Grow oregano in containers with a few easy steps
How to grow oregano in a pot
A lot of culinary herbs grow well in containers, and oregano is definitely one of them. With plenty of sun and light watering, it grows well in pots and small spaces.
It’s a GREAT container plant for beginners just getting started with a patio garden … easy to grow and awesome in the kitchen.
I grow a big container of oregano and thyme every year in my deck garden, and this summer my 4-year-old called it the “pizza pot” because it smelled exactly like pizza.
In fact, did you know oregano’s popularity in the U.S. got a big boost from pizza? During World War II, American soldiers in southern Italy discovered the glorious things oregano does to pizza and brought the idea home. Who knew??
But enough about pizza …. Let’s get you growing oregano in your container garden so you can have your own fresh amazing supply too!
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Growing oregano from seed
It’s totally possible to grow oregano from seeds, but honestly I haven’t had the best luck starting oregano that way.
(By the way we’re talking about Greek oregano here – the best and most common variety for use in cooking.)
- About a month before the last expected frost (find yours here), sprinkle some seeds in a seed-starting tray or pot. You can use seed-starting mix, a soilless medium like coconut coir, dampened potting soil, or a blend of any of the above. Mist with water. Maybe sing them a song or play some Bob Marley for good vibes. (Think I’m joking??)
- Next, cover the tray or pot with plastic and set it in a sunny spot. Keep them covered, and mist anytime the soil starts to dry out.
- I highly recommend using a warming mat to keep the seeds nice and toasty while they germinate. This is especially helpful if they’re kept in a cool spot. Here’s the warming mat I use – waterproof and easy to use and clean. I love it!
- Seeds will germinate within a week or two. Thin to one seedling per seed-tray cell or a few seedlings per larger pot.
TIP: Make sure you thin by clipping the seedlings off at the base of the stem, especially if they’re close together. It’s tempting to yank them out, but don’t! Seedling roots are super delicate. Pulling one out could easily damage the roots of its little neighbors. You know, the ones you’re trying to save. 🙂
Not sure where to buy seeds? Check out the herb selection at Botanical Interests, a leading organic seed source for over 25 years.
- Transplant seedlings to pots with a good-quality, light potting soil and a handful of compost. Move them outside when they are 4-6 weeks old. Harden off by exposing them to full sun for brief periods at first, then gradually move them into their full-sun spots.
Or buy oregano seedlings from a local source
If you don’t have time to start from seed (or would just rather skip that step), you can find strong, healthy seedlings at local farmers’ markets, nurseries or garden stores.
Seedlings are usually at least a few weeks ahead of freshly planted seeds.
My favorite tip about buying seedlings: I’ve had the best luck finding good seedlings at the farmer’s market. They’re often grown organically and get a lot of care and attention.
Plus you can talk directly to the grower, who can give you details about the variety, whether it’s been hardened off, tips for transplanting and growing in your local climate, etc. … and pick up some other locally grown goodies while you’re there! Farmer’s markets rock. Find yours!
If you go with seedlings and they haven’t been hardened off (or you’re not sure they have been), gradually expose them to sun and heat before planting in your containers.
Choose a container and a sunny spot
Oregano likes: sun or partial sun, moderate water, being planted with herb friends (like thyme, basil, rosemary, sage, and lavender)
Oregano doesn’t like: full or partial shade, too much water, dense/soggy soil
Keep these factors in mind when deciding where and how you’re going to plant:
- Fill an 8-12” deep pot or container with good quality potting soil for each plant. Use a pot with at least a 12” opening, if possible, to make the most of oregano’s tendency to spread.
- Terracotta or clay pots work great for herbs like thyme and oregano that prefer dry conditions. The porous material speeds drainage and helps keep the soil dry, better than plastic.
Oregano is an awesome culinary herb and also makes a great ground cover. It spreads well and likes growing near pretty much any other culinary or decorative plant.
So if you can, give it room to spread in a wide container. Or give it some room to follow its little plant heart.
- But if you don’t have a lot of space or a larger container, that’s okay too. Oregano isn’t fussy, as long as it has lots of sun and a little water.
- Next, find a spot on your patio, deck or balcony that gets full sun at least 6-8 hours per day, if possible. If you’re in a very hot climate and the spot gets full sun, you might move your oregano into the shade for a bit each day to give it a break.
How to take care of a potted oregano plant
As I mentioned above, I have a preschooler. That means I live with a very small-but-mighty person with very specific opinions and requirements (as far as he’s concerned). So when I’m planning my small-but-mighty garden for the deck, the last thing I want is FUSSY PLANTS.
When he’s grown and we’re retired, living on a bunch of beautiful land somewhere, I will have a whole garden (and patio, of course!!) full of particular, needy plants to keep me busy. (That will definitely include a bunch of melons … I haven’t had much luck with them but would love to try again and have fresh watermelons and cantaloupe … someday!)
But now – not so much. Easy-peasy plants like oregano are my friend!
Oregano isn’t fussy about water, as long as you don’t overdo it. Wait until the surface of the soil is dry and then water thoroughly, until it drips from the bottom of the pot. If you have a tray below the pot, empty out the overflow when you’re done watering.
Oregano also isn’t fussy about fertilizer. You can just add a handful of aged compost to the container and mix with the potting soil when you plant it, and it’s good to go for most of the season. If not, or if your little oregano is struggling along, add a water-soluble fertilizer like fish emulsion at half strength every month or two.
How much oregano should I grow?
Oregano is easy to grow and prolific, and a little goes a long way in cooking. Two healthy plants are a good start for use in the kitchen. In fall, trim down to the bottom ⅓ of the plant and dry or preserve the harvest.
What temperatures can oregano tolerate?
Oregano is a perennial herb and can handle cold temperatures (40 degrees F and below) better than tropical herbs like basil (which doesn’t do well below about 50 degrees F). Thyme, mint and sage are also in the cold-hardy perennial herb category.
Perennial herbs go dormant during cold months. It helps to prune them back in early fall to get the most of the harvest and set them up for winter.
You can also bring oregano pots indoors during the cold months. They’ll be happy by a sunny window until spring.
As I write this, it’s early December and we’ve had an unusually warm fall/winter here in mid-Missouri — so my oregano is still in a pot on the deck.
We’ve had a few brief frosts but no serious cold stretches and no snow. It’s dormant and not growing much, but it’s hanging in there! I’ll bring it inside when we get a true cold snap, then right back out in the spring.
When to pick oregano
Harvest early and often
You can start harvesting oregano anytime after it reaches about 4-6 inches tall. Snip stems close to the next set of leaves below where you want to trim. To encourage full, bushy growth, harvest often. When harvesting more than a few stems, try to leave about ⅔ of the height.
Prune flowers asap
As soon as you see flower buds appear, snip them off. Flowering oregano will turn woody and less productive.
Here’s an easy guide to pruning oregano. He works with a plant in the ground, but it works the same with container oregano.
What companion plants can I grow with oregano?
In general, herbs that like similar conditions grow well together, which makes perfect sense. You wouldn’t want to waterlog a plant because its container-mate likes wet soil.
Oregano is one of the Mediterranean herbs that likes sun but relatively dry soil, not too much water.
So if you’re growing it in the same pot with a friend, go for something with similar needs like rosemary, sage, thyme or lavender.
I almost always plant some oregano and thyme together in a large container and they do very well.
More articles about growing an awesome container herb garden on your patio, deck or balcony:
- How to grow basil in a pot
- How to grow thyme in a pot
- How to grow rosemary in a pot
- How to grow dill in a pot
- How to grow parsley in a pot
- How to grow catnip in a pot