How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Ornamental Oregano

If you’re looking for an attractive ground cover or want to add some scented plants to your garden, ornamental oregano covers all the bases. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss tells you how to care for this ornamental perennial herb.

An oregano plant thrives in a stone garden bed, its green leaves sprawling gracefully. Among them, delicate purple flowers add a pop of color, creating a picturesque scene of natural harmony and beauty in the garden.


Oregano is an herb that we are all familiar with. Where would Italian food be without this all-important plant, after all? But oregano is not just a tasty ingredient for many cultures. It can also be a beautiful, ornamental plant.

The type of oregano used as an ornamental is not the same as that which makes the sauce delicious. It is a different species that may not taste as good, but it certainly is beautiful to look at. 

Here is everything you need to know about growing ornamental oregano!


Water droplets delicately bead on vibrant oregano flowers, catching the light. The flowers display a rich palette of green and purple, creating a stunning contrast and highlighting nature's intricate beauty.
Ornamental oregano is a perennial herb belonging to the Lamiaceae family.
Plant Type Perennial
Family Lamiaceae
Genus Origanum
Species Laevigatum
Native Area Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria
Exposure Full sun
Height up to 2’
Watering Requirements Low
Pests and Diseases Aphids, spider mites, thrips, mint rust, blight
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Well draining, sandy, rocky
Soil pH Neutral to alkaline

What is Ornamental Oregano?

Ornamental oregano (Origanum laevigatum or smooth oregano) is a perennial herb in the mint family. While its relative, Origanum vulgare, is a delicious herb, O. laevigatum is not the best for cooking. However, it is a great addition to the flower garden. The Royal Horticultural Society has recognized several varieties of this plant with the Award of Garden Merit.

Caring for this plant is very similar to any other species of oregano. Even though they have different applications, the plants are quite similar in their needs and growth habits. 


A close-up of vibrant green oregano leaves, showcasing intricate veins and delicate texture. In the background, a blur of additional leaves offers a glimpse into the lush abundance of the herb garden.
The leaves remain popular today for antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Oregano is a great plant with many current and historic uses. It is a symbol of happiness and a favorite among essential oil enthusiasts. This plant has its foundations in ancient civilizations. The Egyptians used it as an antidote for poisoning, as well as a preservative. Chinese healers have used the herb for ages, and in Shakespearean times, it was a considered a European cure-all for medicinal use. 

In recent years, oregano has seen continued herbal and medicinal uses. This plant has been utilized widely for cancer and heart disease. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties are well documented in the scientific literature

Native Area

Deep green oregano leaves blanket the earth, their fuzzy texture inviting touch. Each leaf unfurls gracefully, forming a lush carpet of aromatic foliage beneath the sun's gentle caress.
Oregano thrives in dry, rocky areas with alkaline soil.

It will come as no surprise to hear that this plant originates in the Mediterranean basin region. The cultures of the people in this area all include oregano as an herb central to their cuisine. This species predominantly originates in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Cyprus. 

This oregano grows in dry and rocky habitats. Rocky hillsides, meadows, and forest edges are common spots for it to grow naturally. This plant likes alkaline soil, so it often grows in spaces with a high concentration of limestone. 


A close-up of oregano leaves, each vein and texture vivid under the sunlight. The fuzzy surface glistens, capturing the warmth of the sun, inviting a sensory journey into the herb's aromatic depths.
There are many different varieties with varying growth habits.

Ornamental oregano is a woody, herbaceous perennial. It is semi-evergreen, as it will retain its foliage in environments with temperate winters. I’ve seen my oregano hold its leaves when the temperature fell below freezing. But as a rule, the foliage is frost tender. 

Different varieties have different growth habits that we’ll explore more below. Some grow up to two feet tall, and others creep along the ground. These creeping types are lovely ground covers. 

Much like their culinary cousins, ornamental oregano plants pack a punch when it comes to scent. The leaves are highly aromatic and smooth. Some types of oregano have slightly fuzzy leaves, but this one does not. This quality has earned it the nickname “smooth oregano.” These small, ovoid leaves deepen in color during the heat of summer. 

The standard flower formation for these plants will vary slightly among different varieties. In general, the plant produces clusters of small, tubular, purple flowers. Pollinators are fond of the flowers for their abundance of nectar. In some varieties, the flower bracts are layered and resemble hops. 

Oregano makes a good companion plant for the vegetable garden because of its attractiveness to beneficial insects. It is also pest-repellent. Aphids, in particular, dislike its scent, and it helps to protect its neighbors from these nuisance insects.

Deeper purple bracts surround the flowers. The flowers bloom in summer, but the bracts remain on the plant much longer. In cooler climates, they hang on longer than the leaves, giving this plant a striking winter appearance. 


Crushed oregano herbs fills a rustic wooden bowl, its aroma wafting gently. Resting atop a textured wooden table, the bowl invites culinary exploration, surrounded by scattered oregano leaves hinting at savory dishes to come.
Ornamental oregano is suitable for ground cover or borders.

Where other types of oregano receive accolades for their culinary use, this one doesn’t taste quite as good. You can use it for edible dishes, but it will likely disappoint. These plants are mostly flavorless. Breeding them for beauty rather than flavor has caused this difference. 

Origanum vulgaris is commonly used to make essential oils with considerable medicinal value. Ornamental oregano (O. laevigatum), however, lacks many of the compounds that make the oil beneficial for health. Along with the flavor of the leaves, so goes much of the usefulness. 

For the most part, ornamental oregano is used mostly in its name. The breeding of the plant has a definite focus on its attractiveness. Creeping varieties make a wonderful ground cover or container plant. Taller varieties make a lovely border or foreground to midground plant in the perennial flower garden.

Although they don’t have much flavor, they are still highly aromatic. Plant this near an outdoor living space to enjoy its spicy fragrance. 

Where to Buy

A cluster of small black pots cradle flourishing oregano plants, their vibrant green leaves reaching toward the light. Each pot brims with aromatic foliage, promising savory flavor to enliven culinary creations with a touch of Mediterranean essence.
Availability of ornamental herbs like oregano varies among local nurseries.

If you have a larger local nursery that carries ornamental herbs, you should find this easily. Most hardware and home improvement stores will not reliably carry it, but many online retailers breed and ship ornamental oregano starts and seeds. Seeds take longer to become mature plants, and starting them can be tricky. We will get back to that in a minute.


An oregano plant with lush foliage, showcasing petite leaves spiraling along purple stems. Each leaf glistens as it captures the soft rays of sunlight, creating a picturesque scene of natural beauty and botanical elegance.
The herb prefers well-drained, sunny locations with neutral pH soil.

Ornamental oregano is hardy in zones 4-9. Here, it will act as a perennial, so plant it where you want to keep it. Outside this range, it will grow as an annual. It makes a nice potted plant as well, so you can bring it indoors for the winter. 

When choosing a spot to plant your oregano, consider the drainage and sun exposure. Choose a spot that has excellent drainage and gets full sun exposure. Soil nutrients are not very important to this plant. Acidity can be an issue, though, so avoid planting in acidic soil. 

If you’re lucky enough to find this plant at a local nursery, planting will be simple. However, they don’t tend to be widely available, so growing them from seed is more common. You can directly sow the seeds when the soil temperature reaches 60-65°F (16-18°C). You can also start them indoors and transplant them when they are larger and sturdier. 

Plant your seeds or seedlings about 12″-18″ apart to allow them to spread out. Taller types will need less of a footprint than trailing varieties. While they are drought-tolerant plants, young plants or seedlings require a bit more water. Make sure to keep the soil slightly damp to aid in germination and establishment. 

How to Grow

Oregano is delightfully low maintenance and easy to grow. After you plant it in the right place and give it some attention while it gets established, you can sit back and relax. This is one of those plants that will surprise you with its sturdy nature.


This ornamental herb thrives in full sun but can still grow in partial shade.

Oregano is a full sun kind of plant. Full sun includes areas that receive six or more hours of sun exposure per day. That is not to say that your oregano won’t grow in partial shade. It absolutely will! I have some in hanging baskets on my front porch where they welcome friends with their wonderful smell. They get about four hours of sun daily, and they are nice and green. 

Sadly, my partial shade oregano does not bloom. That is the disadvantage of planting them in partial shade. The plant will grow, but no flowers will bloom. You will miss out on not only the blooms but the stunning purple bracts that follow. 


White and red water spray delicately misting over a vibrant green oregano plant, gleaming under the warm sunlight. Surrounding it, a backdrop of assorted plants basking in brown pots completes the serene garden scene.
Oregano is mostly drought tolerant but needs about one inch of water weekly.

When young, your oregano plants will need the soil to stay moist. Once established, though, let them dry out between waterings. Soggy roots are not good for oregano plants. In their natural Mediterranean environment, these plants grow in a climate known for long, hot, dry summers. 

Consider these plants to be mostly drought tolerant. They need about one inch of rainfall weekly to avoid supplementing. In times of prolonged drought, water your oregano once a week. Potted plants need more water because they dry out faster. Allow the soil to dry between waterings, but don’t wait a full week between, especially in the summer.


A close-up reveals the intricate texture of sandy soil, its grains varying in size and shape, creating a natural mosaic. The earthy brown hue suggests richness, hinting at its potential to nurture life and sustain ecosystems.
The plant prefers slightly alkaline soil with occasional compost for fertilizer.

When it comes to soil, drainage and pH are important factors to consider. This plant grows well in rocky or sandy soil types and likes a nice hillside. Your soil has to drain quickly, so if you have denser soil, work a bit of sand or gravel into it before planting. If you have naturally sandy or rocky soil, this plant does well without amending. 

In terms of pH, oregano likes soil to be slightly alkaline. Soil that contains a lot of limestone is ideal for this plant. Too much organic matter like compost or manure will acidify the soil, which isn’t right for this species. A bit of compost worked into the soil once per year will act as a fertilizer for your low-maintenance oregano. Just be careful about raising the pH too much.

Temperature and Humidity

An oregano plant with vivid green leaves reaches toward the sky, thriving in the sunlight. Its lush foliage bathes in the warm, golden rays, showcasing the plant's vitality and health.
Maintain 40-60% humidity for optimal growth.

The ideal temperature range for oregano is between 60-80°F (16-29°C). It is hardy in zones 4-9, and many regions of zone 9 tend to have long, hot summers. You may find your plants get a little droopy during the hottest months. This is a signal to give them a bit more water. In more temperate climates, your oregano should be quite happy during the warmer months. 

Oregano is not especially fond of humid weather. It won’t fuss too much about a bit of humid weather, but make sure that it gets ample air circulation. Ideally, a range of 40-60% will keep your plant looking happy and healthy. 


Foreground displays a rich, dark thermophilic compost pile, teaming with organic matter, fostering decomposition. In the blurred background, a metal mesh and lush green grass hint at the cycle of life and renewal.
Keep this herb healthy by refraining from using substances that can decrease soil pH.

Oregano is efficient in its use of nutrients and, therefore, doesn’t need much fertilizer. This is great news if you’re planting a mass of it and using it as a ground cover. Working some compost into the soil once per year will provide your plant with the nutrients it needs. Be careful not to add things that will lower the pH, or your oregano will suffer. 


oregano plants show some browning of leaves.
Prune off dead or damaged growth.

Culinary oregano requires pruning if you want it to taste good, but ornamental oregano is different. When an herb goes to flower, it tends to detract from the flavor of the leaves as the flowers drag all the nutrients upward. This is not the case for ornamental oregano, as you won’t be eating it, and the flowers are the main attraction to this plant

Don’t worry about pruning your plants during the growing season unless they become unruly. The time to prune this plant is in late winter or early spring. Before the plant begins to grow after dormancy, trim all the branches back to about six inches long. This encourages new growth and promotes branching, giving you a nice, dense plant. 

Growing in Containers

Choose the right size container and soil with good drainage.

Ornamental oregano makes a great container plant. The trailing varieties, in particular, look beautiful spilling over the sides of a hanging basket. Taller types look nice in a large clay pot. Planting your oregano in a container makes it possible to move it from place to place. Because of its spicy fragrance, this is a plant you will want to bring into your outdoor living spaces. 

Choose a container that is the right size for the plant or plants you intend to grow in it. A 12″ pot will work for a single plant; multiples will need more space. Clay pots are good at wicking water away from the roots, which is a benefit for these drought-tolerant plants

Make sure to use a potting medium that has excellent drainage. You can create your own by mixing some sand, perlite, or gravel in with a standard potting mix. You want this soil to hold water slightly longer than you would for plants in the ground. If your soil drains too quickly, you may find yourself watering every one to two days. 

Place your potted plants in a spot that gets plenty of sunlight. Six to eight hours of sun is optimal and will encourage ample blooms. Hanging plants usually drain and dry out faster, so keep an eye on them for any wilting. 


Propagation is simple and straightforward with this plant, whichever method you choose. The most common way to propagate is by seed. You can also carry out propagation with cuttings and by division


A close-up of a transparent container filled with a moist paper towel and tiny oregano seeds, promising new growth. Resting gracefully on a textured wooden table, the container holds the potential for a thriving herb garden.
Plant seeds in shallow trays with potting soil.

You can directly sow your seeds in the garden, but you will have a better germination rate if you start them in trays. Oregano seeds require light for germination, so they need to stay on top of the soil. When you directly sow these seeds, you run the risk of them blowing or washing away.

Sow your seeds in shallow seed trays or small containers. Use a standard seed starter or potting soil. Spread the tiny seeds on top of the potting medium and place them in a space that stays above 60°F (16°C). Seeds will sprout in two to three weeks. When your seedlings have some permanent leaves, move them outdoors to harden them off. 


A man in a denim jacket delicately wields a pair of scissors, ready to harvest the fragrant oregano. The green plant stretches upward, its leaves reaching towards the sun, anticipating the snip that will bring its flavor to the kitchen
Propagate by keeping cuttings moist and dipping in rooting hormone.

Propagating by cuttings is another solid option. This type of oregano tends to be easy to grow from cuttings. Take your cuttings from tender, new growth. You want to choose and cut branches that are about four to six inches long and have several sets of leaves. 

Keep the ends of your cuttings moist between cutting and planting. When you’re ready to plant them, strip off the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting. The nodes are where the new roots will grow from. Dip this end in a rooting hormone to expedite the rooting process. 

In a small pot with well-draining soil, make finger-sized holes as deep as the portion of your cutting with the leaves removed. Place each cutting with this end down into a hole. Press the soil lightly around the stem and place your cuttings in a warm, bright location. Keep your cuttings moist but not soggy for several weeks.

Once you see new growth, it is okay to transplant your cuttings. 


A close-up of an oregano plant reveals delicate white flowers nestled among deep green leaves. The herb thrives under the warm embrace of the radiant sunlight, its fragrance mingling with the gentle breeze.
Divide by gently separating the root ball into clumps.

Dividing your plants is another good way to propagate oregano. Divide your plants in the temperate fall weather, when growth has begun to slow. Don’t wait too long because your divisions need some time to acclimate before winter rolls in. Division in early spring after frost is another viable time.

Dig up the root ball of your plant and use a gardening fork or just a regular fork to separate it into clumps. Try to have a gentle touch with this. You don’t want to traumatize the plant terribly. 

Plant your divisions in the same way as your other oregano plants. It will take several weeks for them to recover from division, so don’t fret if your new divided plants look lackluster for a while. Give them a few weeks to get established, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. They will produce some new growth when they perk up, which is a sign that your division was successful. 

Common Problems

Ornamental oregano has very few issues. It is pest and disease-resistant and commonly attracts beneficial insects to the garden. In this way, it can protect more vulnerable plants that are nearby. There are a few issues that might crop up, and you can handle most of them easily. 


A close-up of a common bumblebee perching delicately on a white oregano flower, savoring nectar. In the background, a lush blur of green foliage sets the scene for this serene moment in nature's symphony.
The strong scent of oregano deters most garden pests.

As I mentioned, many garden pests avoid this plant because they don’t like the smell. Aphids will have to be hard-pressed to go after your oregano. Thrips and spider mites might pop up, but beneficial insects will often take care of the small amount that is willing to brave this plant


A white pot sits on a window sill, cradling a struggling oregano herb. The once vibrant green leaves now droop sadly, signaling the plant's distress and need for water and care.
Proper watering and removal of affected tissue prevent fungal disease spread.

The diseases that affect oregano plants are primarily fungal in nature. These can be an issue when your plants stay wet when the weather is very humid and when there is poor air circulation. Keep your plants pruned and thin out very dense foliage to help promote airflow. 

Good watering practices go a long way toward preventing fungal disease. However, if something crops up, the best defense is to remove all affected tissue. This can prevent the disease from spreading to other plants. If you find a case of root rot, dig up the plant and discard it away from other plants to prevent the spread of fungal pathogens. 

Here are the most notable cultivars of this unique ornamental herb.


Clusters of 'Rotkugel' oregano flowers, varying in shades of purple from deep hues to soft lavender, contrast beautifully with green leaves. The blurred background hints at a lush, verdant garden setting.
The ‘Rotkugel’ variety produces attractive pink flowers in mid-summer.
botanical-name botanical name Origanum ‘Rotkugel’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 15”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

‘Rotkugel’ is a flashy and extra-floral variety of ornamental oregano. This shrubby plant is taller than most varieties and forms a mound of foliage a bit more than one foot tall. It produces showy pink flowers that pollinators adore. The big bloom occurs in mid-summer, with each stem supporting a large flower head. 


A 'Kirigami' oregano plant featuring deeply lobed leaves, with delicate veins visible on the surface. Small clusters of purple flowers bloom amidst the foliage, adding a pop of color to the verdant greenery.
A low-growing variety called ‘Kirigami’ has whorling bracts resembling hops.
botanical-name botanical name Origanum ‘Kirigami’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 8”-10”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

‘Kirigami’ is a low-growing variety with a weeping habit. It looks great in a hanging basket. The whorling bracts resemble hops and are dusted here and there with purple but are mostly green. This variety puts off a lot of spicy scent. Add this to your container arrangements as a filler and spiller. 

‘Kent Beauty’

A close-up captures the delicate beauty of lavender 'Kent Beauty' oregano flowers, showcasing their intricate petals and soft hues. Tiny water droplets delicately cling to the surface, adding a touch of freshness.
The ‘Kent Beauty’ is a popular plant with long-lasting lavender bracts and bright colors.
botanical-name botanical name Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6”-9”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

Another variety with a weeping habit, ‘Kent Beauty’ is popular for its long-lasting lavender bracts. They are similar to ‘Kirigami’ but more brightly colored. The stunning silvery foliage and low growing habit make this a beautiful ground cover. This variety blooms for a long time, from early summer to early fall. 

‘Drops of Jupiter’

A carpet of 'Drops of Jupiter' oregano spreads out, adorned with delicate purple blossoms, inviting admiration. The radiant sun shines down, casting a warm glow upon the flourishing herbs, enhancing their beauty.
This variety is an ideal border plant with a spicy aroma.
botanical-name botanical name Origanum ‘Drops of Jupiter’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

‘Drops of Jupiter’ is a taller plant with upright stems that grows into a small shrub. The foliage is light, bright green, which beautifully complements the dark purple flowers and bracts. This variety makes a stunning border in the garden. Plant it around your outdoor living space, and the spicy aroma will greet visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Ornamental Oregano Evergreen?

In milder climates, such as zone 9, this plant will be evergreen. In colder climates, the foliage dies off in the winter and returns in spring.

Can Ornamental Oregano be Grown Indoors?

Yes, as long as you have a spot with plenty of bright light, you can grow this plant indoors. Potted plants can spend winter indoors to keep them green.

Final Thoughts

While it might not taste great, ornamental oregano has other excellent qualities. The spicy, aromatic foliage and flashy purple bracts make this a great plant to grow in the garden. This sturdy plant will bring beauty to your garden for many years. 

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