How to grow oregano from seed – Add some italian excitement to your cooking

Growing oregano (Origanum vulgare) in your garden is a great way to have this wonderful fresh herb all year round. Oregano’s flavor complements many foods and it can be used for so many things, including pesto or as an aromatic in sauces. It is also very easy to grow oregano from seed!

We always grow oregano from seed and plant indoors in plastic starter pots early spring, around March and April.

If you do not want to grow oregano from seed, we will tell you how to grow from cuttings or container plants bought at your garden center or local supermarket.

How to Grow oregano from seed indoors (5 steps)

1: When to plant indoors
You can plant indoors any time of year if you can provide sufficient lighting. 

I always plant around March and April to allow the seedlings to develop indoors. Planting this time of year will let me move the seedlings outdoors when they are ready. 

Pro tip: Starting too early in the year will land you in a position where you have to care for the plant indoors until the climate lets you move the plant outdoors. Plant your seeds a couple of weeks before the last expected frost to allow for a seamless transplanting to the outdoors. 

2: Select soil and pot
When we plant seeds we aim to provide the best possible environment for the seeds to germinate.

I recommend using recyclable plastic starter pots (7 centimeters or 3 inches) to help control moisture of the soil. The pots always come with drain holes to help with drainage. 

I use a 50/50 mix of cactus soil mix and regular potting soil.

I put the regular potting soil in the bottom of the pot and fill it up with the cactus soil mix that has a looser structure. 

This mix of soils work well for me and helps keep the soil most but not wet. And as the seeds germinate and develop they find more nutritious soil at the bottom of the pot.

If you only use regular potting soil you run the risk of burning the new roots as the seeds germinate. 

When the pot is ready we water the soil thoroughly to make sure that the soil is wet but not soaking.

3: Plant the oregano seeds
Oregano seeds are small and delicate to handle. 

If you have the space plant 1 seed per pot. After all, each seed should grow into a plant. In reality I plant 5-10 seeds per pot and thin out the seedlings later if necessary. 

To help with and speed up the germination process we soak the seeds in room temperature water overnight. 

We then plant the seeds very shallow by basically spreading them across the soil. Press the seeds gently with your finger to ensure there is contact between soil and seed.

I place the pots in a warm but not hot place and keep a spray bottle handy to avoid dry outs.

Cover the pot with a cheesecloth or a plastic sheet to keep seeds moist. Make sure that the material will let through light. Also ensure that you create holes for air top circulate. You do not want a completely sealed environment as the seeds may rot.

Pro tip: Cut a plastic bottle in half and place it on top of your pot. You have now created a mini greenhouse. Do make sure that you make holes for air to circulate.

Oregano seeds take approximately 1-2 weeks to germinate. Seeds germinate best in a warm spot with good light. A windowsill or another bright spot at 20 degrees celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) offers ideal conditions.

4: Transplant seedlings
When the oregano seedlings grow to 15 cm (6 inches) we transplant the seedlings  into new larger pots to allow the herb to develop.

Take great care and if possible transfer the full content of the starter pot to your new and larger pot. 

The oregano plant likes to dry out between waterings so you should use a looser structured soil that offers good drainage. The key point is to use a mulch-rich and well drained soil. 

Interesting fact: Oregano is an interesting herb in that it actually grows quite well even in poor soil. 
Oregano seedlings transplanted in terracotta pot
Transplanting in terracotta pot helps control watering

You may also find it helpful to use a terracotta pot where the material breathes and help you avoid overwatering. 

Oregano prefers a sunny spot but does tolerate part shade especially in really hot climates.

You can transplant the seedling outdoors anytime in spring when soil temperature reaches 12 degrees celsius (55 degrees fahrenheit) or above.

Pro tip:  Always soak the terracotta pot in water before filling it with soil. Otherwise the pot will soak up moisture from the soil and risk leaving your plant dry and thirsty.

5: Care for the oregano plant
Oregano is a perennial and will grow back stronger and bigger if you look after the plant. And generally speaking oregano is an easy plant to care for. 

Most importantly, provide a spot with at least part sun and make sure not to overwater. Oregano does not like to be sat in wet soil and the plant will wither and die if not corrected.

Grow oregano from established plant

You can also grow new oregano plants from established plants in your herb garden or maybe from a purchased container plant.

The easiest way is to simply divide the plant by the roots. Gently expose the root system by squeezing the pot and then divide the root system in equal parts. 

Plant each new plant in a separate pot using a mulch rich and well drained soil. 

Harvest oregano

You can harvest oregano throughout summer and into fall. 

If you are planning to let the plant overwinter you should not harvest late in the fall. The plant benefits from being left alone to prepare for overwintering. 

Do not use herb scissors on the plant. Instead use a pair of sharp regular scissors to cut off stems from the oregano plant. Cut the stem just above a fresh looking pair or leaves to allow the plant to branch out and grow back.

The oregano plant will bloom if you let it. But you should keep in mind that the leaves will lose some of their flavour if you let the herb bloom.

Read the article "When to harvest oregano (proven method)" for more detailed information about harvesting and preserving oregano. 

Preserve oregano

You can of course use oregano fresh (strong flavour) or freeze the herb for later use.  But most often we dry the herb for later use. 

You should take care to harvest your oregano before blooming if you are planning to dry the herb. When oregano blooms the 

Harvest whole stems, tie them together and place them in a brown paper bag with the stems facing up.

Tie a string around the paperbar and stem and hand the paper bag in a dry and dark place with a good supply of air.

If you have an attic, this would be a great place to dry your oregano.

How to use oregano

Oregano is traditionally used in italian dishes like pizza and tomato based pasta sauces.  But oregano is actually an ideal herb to use in most meat based dishes as well as in soups or even fresh in a green or tomato salad.  

Pro tip: When you cook with fresh oregano you should add the herb late in the cooking process. Oregano will lose a lot of its flavor if it is left to cook. And do remember that fresh oregano packs quite a strong flavor so taste as you go along. 

Testing different pots growing oregano from seed

We do enjoy testing how to grow herbs in different ways. 

Oregano seeds planted in organic peat pellet
Oregano seedling from seeds planted in peat pellets

A while back we tested planting oregano seeds in plastic pots, organic peat pellets and ceramic pots.

We were curious to find out if plastic starter pots were indeed the best alternative.

Result wise we were able to develop healthy seedlings in all three types of pots. It was however easier to control watering in the plastic starter pot.

The organic peat pellets would dry out really fast. And the ceramic pot did not have a drain hole why the fear of overwatering was always a factor. 

And we still find plastic starter pots to be the best alternative. They are easy to use and store and they are also more economical than any of the other options.

Frequently asked questions

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants, and garden vegetables. For the past two years, he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.