If you have ever been off the beaten track in Mediterranean countries, you might have stumbled across thyme, rosemary, and oregano blissfully growing out of stone walls and the smallest cracks you can imagine. These herbs are well suited to growing in restrained conditions.
What type of containers should be used for growing oregano?
Virtually any container with drainage holes can be used to grow oregano; however, terracotta or clay pots are ideal as they are environmentally friendly. Usually, a half-gallon pot will be enough for oregano that lives on a kitchen shelf, but much larger containers can be used outdoors.
If you’re unsure how to approach growing oregano in containers, you can follow our guide to answer the most commonly asked questions.
Best Containers for Growing Oregano
Virtually any container can be used to grow oregano. Just remember that over time, sun and water damage will deteriorate the material, so don’t use any containers made of synthetic or potentially harmful materials.
1. Terracotta Pots
Terracotta (“baked earth” in Latin) makes a fantastic material for garden pots, which is of course why they are found in just about every garden!
What makes them so useful is that they are usually made from organic materials that can help regulate airflow, temperature, and moisture — which is exactly what you want when housing a living, edible plant.
2. Clay Pots
Clay pots are similar to terracotta; however, they are made of slightly different ingredients and produced differently. They are both still technically clay.
These pots are better for plants that prefer consistently moist soil as clay is less permeable than terracotta and will hold in moisture for longer.
3. Any Pot or Container With Sufficient Drainage
Yep, you guessed it — pretty much any container with sufficient drainage will do. However, we cannot stress enough the potential dangers of leaching. This is a process where the materials used to make the container deteriorate and seep into the contents of the container.
This may not sound like such a concern for garden soil, but plants will pick up anything in the soil, nutrients and contaminants alike. Lead, chemicals in plastic, and even certain synthetic coatings on cheap, imported terracotta pots can be toxic and end up in your herbs and vegetables.
For an alternative to terracotta or clay, why not use old tin buckets, wooden crates, canvas or hessian bags, old steel cooking pots, or even big glass jars? Get creative, and have fun with it!
How Big of a Container Does Oregano Need?
This really depends on the variety of oregano you are growing. Common oregano (Oregano vulgare) will be happy in a container that is at least half a gallon in volume. On the other hand, varieties like Syrian oregano (Origanum maru) grow tall and upright, so they need lots of room for roots — try for a container of at least 2 gallons in volume.
How To Grow Oregano in Pots
It is actually very simple to grow oregano successfully in pots, but just like in life, laying the right foundations can mean everything. Using a specialty potting mix ensures that your plant has the nutrients and environment it needs to perform at its peak.
1. Selecting a Container
When selecting a container, keep in mind the location. You don’t want a big, bulky pot sitting in your home, and small pots outdoors will dry out too quickly in direct sunlight. Also, think about potential yard work or moving pots in winter to reach the light.
Having a heavy, cumbersome pot can mean a difficult or even impossible job for you. Because oregano does not like “wet feet,” terracotta pots are ideal as they will absorb excess moisture that will then evaporate, decreasing the risk of root rot.
2. Planting Oregano in Pots
Pots provide an excellent environment for oregano, especially those made out of terracotta. They also usually come with saucers to catch excess water, which is a great way to avoid staining decks and patios. Be sure to use a high-quality potting mix, ideally organic soil with added nutrients, like this one.
3. Potted Oregano Daily Care
While potted oregano doesn’t really require daily care, it is always a good practice to give your plants a quick look over once a week to make sure that there are no pests or diseases present in the garden. This is also the time you should water your plant and lightly prune it to encourage growth. During periods of very warm weather, you may need to water more frequently.
4. Lightly Harvesting Oregano for Cooking
Oregano should be regularly harvested throughout the growing season to maintain continuous growth and regeneration. You should take care to harvest only a little bit at a time. Generally, aim to harvest no more than 10 percent of the entire foliage.
If you happen to forget about your oregano and notice it has overgrown or you are pruning it for winter, remember you can always dry your cuttings, store them, and use them for up to a year.
5. Pruning Potted Oregano
Potted herbs can always be a little trickier to grow than direct garden planting, so you should make sure that oregano is healthy and happy before pruning. Signs of healthy oregano are deep green foliage and lots of leaves as opposed to scraggly, underdeveloped growth.
If you haven’t been lightly harvesting leaves routinely, the plant may become leggy and less productive. In this case, cut back up to ⅓ of the plant to encourage fresh growth.
6. Oregano Winter Care
Oregano is certainly not meant for cold winters, and it will not tolerate freezing temperatures for extended periods. Because this herb is a short-lived perennial, it will come back again in spring if moved into a warm position like the house or garage.
Some growers who do not experience frost will opt to prune the entire plant, aerate the soil with a garden fork, add compost, and then generously water at the end. This seems to work great for promoting strong fresh growth, and while it may look sad for a little while, your plant will certainly appreciate it come spring.
When To Repot Oregano
Oregano is a pretty tough plant and can withstand a whole lot of conditions, environments, and handling. For this reason, repotting can be undertaken all throughout the year but is best done in the spring when growth is strong. If you repot in the summer, make sure you repot during the evening and shade your plant for a couple of days to minimize any shock.
When you see signs of the plant becoming rootbound (stunted growth, roots visible at the drainage holes or above the soil line, soil doesn’t hold water anymore, etc.), it is definitely time to repot. The good news is that this is an ideal time to divide the plant — an easy way to multiply your herb collection!
Does Oregano Like To Be Crowded?
Oregano certainly doesn’t mind a close neighbor and is happy to grow in a pot or garden area with close company. For best results, however, give plants at least 4 to 6 inches of space.
How Do You Make Oregano More Bushy?
Making oregano bushy, or most plants for that matter, is easily done by the continuous clipping of new growth. This stops upward shoots and promotes sideways and off-branching growth, giving a more bushy appearance to the plant.
We hope this guide has been useful and has answered some pressing questions to help you on your gardening journey. The key things to remember are that healthy plants start with healthy soil. If you get this component right, your plant maintenance will be a lot easier.