Monday, February 6, 2017

A different type of oregano – ornamental and edible

Dual purpose plants are a boon to landscapes where gardeners are looking for vegetation that provides both edible and ornamental features.  I first encountered the Cuban Oregano when I lived in the West Indies where it was called things like “Thick-Leaved Thyme” or “Big Thyme.” Also called “Vicks© Salve”, “Vicks© Plant”, “Mexican Mint”, “Indian Borage” and “Spanish Thyme”, Cuban oregano is a wonderful plant suitable for our area.  Have you seen the Cuban oregano or is it already in your garden? 

Originally from Southern and Eastern Africa, this perennial plant is noted for its aromatic leaves.  The large thick and velvety leaves are grey-green in color, while the variegated cultivar is edged in white with an attractive blotchy lighter/darker green interior.  Growing upwards to nineteen inches tall and spreading much wider, the Cuban oregano grows rapidly and eventually produces stems of purplish flowers.  I planted one rooted cutting of Cuban oregano and it easily filled in a five by five foot patch of garden over one summer season.   Not only does this plant make a good groundcover in your herb garden, but also is an excellent container plant when complemented with other herbs. 

Grow Cuban oregano in well-drained soil in a semi-shaded area.  This plant does not tolerate frost and will need protection during cold weather.  Once established, this very succulent perennial plant will need to be watered only sparingly. 

Use this herb according to your tastes and needs.  The camphor and menthol scent can be overpowering if used in excess, so carefully flavor with Cuban oregano.  While you may find Cuban oregano at local garden centers, I find that there are specimens available at almost every community plant sale - that is where I purchased mine – or just pick up a cutting or two from a gardening friend.  Cuban oregano is a true pass-along plant that has certainly traveled the world based on its popularity.

So, try to have at least one Cuban oregano plant in your yard to look at, use in cooking, or simply brush by to release its refreshing fragrance.  Its many uses will make you a fan for life!  For information on all types of herbs easily grown in our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don't forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times -

Gardening Solutions- Cuban Oregano – The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS
Jordi, R. (2006) Cuban oregano.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS. (2017) Plectranthus amboinicus.  

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