Top of The Crops - Oregano

Growing Oregano In A Polytunnel

Oregano is a pungent herb that is delicious in a wide range of Mediterranean and Mexican recipes. It can be a useful addition to a polytunnel, as part of a herb garden or as a companion plant to other common polytunnel plants. As a sun and warmth lover, oregano is ideally suited to growing undercover in the UK. 

Key Information

Oregano, scientifically known as Origanum vulgare, belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is a flowering herb. Originally native to the Mediterranean region, it has been cultivated in gardens and has become naturalized in numerous areas across the temperate northern hemisphere.

Its name originates from the Greek term meaning 'brightness of the mountain.' Oregano is closely related to marjoram, another noteworthy culinary herb worth considering for your garden. While oregano is a perennial herb, in colder regions where it does not successfully overwinter, it is often grown as an annual.

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How to Grow Oregano

While the culinary uses of oregano are a primary reason for its cultivation, there are numerous other benefits to growing this versatile herb in your garden.

Oregano serves as an aromatic herb and an excellent companion plant for various crops. It attracts beneficial insects that aid in maintaining ecological balance and reducing pest populations in organic gardens. For instance, it lures predatory insects that help control sap-sucking pests. Additionally, oregano is effective in attracting butterflies to your garden.

Furthermore, oregano adds aesthetic value to your garden with its beautiful flowers, which not only entice wildlife but also enhance the overall appearance of your garden space. Therefore, beyond its culinary utility, oregano offers ecological benefits and contributes to the visual appeal of your garden.

Fortunately, this useful herb is not too challenging to grow. 


Oregano should be sown indoors from February and in an unheated polytunnel from April or May. It can be sown direct in warm and free draining soil, or can be sown in containers. 

To collect seeds from oregano plants, follow these steps:

  1. Harvest the flowers once they begin to dry out.

  2. Bundle the flower heads together using twine and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated area for approximately two weeks to allow for complete drying.

  3. Once the flowers are fully dried, gently shake them over a paper bag to release any remaining seeds trapped within the flowers.

  4. Use a winnowing technique to separate the seeds from any chaff or debris.

  5. Store the collected seeds in a sealed container in a cool, dry place, ensuring they remain viable for up to 3-5 years.

Alternatively, oregano can be propagated through cuttings, which is often a simpler method. Follow these steps for successful propagation:

  1. Take softwood cuttings in the spring for optimal results. Cuttings should be approximately 7-10cm in length, sliced diagonally just above a node.

  2. Remove all but the top two leaves from the stem portion of the cutting.

  3. Dip the cut end of the cutting into rooting hormone to encourage root development.

  4. Plant the cuttings into a pot filled with moist potting soil, ensuring they are placed at a suitable depth.

  5. Wait for healthy new growth to emerge, indicating successful root development.

  6. After about a month, transplant the newly established plants into their final growing positions, allowing them ample time to adjust and thrive.

Sowing indoors

Oregano sown earlier indoors can be hardened off before planting out in April or May or in July. It is best to keep oregano indoors until all danger of frost has passed in your area.

When to Plant

Oregano should be planted out into the garden once risk of frost has passed, between late April and July. This is true whether you have grown the plants from seed or have purchased them from a garden centre or plant nursery. 

Selecting a Planting Site: Where to Plant Oregano

There are a number of different types of oregano, each suited to growing in slightly different conditions. But in general, remember that oregano is a Mediterranean herb and like other Mediterranean herbs, it likes full sun and free-draining conditions. 

Oregano, like its Mediterranean counterparts, flourishes in warm, sunny locations. Hardy down to approximately minus 20 degrees Celsius in suitable environments, it requires well-draining soil and cannot withstand waterlogged or excessively damp conditions.

While it can endure an exposed position, oregano typically thrives in a warmer and more sheltered location. It isn't overly particular about soil pH but tends to perform best in slightly alkaline conditions. Additionally, oregano exhibits a fair degree of drought tolerance and can thrive in relatively poor soils.

In areas where the soil drains effectively, it can be cultivated directly in the ground or in raised beds. Alternatively, oregano can be grown in containers, allowing for versatility in placement. Containers can be kept outdoors during the summer or placed indoors on a sunny windowsill year-round.

How to Plant Oregano

For planting oregano in the ground or a raised bed, it's essential to prepare the area beforehand by ensuring ample organic matter and proper drainage.

When opting for container gardening, select a container slightly larger than the plant's existing root system. Ensure the container has adequate drainage holes at the base and consider using pot feet to elevate it for improved drainage.

Fill the container with peat-free multipurpose compost and maintain consistent moisture levels, particularly when growing oregano permanently in containers. However, be cautious to prevent waterlogging.

Planting oregano is straightforward. Begin by digging a hole large enough to accommodate the plant's roots. Place the plant in the hole. Gently firm the soil or growing medium around the roots to secure the plant in place.

Spacing, Depth, and Support

If you are planting multiple oregano plants, these should generally be spaced around 20cm apart. Depth is also important and when planting out oregano you need to ensure that each plant sits at the same level in the soil or growing medium as it did in its previous container. 

These are low, clump-forming herbs and so should not require any support structure. However, you may find it beneficial to consider companion planting since oregano can support a number of other plants, helping with wildlife attraction and organic pest control. 

Oregano serves as a beneficial companion plant, attracting wildlife while potentially deterring certain pests. It complements the following crops:

  • Tomatoes and peppers

  • Squash, cucumbers, and other cucurbits

  • Brassicas, including cabbage family plants

  • Grape vines, as well as various fruit trees and bushes

  • Other Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, lavender, and thyme

However, it's essential to note that oregano thrives in free-draining conditions. Therefore, it's advisable to plant it in the same growing area or container as these crops, ensuring proper drainage.

In instances where crops require different soil conditions, placing oregano in a nearby container is often a preferable alternative to planting it directly in the same bed.

Care Tips for Oregano

As long as you place oregano in the right location, this is not a herb that will require a great deal of care. Of course, however, you do need to think about the basics such as watering, feeding etc..


Seedlings should be watered regularly, especially those in containers, though it is important not to over-water.

Mulching and Feeding

Pot grown oregano can be given a boost by feeding it with a good quality, organic, liquid feed.


Keeping on top of weeds is important to avoid overcrowding which leads to competition and poor airflow around oregano plants. 

Cutting Back

After your oregano has flowered it is a good idea to trim back growth to keep your plants healthy and compact. When the weather begins to turn in the autumn, oregano for summer use should be trimmed right back to the ground.

Winter Protection

Plants do not like to be too wet in the winter so even more care should be taken to avoid overwatering. Place oregano grown in containers in a sheltered spot and provide extra protection against winter weather, as required.

To get oregano leaves over the winter, pot them up and bring them indoors. If placed in a warm and above all, bright location through the winter, oregano plants can continue to provide a harvest all winter long.


Oregano leaves can be cultivated and harvested when needed, before the flower buds open. You can expect to have a supply of oregano from around May at the earliest, right through until October and perhaps even beyond.

Preparation and Uses of Oregano

Oregano leaves can be used fresh or dried for later use in a wide range of different recipes. The dried leaves are somewhat stronger in flavour than the fresh ones and so are generally used more sparingly. In cooking, as in the garden, oregano pairs well with tomatoes in a range of dishes. 

Storing Oregano

Oregano, once dried, can be stored in an airtight container for later use. You can also freeze oregano is ice-cubes so that you can use it later in that form. 

Varieties of Oregano

  • Origanum vulgare, commonly known as wild oregano, displays dark-green foliage and pink blossoms during summer.
  • Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum 'Greek' is a favorable choice for drying purposes, distinguished by its vivid green leaves and white flowers.
  • Origanum 'Kent Beauty' is a dwarf cultivar native to Britain, prized for its decorative appeal, featuring grey-green leaves and large, drooping pink flowers. However, it is not suitable for culinary use.
  • Origanum vulgare 'Aureum Crispum' boasts wavy golden leaves and delicate pink flowers.
  • Origanum 'Rosenkuppel' is a compact ornamental variety, notable for its purple-flushed foliage and tubular purple flowers accompanied by reddish-purple bracts. It is important to note that this variety is not intended for consumption as a culinary herb.

Common Problems for Oregano

Aphids can be drawn to oregano, potentially becoming problematic. However, natural predators of aphids, such as ladybugs and lacewings, are often attracted to oregano as well and can help control their population.

When cultivating oregano under cover, red spider mites and two-spotted mites might pose a challenge, especially in greenhouse settings. In such cases, employing biological controls, such as predatory mites, can be effective. Additionally, maintaining higher humidity levels by regularly misting the plants is advisable, as these pests thrive in low humidity and hot, dry conditions.

But mostly, issues only arise when growing oregano if you have not quite got everything right when it comes to care and growing conditions. 

Top Tips for Growing Oregano in a Polytunnel

Oregano is said to be a good companion plant for basil, tomatoes, peppers and a whole range of other edible crops. Oregano can attract predatory insects that will aid in keeping down an aphid population. Basil planted close to oregano may help the latter to thrive.


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Ruggeri, C., (2023) Oregano Benefits for Inflammation, Infections & More. Dr. Axe. [online] Available at: [accessed 21/03/24]

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growing oregano in a polytunnel