Mexican Bush Oregano: Growing Mexican Oregano In The Garden

By: Liz Baessler

Mexican bush oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) is a flowering perennial native to Mexico that grows very well in Texas and other hot, dry parts of the United States. Although it’s not related to your average garden oregano plant, it produces attractive, fragrant purple flowers and can survive in harsh and varied conditions, making it an excellent choice for parts of the garden where nothing else seems to be able to survive. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow Mexican oregano and Mexican oregano plant care.

Growing Mexican Oregano Plants

Mexican bush oregano (sometimes referred to as rosemary mint) can’t be grown everywhere. In fact, Mexican oregano hardiness falls between USDA zones 7b and 11. In zones 7b through 8a, however, it’s only root hardy. This means that all the top growth will die back in the winter, with the roots surviving to put up new growth each spring. The roots aren’t always guaranteed to make it, especially if the winter is a cold one.

In zones 8b through 9a, some of the top growth is likely to die back in the winter, with the older woody growth surviving and putting out new shoots in the spring. In zones 9b through 11, Mexican oregano plants are at their best, surviving all year round as evergreen shrubs.

Mexican Oregano Plant Care

Mexican oregano plant care is very easy. Mexican oregano plants are highly drought tolerant. They will grow in a wide variety of soils but prefer it to be extremely well drained and slightly alkaline.

They don’t really suffer from pests, and they actually deter deer, making them a very good choice for areas plagued by deer problems.

All the way from spring to fall, the plants produce fragrant purple tubular flowers. Removing faded flowers encourages new ones to bloom.

In areas where the plants don’t suffer from dieback in the winter, you may want to prune them back lightly in the spring to keep them bushy and compact.

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What Are the Soil Types for Oregano?

Oregano is an herb that has been used for centuries, both for cooking and medicinal uses. The botanical name is Origanum vulgare and it is a perennial that comes from the area around Europe’s Mediterranean Sea. You might know oregano for its use in Italian foods such as pizza, but other cultures also value this herb for its pungent flavor. Oregano is easy to grow, either as a potted plant or in the garden.

How to Grow Mexican Oregano

In Phoenix, plant Mexican Oregano from seed or transplants anytime from February to November. It likes full sun, heat, and fertile, well-drained soil. Average moisture is just fine. It is a hardy perennial in USDA Zones 10 and 11.

One interesting note if you live in Phoenix is that the leaves of Mexican Oregano look very similar to Lantana. I have both growing next to each other and without smelling the leaves, it is difficult to tell them apart without the flowers. The scent, however, is NOT the same. The Mexican Oregano leaf is on the left and Lantana is on the right.

When growing oregano plants: care, tips & more like ours, we recommend that you consider light and temperature when planting. The ideal soil temperature for planting oregano outdoors is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant oregano in an area of the garden that receives between 6-8 hours of full sunlight, providing partial shade in hotter climates.

While oregano is traditionally a cold-hardy perennial, they risk the chance of not surviving a harsh winter in colder climates. Consider protecting plants with row covers or cold frames and adding extra mulch around the base of the plants for added protection. If you shelter them, you’ll have the best chance at healthy plants returning in the spring after a winter’s dormancy period.

**Product not available in AZ, CA, HI, NV, UT. For a comparable product in these states click here.

How to Plant Oregano

Oregano plants can be directly sown from seed, propagated from cuttings, or transplanted into the garden bed or container. When growing oregano from seeds, you can start them indoors six weeks before the last frost date in your grow zone, or you can directly sow seeds outdoors after the threat of frost has passed. Follow these simple steps for propagating oregano seeds successfully.

  • Seeds should be planted ¼ inch deep.
  • Sprinkle soil over the seeds and tap the soil to firm.
  • Water oregano seeds in well.
  • Maintain consistently moist soil throughout the germination period of 8-14 days and until plants get established.
  • Thin seedlings to 12 inches apart in rows that are spaced 18-24 inches.
  • Sow successive crops of oregano seeds every 2 to 3 weeks for a continuous fresh harvest of herbs.

How to Care for an Oregano Plant

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True oregano (Origanum vulgare) produces foliage for use as a culinary herb. It thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, but you can grow it as an annual in almost any climate. Oregano grows well in cool climates and does not to well in the heat. Most varieties have small green leaves, although golden-leafed varieties are also available. Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) is similar to true oregano and has most of the same care requirements and uses.

Plant oregano outdoors in a well-drained garden area that receives six hours of sun, except for gold leaf varieties which require some afternoon shade. Grow potted oregano indoors in a window that receives all-day sun.

Water oregano plants when the soil begins to dry out, providing just enough water to moisten the top 5 inches of the soil. Don't water oregano during wet weather. Water potted oregano before the soil dries out completely and empty the collected water from the drip tray after each watering. Oregano prefers slightly dry soil.

Cut back the plants before they begin to flower. Remove up to one-half of the plant's height with shears. Use the leaves for cooking or dry them for later use.

Pinch off individual stems for kitchen use as needed throughout the growing season. Remove the outer stems, leaving the inner stems on the plant to continue growing.

Dig up perennial garden plants every two or three years in early spring. Tease apart the roots with your fingers, breaking the oregano plant into two. Replant each oregano section at the same depth it was growing at previously, spacing the plants approximately 12 inches apart. Repot potted plants into a pot 2 inches larger than the previous one every two or three years.

Plant Library

Not a true oregano, but used as a seasoning in Mexican food an attractive shrub especially when pinched back early in its life clusters of white flowers all season great for the garden or shrub border

Mexican Oregano features showy clusters of fragrant white flowers at the ends of the branches from late spring to mid fall. It has attractive green foliage which emerges chartreuse in spring. The fragrant oval leaves are highly ornamental but do not develop any appreciable fall color. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.

This plant is primarily grown as an ornamental, but it's also valued for its edible qualities. The savory leaves are most often used in the following ways:

Mexican Oregano is a multi-stemmed deciduous woody herb with a more or less rounded form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This woody herb will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season's flowers. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Mexican Oregano is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • General Garden Use
  • Herb Gardens
  • Container Planting

Mexican Oregano will grow to be about 6 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 6 feet. It has a low canopy, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 20 years.

This woody herb does best in full sun to partial shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist growing conditions, but will not tolerate any standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This species is not originally from North America.

Mexican Oregano makes a fine choice for the outdoor landscape, but it is also well-suited for use in outdoor pots and containers. Because of its height, it is often used as a 'thriller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. It is even sizeable enough that it can be grown alone in a suitable container. Note that when grown in a container, it may not perform exactly as indicated on the tag - this is to be expected. Also note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

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