By: Liz Baessler
Mexican oregano is a delicious, leafy herb that is frequently used in Mexican cuisine. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow Mexican oregano and Mexican oregano uses.
What is Mexican oregano? The herb that we call oregano can be split into two main varieties: European (Origanum vulgare) and Mexican (Lippia graveolens). They don’t taste particularly similar, and Mexican oregano has a stronger flavor with a hint of lemon to it.
The plant is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11, but it is so fast growing that it can be cultivated in virtually any climate and grown as an annual that dies with the first frost. In a single growing season, it can reach 3 to 4 feet (1 m.) in height and spread.
Mexican oregano can be planted outdoors in the spring as soon as all chance of frost has passed. It can be grown from seed, cuttings, or crown divisions.
Growing Mexican oregano is very easy. The plants prefer full sun and need lots of space as they tend to spread out. The leaves grow somewhat sparsely on the stems, so multiple plants are a good idea if you’re looking to use your plants frequently for cooking. They need moderate watering.
Mexican oregano is grown for its flavorful leaves. The leaves can be snipped off the plant as needed throughout the growing season, though they taste best just as the flower buds are beginning to form.
Just before the first frost of autumn, the entire plant can be cut down and hung in an airy place to dry. Once dry, the leaves can be removed and stored whole or crumbled.
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Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) is a plant found in Mexico and Central America that is traditionally used as a medicinal herb. In the present study, we investigated the antiviral activity of the essential oil of Mexican oregano and its major component, carvacrol, against different human and animal viruses. The MTT test (3-4,5-dimethythiazol-2yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide) was conducted to determine the selectivity index (SI) of the essential oil, which was equal to 13.1, 7.4, 10.8, 9.7, and 7.2 for acyclovir-resistant herpes simplex virus type 1 (ACVR-HHV-1), acyclovir-sensitive HHV-1, human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), bovine herpesvirus type 2 (BoHV-2), and bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV), respectively. The human rotavirus (RV) and BoHV-1 and 5 were not inhibited by the essential oil. Carvacrol alone exhibited high antiviral activity against RV with a SI of 33, but it was less efficient than the oil for the other viruses. Thus, Mexican oregano oil and its main component, carvacrol, are able to inhibit different human and animal viruses in vitro. Specifically, the antiviral effects of Mexican oregano oil on ACVR-HHV-1 and HRSV and of carvacrol on RV justify more detailed studies.
Keywords: DNA virus RNA virus Verbenaceae antimicrobial activity condimental herbs.
* This is a "special order" plant - contact store for details
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
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. Be aware that in our climate, this plant may be too tender to survive the winter if left outdoors in a container. Contact our experts for more information on how to protect it over the winter months.
* This is a "special order" plant - contact store for details
It’s easy to begin growing Mexican oregano — and you have loads of propagation choices.
The simplest approach is to purchase seedlings but it may also be grown from seed, cuttings, or division.
If you’re starting seeds indoors, plant them 1/4 inch deep into seed trays or peat pots in a quality seed starting mix. It is possible to plant 2-5 of those seeds in each hole. Place in a sunny location and water uniformly. The seeds will germinate in two to four weeks.
All chance of frost has passed and If the seedlings have 5 or 4 true leaves, transplant them into a sunny spot in the backyard with soil.
If you are planning to grow oregano in containers, you will require a pot at least 12 inches deep and wide.
You can also watch the video of Mexican Oregano propogation below-
Our southernmost friends can enjoy this fragrant herb in their gardens year round, while others of us will have to be content with a summer bounty, or an indoor supply.
Either way, it’s a fairly easy plant to grow – all it requires is a sunny location with moderately fertile soil, and not too much water.
Have you heard of Mexican oregano before? Are you interested in adding it to your herb garden? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
If you are looking to add other types of herbs to your garden, you’ll need these guides next:
Photos by Fanny Slater and Raquel Smith © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on March 9, 2020. Last updated: March 24, 2021 at 17:51 pm. Top photo by Wynn Andersen, University of California Berkeley, via CC BY-NC-SA 3.0. Product photos via IB Prosperity. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu and Clare Groom
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.