Deadheading and Pruning Oregano – Why and When To Do It

Similar to other plants and vegetables in your garden, oregano’s main objective is to bloom, be pollinated, and ultimately produce seeds. Unfortunately, this focus on reproduction means that the plant neglects other essential tasks, such as developing tasty and aromatic leaves and stems.

That’s where deadheading comes in. You remove the wilting flowers to encourage new growth and keep the herb young.

Is it necessary to deadhead oregano plants? 

Deadheading oregano is a crucial step to keep oregano growing new leaves and stems. You should deadhead and prune the herb throughout the spring and summer to promote vigorous growth. For ornamental oregano, prune wilted and faded flowers to encourage new flower buds and prolong the bloom season.

For the perennial oregano, both deadheading and pruning are two crucial aspects of the herb’s care. Read more to find out when and how to prune and deadhead the plant.

Pruning Oregano

Whether your oregano is an ornamental variety or you actually grow the herb to harvest its aromatic leaves and stems, you should pay extra attention to pruning the plant. Not only does regular pruning keep the plant manageable and in good shape, but it also promotes fresh new growth.

When Does Oregano Flower?

Most oregano varieties will start flowering as early as late spring or early summer. However, some varieties are late bloomers and might only show their flowers in late summer. The bloom time depends on the variety, weather, and other growing conditions, such as type of soil, light, watering, and feeding frequency.

Should I Cut the Flowers Off My Oregano Plant?

If you’re growing your oregano purely for its fresh leaves and tender stems, then cutting the flowers should be a top priority. Once it flowers, oregano will divert its resources to the flowers and neglect growing new leaves. However, if your oregano is an ornamental plant, then you should only cut the spent flowers to encourage new flower buds.

Does Oregano Die After Flowering?

Oregano is a perennial plant that comes back after a long dormant period during the winter months. You should cut the plant back to the ground after the first frost and mark the spot. In the spring it will grow back. 

Difference Between Deadheading, Pruning, and Harvesting

For a flowering herb grown mainly for its aromatic leaves, deadheading, pruning, and harvesting are all par for the course. However, there are subtle differences between all three tasks. 

  • Deadheading: This involves removing spent and fading flowers to encourage new buds.
  • Pruning: With pruning, you cut off damaged, broken, or diseased stems and stalks to keep the plant in shape.
  • Harvesting: You can start harvesting the leaves and stems in the spring to trigger new growth and delay the flowering stage for as long as possible.

Why Prune Oregano – 3 Reasons

Pruning oregano is a tricky process. If you overdo it, the plant could have stunted growth and might take years to recover. If you don’t prune at all, it will grow out of shape and look messy. Here are other reasons why you should prune oregano:

Leggy Oregano

A plant gets leggy when the leaves grow at the tip of the stem leaving the rest of the stalk looking bare. This often happens when the stems age. One way to avoid this problem is to prune oregano regularly and cut it back to the ground after the flower season.

Overgrown Oregano

Nobody likes an overgrown plant, and oregano is prone to outgrowing the pot, planter, or bed you grow it in. An overgrown oregano looks like a mess of wooden stems, bare stalks, and a few tufts of leaves here and there. This affects not just the blooms but the number of fresh leaves you can harvest. 

To Promote New Growth

As the stems age, they tend to carry fewer and fewer leaves, and the leaves themselves become bitter as they age. Regular pruning promotes new growth and keeps the plant busy producing fresh new leaves.

When To Prune Oregano

Regular pruning is essential for the success of your oregano plant. Start pruning it once the foliage is full by early summer. If you’re more interested in the leaves than the flowers, then remove flower buds during your pruning tasks. Otherwise, you should only prune overgrown branches and broken stems. 

Should You Cut Back Oregano for Winter?

After the flower season is over, oregano goes dormant. That’s your cue to cut back the herb. The plant will come back in the spring with new stems and leaves. 

How To Prune Oregano

If left alone, oregano can become overgrown, out of shape, and messy. This has to do with the fast growth rate of the plant. You’ll need to prune it regularly during the summer months to keep it in good shape. Here’s how to prune oregano in easy steps:

  1. In the spring, the herb will grow robustly. Wait for it to reach 4 inches tall, and start pinching the tips of the stems to promote bushy growth.
  2. Use sterilized shears, and don’t prune more than one-third of the foliage at a time.
  3. Allow the plant to grow back to at least 4 inches high before pruning it again.
  4. To avoid over-pruning oregano, cut one stalk at a time. 
  5. Remove old stalks and broken stems.
  6. If you accidentally over-prune the herb, pinch off the tips of the stems, but don’t cut off the stalks until the plant has recovered.

Growing Tips for Oregano

  • Start oregano in the spring, and choose a sunny spot for the herb.
  • Mix organic compost (this one is excellent) in the soil before planting to give the seedlings a head start.
  • Space the plants 10 to 12 inches apart.
  • Water the soil thoroughly but not very often as oregano prefers soil on the dry side.
  • Leaves have the most flavor in spring through mid-summer before the bloom season. Cutting off the flower buds improves the flavors in the leaves.

Related Questions:

Does Oregano Flower?

Oregano is a flowering herb. The flowers bloom in late spring or early summer. Some varieties bloom late in the summer. The clusters of small flowers vary in color depending on the oregano variety. The most common colors are purple and white. 

Does Oregano Bolt?

Even though oregano flowers, it doesn’t bolt. Bolting is when the leaves and stems of the plant lose their flavor or become bitter after flowering. This is not the case with oregano. The leaves and even the flowers are edible and don’t lose much of their flavor. 

Are Oregano Flowers Edible?

You can eat oregano flowers and use them to garnish your entrées, smoothies, salads, and drinks in the same way you use the leaves. However, the flowers don’t have quite the same flavor and aromas as the leaves. I recommend you limit their culinary usage to garnishing dishes.

Conclusion

Flowering is a natural part of the oregano’s life cycle. It’s the plant’s way of developing seeds. In most cases, deadheading the spent flowers and cutting off the flower buds will improve the growth of the herb unless you are growing it solely for ornamental value.

Oregano leaves have the most flavors in spring and summer before the flower buds open. Prune the plant regularly during the summer, and cut it back after the flower season is over.