Adding oregano to your garden could benefit more than just your taste buds. Its strong aroma and low-maintenance nature make it an excellent companion for many edible crops, including other herbs.
Oregano is most commonly used in companion planting as a way to control pests. There’s also a chance that it could improve the flavour of neighbouring plants and draw more beneficial insects to the garden.
In this article, I share the best oregano companion plants and provide practical tips for getting the most from this herb in your own garden.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting, also known as intercropping or interplanting, is a centuries-old practice that pairs different plant species together in the same garden.
There are several reasons why companion planting was first developed (and why gardeners today continue to practice it). Expected benefits include pest management, more pollinators, better soil fertility, and increased biodiversity.
The ‘Three Sisters’ method is a classic example of companion planting that maximizes space and improves nutrient availability. In this garden, corn, beans, and squash work together in the following ways:
- The corn provides a tall structure for the beans to climb.
- The beans anchor the corn stalks into the soil and fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.
- The squash spread out below the other crops to suppress weed growth and keep the soil cool.
While companion planting may require some fine-tuning to get right, the potential benefits far outweigh the costs for the average home gardener. And one of the best ways to start companion planting is to experiment with crops you’re already growing!
Benefits of Companion Planting with Oregano
It contains a natural pest deterrent. Oregano plants produce large amounts of a compound called carvacrol. Carvacrol repels some insects and, according to Purdue University, is being researched as a potential natural pesticide.
It attracts local pollinators. Oregano is generally grown for its foliage. However, it’s also a good idea to let your oregano flower when the time comes. Herbs like oregano are extremely attractive to bees and other crucial pollinators. Companion planting oregano with fruiting crops is a great way to increase your garden’s total yield.
It draws beneficial predators to your garden. Oregano flowers may also draw in predatory insects that will keep garden pests under control. Some examples of these beneficial bugs include parasitic wasps, green lacewings, and hoverflies.
It may improve the flavour of nearby produce. Many gardeners report that growing herbs like oregano with their vegetables boost the flavour of the crops. While this phenomenon isn’t 100% understood, it’s probably related to chemical compounds being released by the oregano.
Best Fruits and Vegetables to Plant with Oregano
Oregano is an excellent companion for many vegetables and fruits. For example, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants all grow well with oregano. These plants appreciate well-draining soil and full sun, so plan out your garden to avoid shading anything out.
Oregano can also be planted alongside many types of peas and beans. Keep in mind, however, that these crops have higher moisture needs. You can still successfully grow them together by planting the oregano in a small mound to promote drainage.
Cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and turnips are all part of the brassica family. These cool-weather crops require nutrient-rich soil and consistent moisture but may benefit from intercropping with oregano. If you want to take advantage of oregano’s reported pest-repelling properties, I recommend planting the herb in a separate container.
Planting oregano in your garden may mask the scent of carrots from hungry carrot root flies. Just be sure to give the carrots ample space to properly develop without competition.
The best fruit to plant with oregano is strawberries. Many types of strawberries thrive in loose, sandy soil. The spreading, low-growing nature of strawberries can suppress weeds around your oregano and provide a habitat for beneficial insects.
Growing Oregano with Other Herbs
Oregano is found in herb gardens far and wide. This is largely because it grows well with a variety of other herbs, including rosemary, sage, thyme, lavender, basil, parsley, and mint.
As a Mediterranean herb, oregano’s needs are very similar to those of thyme, sage, rosemary, and lavender. These herbs are quite drought-tolerant once established (sage may require supplemental water during extremely dry periods) and easy to grow in any loose, well-draining soil. I highly recommend starting with these herbs if you’re new to gardening.
You can also pair oregano with chives, basil, and parsley. These plants require richer soil and a bit more moisture to thrive, so keeping everyone happy is somewhat of a balancing act. For the best results, try placing these herbs in separate pots.
Proper spacing is crucial to prevent competition between your herbs. Each herb should ideally have about 12 to 24 inches between itself and its neighbours.
Herbs like rosemary, which can grow up to 4 feet tall, should be placed at the back of the garden. Otherwise, shorter herbs like thyme and oregano will be shaded out.
One of the best reasons to grow a herb garden is that you can harvest everything in a single trip!
A good rule of thumb is to harvest your herbs in the early morning. This is supposedly when the leaves are most fragrant and flavorful. If you want your herbs to last for the entire season (or longer), be sure to only harvest up to one-third of the plant at a time.
You can use the same set of shears for all of your herbs. I just recommend cleaning the shears after each use to prevent the spreading of pests or diseases to other plants.
Many herbs are perennial in a majority of climates. When planning out your garden, I strongly suggest making note of the herbs that will survive winter and return the next spring. These herbs will likely get bigger each season and should be given ample space to fill out.
In my herb garden, I prefer to place the larger perennial herbs equally throughout the bed. I then fill in the gaps with small or short-lived herbs. This gives me plenty of opportunities to free up space as the perennials mature.
Worst Oregano Companion Plants
Oregano is generally a good companion but there are a handful of crops that are best planted on the other end of the garden.
Cucumbers, melons, and squash are poor partners for oregano. This is because they have very different growth habits and environmental needs. Cucumbers, melons, and squash must be routinely watered and require a steady flow of nutrition to produce a good harvest. There’s also a chance that the vines will overtake your oregano.
You probably shouldn’t plant oregano and potatoes together. Potatoes have limited heat and drought tolerance in comparison to oregano. They also need lots of space to produce healthy tubers, so planting a perennial herb like oregano nearby isn’t the best idea.
Both oregano and mint have the potential to become invasive. While you might think that planting these herbs together would keep their growth in check, mint and oregano have very different needs when it comes to their environments.
10 Types of Oregano for Your Garden
Oregano is a very popular herb, yet tons of people don’t realize that there are actually several types of oregano to choose from. These different varieties have unique flavours, aromas, and growth habits.
Here are some of the most common types I recommend growing in your garden:
- Common Oregano (Origanum vulgare): This is the natural or ‘wild’ form of culinary oregano. It has a milder profile than other types that have been bred for improved flavour.
- Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare var. hirtum): This perennial herb is what most of us know as culinary oregano. It has a relatively strong, spicy flavour and can be bought (either dried or fresh) at most grocery stores.
- Marjoram (Origanum majorana): Did you know that marjoram is actually a species of oregano? It’s usually described as a milder version of Greek oregano.
- Italian Oregano (Origanum x majoricum): This hybrid is a cross between common oregano and marjoram. It has a slightly sweet aroma that pairs well with tomatoes.
- Golden Oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’): If you want to add an ornamental twist to your herb garden, try getting your hands on this unique, gold-leaved cultivar.
- Hot & Spicy Oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Hot & Spicy’): If other types of oregano just aren’t spicy enough for you, I recommend growing some of this cultivar. It can also be substituted in recipes calling for regular oregano by cutting the amount used in half.
- Syrian Oregano (Origanum syriacum): Most Syrian oregano is harvested from wild plants rather than cultivated in a garden. It’s mixed with ground sumac and sesame to create za’atar.
When shopping for oregano plants, you may also come across a few imposters. These herbs are oregano in common name only. They don’t belong to the Origanum genus and are unrelated to the above types of oregano. However, they tend to share pretty similar growing requirements.
- Mexican Oregano (Lippia graveolens): As the name suggests, this faux oregano is most commonly used in Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. It is related to verbena.
- Mexican Bush Oregano (Poliomintha longiflora): Despite the name, this herb isn’t related to true oregano or Mexican oregano. It instead belongs to the Mint family.
- Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus): Also known as Mexican mint, this herb belongs to the mint family. However, its flavour and aroma are very similar to oregano.
For more insight into growing herbs, here’s a link to Dill Plant Growth Stages.
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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.