that, place it where you can easily provide some protection with frost cloth or mulch.

Choose Proper Soil

Close-up of male hands pouring organic potting mix into three tall light gray containers for planting herbaceous plants, in a garden. The soil is loose, brown. There are also herbaceous plant seedlings in green plastic trays on the table.
Oregano prefers well-draining sandy loam soil, ideally an organic potting mix.

Oregano doesn’t mind lean soil but prefers a well-draining sandy loam. A good quality organic potting or raised bed mix will do the job. Look for something fairly lightweight that contains some perlite or horticultural sand to help with drainage. 

This herb isn’t picky about pH, though it prefers to be close to neutral, anywhere from 6.5-7.

Choose The Right Variety

Most plants in the oregano family are robust growers who prefer similar conditions. When choosing, keep in mind the flavors you enjoy best and the aesthetic of the plant. Many gardeners harvest so often that their oregano never flowers, but I try to let mine grow because the pollinators love it!

Two varieties, commonly called Mexican and Cuban Oregano, are not actually part of the Oreganum genus at all. They contain the same essential oil, carvacrol, that gives oregano its signature taste and smell. While delicious in their own right, we’ll stick to true oreganos here.

Greek Oregano

Top view, close-up of Greek oregano leaves on a blurred soil mix background. The plant has an upright stem covered with oval, slightly hairy dark green leaves.
Origanum vulgare var. Hirtum is the classic, highly flavorful variety of oregano used in cooking.
Origanum vulgare var. Hirtum

This is the variety most associated with the classic oregano used to season popular dishes. It’s intensely flavorful, with high oil content that stands up to cooking and tastes amazing paired with tomatoes. It has olive green fuzzy leaves and small clusters of white to lavender flowers.

Common Oregano

Close-up of Origanum vulgare var. Majorana on a blurred green background. The plant has thin, upright stems covered with small, oval, grey-green leaves that are slightly hairy. The leaves grow in opposite pairs along the stems.
Origanum vulgare var. Majorana is a hybrid of Greek oregano and sweet marjoram, with fuzzy dark green leaves.
Origanum vulgare var. Majorana

This Italian oregano is actually a hybrid of greek oregano and sweet marjoram. It has a milder, slightly sweeter taste than classic Greek oregano. Leaves are fuzzy, dark green and produce light pink to lilac colored flower clusters.

This is the variety most commonly used for extracting medicinal essential oils, prized for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Hot and Spicy

Close-up of Origanum vulgare ‘Hot and Spicy’ plant. The plant has oval green leaves and reddish stems. The leaves are slightly hairy.
This oregano has spicy leaves and a pungent aroma, making it a great choice for adding a bit of a kick to Mexican or Italian dishes.
Origanum vulgare ‘Hot and Spicy’

This oregano is a more intense version of the Greek herb, with spicy leaves and a pungent aroma. It’s great in Mexican or Italian dishes or anytime you need a bit of a kick. It looks similar to Greek oregano, with pink flowers.

Ornamental Varieties

Close-up of an Origanum Kent Beauty plant against a blurred garden background. This variety of oregano is ornamental because of its flowers. The plant has small, rounded leaves that are grey-green in color and slightly hairy. The flowers consist of clusters of small pinkish-purple bracts with a delicate papery texture, reminiscent of hop cones. Bracts surround tiny, inconspicuous flowers.
Some varieties like ‘Kent Beauty’, ‘Kirigami’, and ‘Aureum’ have attractive blooms and draping habits.

While still edible, some varieties are valued more for their attractive blooms and draping habit than their flavor. ‘Kent Beauty’ and Kirigami’ both have a mild taste and are gorgeous plants in containers.

Try ‘Kent Beauty’ for draping, hops-like bracts that spill over the edges of a pot, and ‘Kirigami’ for its tight and colorful whorled rosettes. Both are drought-tolerant and excellent in rock gardens. ‘Aureum’ is another appealing choice, with upright, small flowers and golden leaves.

Seed vs. Nursery-Grown Plants

Close-up of oregano sprouts in a peat pot against a bright red background. The sprouts are small, have short pale green stems with a burgundy tint, slightly hairy. The leaves are small, oval, dark green.
Oregano can be grown easily from seed or purchased as a plant from a nursery for faster harvest.

Oregano grows easily from seed (this is my go-to since I’m cheap). You can direct-sow it into the garden after your last frost date. Once temps reach about 70℉, it will germinate. You should see sprouts in 1-2 weeks.

If you’d like to get a jump on the season, you can start the seeds indoors 6 weeks before last frost and transplant them out. The fastest way is, of course, to buy a plant at the nursery. They transplant easily and will be harvestable before those sown at home from seed.

Water Deeply and Infrequently

Close-up of spraying potted oregano from a white and red spray bottle in a sunny garden. The plant is lush, has vertical thin stems and small oval leaves, green and slightly hairy.
Water oregano deeply and infrequently, providing around an inch of water per week.

Oregano does best with deep, infrequent watering rather than shallow daily doses. Water thoroughly, soaking the roots. Give it about an inch a week once established.

When taking care of small seedlings or during weather above 80℉, you may need to water more often. Water immediately if you see wilted leaves (but check that they’re not a result of soil sogginess first).

Oregano likes to dry out a bit between watering sessions. Test the soil with your finger and water only when completely dry. Mature oregano is drought-tolerant and can handle some neglect. If made to sit in wet soil, the roots will rot and kill the plant.

Prune Regularly

Close-up of a man's hand with black clippers about to prune an oregano plant growing in a raised bed on a terrace. Oregano has vertical thin square stems covered with bright green oval, slightly hairy leaves. Parsley and rosemary also grow in the raised bed.
To keep oregano from growing unruly, prune it regularly.

Oregano can grow unwieldy, left unpruned. I like mine to get a bit wild so the pollinators can go nuts over the flowers, but if you like to maintain a tidy, mounded shape, you’ll need to prune it.

You’re unlikely to harm this plant, so get in there and shear it down. In fact, I chop mine down to the ground as soon as new growth appears in early spring, right down to the top of the crown. It likes the haircut and responds by sending out lots of new, bushy growth.

YouTube video
Prune oregano regularly as outlined in this video.

In addition to pruning, oregano likes to be divided every few years. This refreshes the woody growth at the base and creates more new plants for friends!

Simply use a spade to dig out a large clump, roots included. Replace the disturbed soil around the original plant. Pot up or plant the clump, and you have more oregano to harvest.

Skip The Fertilizer

Close-up of a gardener pouring potting soil from a round wooden bowl into a large clay container using a garden spatula. The soil is loose and rich in nutrients. The gardener is dressed in a white apron.
Oregano prefers poor soil and doesn’t need fertilizer.

Oregano performs better in poor soil than in overly nutrient-rich growing mixes. There’s no need to fertilize it. Enjoy your hands-off herb success and pamper your blueberries instead.

However, a large oregano plant can sometimes deplete the soil in a container over time. Amend it with some organic compost while you do the early spring chop.

Watch For Pests

Partially withered or wilted oregano plant in a white pot on a windowsill. The plant has thin weak pale green stems covered with small oval green leaves. Many stems are dried, sluggish, rotten.
Oregano rarely attracts pests due to its strong aroma, and overwatering can lead to fungal issues.

Complete honesty here. I’ve never seen a pest on my oregano! Although beneficial pollinators love the flowers, the plant has a spicy and strong aroma that bugs tend to avoid. If you see any, get rid of them with a strong, direct spray of the hose.

If overwatered, oregano can succumb to fungal issues like root rot or Botrytis blight. If you notice stunted growth, droopy appearance, or mushy roots, check to make sure the soil isn’t soggy. Once the roots have rotted, you’ll need to replace the plant.

Avoid these issues by watering only when dry and aiming your spray at the base of the plant rather than overhead. Keep some space between the oregano and other plants to keep the air circulating.

Harvest Regularly

Harvesting oregano. Close-up of a man's hand tearing off the top leaves of an oregano. The plant has thin square stems covered with small oval, fragrant, bright green, slightly hairy leaves.
Harvest oregano when it’s at least 6 inches tall.

This is why you planted oregano in the first place! This vigorously growing herb will surprise you with how much it can produce, so don’t be shy about using it often. Let baby plants grow to at least 6 inches tall before harvesting so they can recover.

When you want to harvest oregano, simply snip off a few stems. Pull off the leaves, rinse, and pat dry. They’re ready to use! Remember that fresh oregano is milder than dried, so you may want to use a larger amount.

You can also make your own version of the dried oregano you buy in the store. To dry, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread out the leaves and cook them in a 170-180℉ oven for an hour. Leave them in longer if not completely dry. When cool, crush them up, put them in a jar, and you’ll have plenty of garden-grown oregano to use in recipes.

Final Thoughts

If a friend just starting out in gardening asks me for the easiest herb to grow, I tell them to try oregano! This tough perennial will give you copious amounts of delicious leaves for all your desired uses, even if you lack the mythical green thumb.

Growing oregano in containers is a great way to keep it contained (there is just a tiny bit in my lawn. Oops!) and to highlight its beauty while providing the well-drained soil it needs. Have fun in the garden, and enjoy your oregano!

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Four thriving potted herbs arranged on a sun-kissed terrace. Their vibrant leaves create a lush, aromatic display against the backdrop of the outdoors. The herbs soak in the warm sunlight, embracing nature's nurturing embrace.

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