7 Types Of Oregano For Your Garden and Kitchens

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If you’ve ever been stuck trying to decide between Greek or Italian oregano, whether in the grocery store or the garden center, you may be interested in learning about the different types of oregano. In this article, we break down the most common oregano varieties and what makes each of them special. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of which type of oregano will work best for your recipes or garden, adding more flavor to your dishes or making your garden smell amazing.

Fresh Oregano on an old wooden table

Oregano is one of my favorite herbs to grow because it’s easy, tasty, and beautiful. Whether you want to grow oregano plants as part of your herb garden, or choose the best variety for your next recipe, check out this list of the most common varieties of oregano. You’ll also find info on identifying and caring for each variety.

Table of Contents

    About Oregano

    Thanks to its tangy flavor and pleasant aroma, oregano has become a go-to herb in many different cuisines worldwide. It’s a warm-weather-loving, drought-resistant plant native to the Mediterranean region. Its easy-to-grow nature probably had something to do with encouraging its spread to regions all over the world.

    Oregano can be found in many recipes, but there are different types of oregano. It’s important to know the differences between them because they all taste, and get used, a little differently! 

    Different types of oregano sprigs against a bright white background.

    Common Oregano

    Common oregano is one of the most popular types of oregano because its flavor works so well in a large variety of recipes. You’ll often find common oregano in many tomato-based dishes as well as in soups and casseroles.

    • 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

    How To Identify

    Common oregano has distinctive square stems that are common to plants in the mint family. This variety has small, medium green, highly fragrant ovate leaves. You’ll also see blooms in pink, purple, or white from mid-summer through the fall. 

    How To Grow

    This type of oregano needs less water than many other plants in the mint family. In fact, the hotter and drier the conditions, the more fragrant and flavorful this herb will be. Its non-fussy nature makes it a breeze to grow.

    Ways To Use 

    Fresh, dried, or frozen oregano has a wide variety of culinary, medicinal, and beauty purposes. This oregano variety is a favorite in Mediterranean cuisine as well as DIY body products. 

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

    Greek Oregano

    Greek oregano is a variety of common oregano and is used in Greek, Italian, and Spanish cuisine. It’s also one of the most commonly stocked types of oregano in grocery and spice stores. You’ll find Greek oregano in many tomato-based dishes such as pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti.

    • 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

    How To Identify

    This oregano variety looks very similar to common oregano. In fact, it looks so similar that many gardeners may not realize the difference. Other than the slightly darker leaves, the biggest difference between Greek and common oregano varieties is the flavor.

    How To Grow

    Oregano plants don’t grow true to seed. If you want to grow this specific variety, be sure to grow it from a cutting. Other than that, give it plenty of light and little water for robust growth.

    Ways To Use

    Use it fresh, dried, or frozen for a wide variety of culinary, medicinal, and beauty purposes. If you love the scent and flavor of oregano- the sky’s the limit on its uses! 

    Small freshly cut sprigs of greek oregano.

    Sweet Marjoram

    Native to Turkey, sweet marjoram is considered a different herb from oregano when it comes to cooking. However, all varieties of marjoram are types of oregano.

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

    How To Identify

    Sweet marjoram has small gray-green ovate leaves and tends to grow in a mounding, bush pattern. It has dense stems and boasts beautiful clusters of white and pink blooms in the summer.

    How To Grow

    Sweet marjoram is as easy to grow as oregano, and it adds a lovely sweet fragrance to the garden. It grows as a tender perennial in warm regions and as an annual in cooler regions, making it one of my favorite herbs to grow indoors.

    Ways To Use

    It has a flavor that’s sweeter and more delicate than common oregano but is still used in many of the same types of dishes. Sweet marjoram can lose a little bit of its flavor when heated, so add it to your dish at the end of cooking.

    A sprig of fresh sweet marjoram.

    Syrian Oregano

    This quick-growing herb has a robust flavor that adds a delicious spicy oregano-mint taste to your dishes.

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

    How To Identify

    Syrian oregano has hairy stems that stand tall and are packed with gray-green ovate leaves.

    How To Grow

    This oregano variety has a vigorous growth habit that can grow as high as 4 feet in dense clumps. It loves hot temperatures, lots of light, and dry soil, and it won’t tolerate high levels of humidity. Grow it outdoors all year long in hot climates and bring it inside for the winter in cooler climates. 

    Note: It doesn’t always grow well when indoors permanently, so it’s not an ideal year-round indoor herb.

    Ways To Use

    Syrian oregano tastes similar to mint with the addition of a slightly spicy kick. It can be used in any recipe that uses common oregano but is frequently used in meat and vegetable recipes in Middle Eastern cuisine.

    A dark green sprig of freshly cut Syrian oregano.

    Cuban Oregano

    Although Cuban oregano isn’t a member of the true oregano family (Origanum), it’s a succulent in the same larger Lamiaceae family which is home to oregano, mint plants, and more. Other common names for Cuban oregano include Mexican mint, Spanish thyme, and Indian borage. 

    • 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

    How To Identify

    Cuban oregano looks more like varieties of mint than oregano with grayish-green fuzzy leaves that have serrated edges and a strong, pleasant fragrance. It has trumpet-shaped flowers that can be pink, lavender, or white.

    How To Grow

    Cuban oregano is a frost-tender herb that grows as a perennial in only the warmest climates. In cooler climates, it grows as an annual and makes a wonderful addition to any container vegetable garden (just bring it indoors for the winter).

    Ways To Use

    It has an aroma that’s reminiscent of common oregano, but its flavor is stronger than the Greek variety. Use less of the Cuban variety in your recipes than you would use with common or Greek types of oregano.

    Cuban oregano growing in an outside garden.

    Italian Oregano

    This delicious oregano variety is a hybrid of common oregano and sweet marjoram. It’s a versatile and tasty herb that also happens to look pretty amazing in the garden.

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

    How To Identify

    Italian oregano looks similar to Greek oregano, but with larger leaves that are slightly brighter green. It shows off its beautiful small pink flowers in the summer.

    How To Grow

    This variety grows best in hot and dry climates and works well in containers, garden beds, and even indoors. Like its Syrian cousin, Italian oregano doesn’t like humidity.

    Ways To Use

    Italian oregano tastes incredible in soups, pasta dishes, and recipes that include tomato sauce.

    A sprig of fresh Italian oregano.

    Golden Oregano

    This oregano variety is different from sweet oregano but still common. You can typically find it in a lot of larger nurseries or home improvement stores. It has a deliciously sweet scent and spicy flavor.

    • 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

    How To Identify

    This is one of the hardier types of oregano. It grows in a clumpy pattern with woody stems that have golden yellow small oval leaves. It shows off its purple or pink flowers in the summer. 

    How To Grow

    Golden oregano is a low-maintenance variety that’s easy to grow. The leaves of golden oregano are intensely aromatic and its distinctive golden coloring makes it a beautiful addition to your garden bed or container garden.

    Ways To Use

    Golden oregano has a flavor that’s much more subtle than varieties of oregano that are typically used in cooking. 

    For this reason, it’s often grown as an ornamental variety but it can be used in recipes when you want a very mild oregano flavor. I recommend growing it as a border plant or in containers where you would enjoy its fragrance.

    Soft yellow golden oregano growing outside.

    Expert Tips

    1. Select Varieties Based on Culinary Preferences: Choose oregano varieties that complement your preferred culinary styles. Greek oregano works well in Mediterranean dishes, while Mexican oregano enhances Latin American cuisine. Understanding the flavor profiles of different types will help elevate your cooking.
    2. Consider Growing Conditions: Before planting oregano, assess your garden’s growing conditions. Most oregano varieties thrive in well-drained soil and full sunlight. However, some varieties can tolerate partial shade. Tailoring growing conditions to each variety ensures optimal growth and flavor development.
    3. Practice Regular Pruning: Regular pruning promotes bushier growth and prevents oregano plants from becoming leggy. Trim oregano stems back to encourage new growth and maintain compact, healthy plants. Pruning also helps prevent the plant from flowering too early, preserving its essential oils and flavors.
    4. Dry and Store Oregano Properly: You can preserve herbs by drying them for future use, and oregano is no exception. Hang bunches of oregano upside down in a dry, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Once dried, store the leaves in airtight containers in a cool, dark place to maintain their potency.
    5. Experiment with Oregano Varieties: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different oregano varieties in your recipes. Mix and match Greek, Italian, and Cuban oregano to create unique flavor profiles in your dishes. Embrace the diversity of oregano types to add depth and complexity to your culinary creations.


    What is the difference between Greek Oregano and Italian Oregano?

    Greek oregano has a robust flavor with hints of lemon, while Italian oregano is milder and sweeter. Greek oregano is often used in Mediterranean dishes, whereas Italian oregano complements Italian cuisine like pizzas and pasta sauces.

    Can Cuban Oregano be used as a substitute for other types of oregano?

    Yes, Cuban oregano can be used as a substitute for traditional oreganos in recipes due to its similar taste profile. It adds a unique flavor to dishes but may require adjustments in quantity as it has a stronger taste.

    How does Sweet Marjoram differ from other types of oregano?

    Sweet marjoram belongs to the same family as oreganos but has a milder taste with sweet undertones. It pairs well with vegetables, meats, and soups. While similar in appearance, sweet marjoram offers a distinct flavor compared to traditional oreganos.

    Can I grow different types of oregano in the same garden?

    Yes, you can grow different types of oregano in the same garden, but it’s essential to consider their individual growing conditions and space requirements. Some varieties may thrive in full sun, while others prefer partial shade. Providing adequate spacing between plants helps prevent overcrowding and promotes healthy growth.

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    Final Thoughts

    If you enjoy the fragrance of oregano or the taste of this herb in your recipes, I hope you’ll try growing it yourself! No matter which of the types of oregano you decide to grow, you’ll love the wonderful addition this herb makes.

    Author: Laura Kennedy

    Writer & Owner of Little Yellow Wheelbarrow

    Laura is a highly skilled gardener and fervent flower enthusiast. Despite her playful battle with plant spacing guidelines, Laura’s work inspires gardeners to create thriving, beautiful spaces that reflect both creativity and sustainability.

    Editor’s note: This post was originally published on August 5, 2021. It was updated on February 14, 2024 to improve reader experience and include FAQs and expert tips.