Types of Oregano: Growing and Using Different Varieties

When it comes to cooking, we often think of oregano as a bold and flavorful spice that pairs perfectly with Italian dishes. However, did you know that there are multiple types of oregano, each with its own unique flavor? In this article, we will explore the different varieties of oregano, how to grow them, and how to make the most of their distinct flavors.

Fresh Oregano (selective focus; close-up shot) on an old wooden table

Oregano is a versatile herb that is not only easy to grow but also adds beauty to your garden. Before you start growing oregano, it’s important to know which variety you want to cultivate. Whether you plan to grow it indoors, outdoors, or as an ornamental plant, let’s explore the most common types of oregano and how to care for them.

Oregano Plant Basics

Belonging to the Lamiaceae family, which also includes mint, lavender, and rosemary, oregano is a warm-weather herb that is native to the Mediterranean region. While oregano is commonly used in various recipes, it’s important to understand the differences between the different types, as they each have their own distinct taste.

Different types of oregano sprigs against a bright white background.

7 Different Types of Oregano to Grow

Thanks to its tangy flavor and delightful aroma, oregano has become a staple in many cuisines worldwide. Let’s explore the most common varieties and discover how to utilize them in your cooking, as well as for ornamental and DIY purposes.

Common Oregano

Scientific Name: Origanum vulgare
Hardiness Zone: 4-8
Light: Full sun
Soil: Well-draining soil
Water: Keep it on the dry side
Flowers: Purple, pink, and white

Common oregano is widely used in a variety of recipes, especially those that feature tomatoes. It’s commonly found in soups, casseroles, and many other dishes.

To identify common oregano, look for its distinct square stems, which are characteristic of plants in the mint family. It has small, highly fragrant, medium-green ovate leaves. From mid-summer through fall, you’ll see blooms in pink, purple, or white.

Common oregano requires less water compared to other mint family plants. In fact, the hotter and drier the conditions, the more fragrant and flavorful it becomes. It’s a low-maintenance herb that’s easy to grow.

You can use fresh, dried, or frozen common oregano in a wide variety of culinary, medicinal, and beauty applications. It’s particularly popular in Mediterranean cuisine and DIY body products.

A bundle of fresh bright green common oregano against a bright white background.

Greek Oregano

Scientific Name: Origanum vulgare var. hirtum
Hardiness Zone: 5-11
Light: Full sun
Soil: Well-draining soil
Water: Keep it on the dry side
Flowers: White

Greek oregano is a variety of common oregano and is commonly used in Greek, Italian, and Spanish cuisine. It’s widely available in grocery and spice stores and is often found in tomato-based dishes such as pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti.

Greek oregano closely resembles common oregano, with slightly darker leaves being the main difference. Its flavor sets it apart, giving your dishes a unique taste.

To grow Greek oregano, it’s best to propagate it from cuttings rather than starting from seed. Provide it with plenty of light and minimal water for optimal growth.

Use Greek oregano fresh, dried, or frozen in a range of culinary, medicinal, and beauty applications. The possibilities are endless!

Small freshly cut sprigs of Greek oregano against a bright white background.

Sweet Marjoram

Scientific Name: Origanum majorana
Hardiness Zone: 9-10
Light: Full sun
Soil: Well-draining soil
Water: Low moisture needs
Flowers: Pink and white

Though sweet marjoram is considered a distinct herb from oregano for cooking purposes, it is, in fact, a type of oregano. Originating from Turkey, sweet marjoram boasts small gray-green ovate leaves and grows in a mounding, bush pattern. It produces beautiful clusters of white and pink blooms in the summer.

Growing sweet marjoram is as easy as growing oregano, and it adds a sweet fragrance to your garden. Consider it as a tender perennial in warm regions and an annual in cooler regions. It’s an excellent addition to your indoor herb garden.

Sweet marjoram has a flavor that is sweeter and lighter than common oregano but is used in similar dishes. Add it to your recipes towards the end of cooking to best preserve its delicate flavor.

A sprig of fresh sweet marjoram against a bright white tabletop.

Syrian Oregano

Scientific Name: Origanum syriacum
Hardiness Zone: 9-10
Light: Full sun
Soil: Well-draining, alkaline, sandy soil
Water: Little watering needs
Flowers: White

Syrian oregano has a robust flavor that adds a delicious spicy kick to your dishes. It’s a quick-growing herb that thrives in hot temperatures, lots of light, and dry soil. However, it doesn’t tolerate high humidity levels well.

To identify Syrian oregano, look for its tall, hairy stems adorned with gray-green ovate leaves.

Growing Syrian oregano is a treat, as it can reach a height of up to 4 feet and create dense clumps. In hot climates, you can grow it outdoors year-round, while in cooler regions, it’s best to bring it indoors during winter. Note that it may not thrive as a year-round indoor herb.

Syrian oregano has a taste similar to mint but with a mildly spicy twist. It can be used in any recipe that calls for common oregano and is especially popular in Middle Eastern cuisine with meat and vegetable dishes.

A dark green sprig of freshly cut Syrian oregano against a bright white background.

Cuban Oregano

Scientific Name: Plectranthus amboinicus
Hardiness Zone: 10-11
Light: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well-draining soil
Water: Drought tolerant
Flowers: Pink, purple, and white trumpet-shaped flowers

While not a member of the true oregano family (Origanum), Cuban oregano belongs to the larger Lamiaceae family, which is home to oregano, mint, and other herbs. It goes by various names, including Mexican mint, Spanish thyme, and Indian borage.

Cuban oregano resembles mint with its grayish-green fuzzy leaves and serrated edges. It offers a strong and pleasant fragrance and produces trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of pink, lavender, or white.

Cuban oregano thrives as a perennial in warm climates but is an annual in cooler regions. It’s an excellent addition to container gardens and can be brought indoors during the winter.

While it has a similar scent to common oregano, Cuban oregano has a stronger flavor. When using this variety in your recipes, use less compared to common or Greek oregano.

Cuban oregano growing in an outside garden.

Italian Oregano

Scientific Name: Origanum x majoricum
Hardiness Zone: 8-11
Light: Full sun to part shade (afternoon shade in hot climates)
Soil: Well-draining soil
Water: Low to medium moisture needs
Flowers: Pink

Italian oregano is a delicious hybrid of common oregano and sweet marjoram. It not only offers a versatile and tasty herb for your dishes but also adds beauty to your garden.

Italian oregano closely resembles Greek oregano, but its leaves are larger and slightly brighter green. During the summer, it showcases small pink flowers.

For best growth, Italian oregano thrives in hot and dry climates. It can be grown in containers, garden beds, and even indoors. Similar to its Syrian cousin, Italian oregano does not tolerate humidity well.

When using Italian oregano, expect the herb to enhance the flavors of soups, pasta dishes, and recipes that incorporate tomato sauce.

A sprig of fresh Italian oregano against a bright white background.

Golden Oregano

Scientific Name: Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’
Hardiness Zone: 4-9
Light: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well-draining soil
Water: Dry to medium moisture level
Flowers: Pink and purple

Golden oregano, while different from sweet oregano, is still a common variety. You can find it in many nurseries and home improvement stores. It boasts a sweet scent and a spicy flavor.

It’s one of the hardier types of oregano, growing in a clumping pattern with woody stems and small, golden yellow oval leaves. During the summer, it displays purple or pink flowers.

Golden oregano is a low-maintenance herb that’s easy to grow. Its aromatic leaves and distinctive golden coloring make it a beautiful addition to your garden bed or container garden.

While golden oregano has a more subtle flavor compared to other oregano varieties, it can still be used in recipes where you desire a mild oregano taste. Consider growing it as a border plant or in containers to enjoy its delightful fragrance.

Soft yellow golden oregano growing outside.

If you love the fragrance and taste of oregano, I encourage you to try growing it yourself! Regardless of the variety you choose, you’ll appreciate the wonderful addition this versatile herb brings to your garden and culinary creations.

More Gardening Inspiration

Be sure to explore all our herb-growing guides for more gardening tips and ideas.