The secret ingredient that adds the perfect flavorful touch to many Italian dishes, oregano is an herb that can be grown easily indoors.
This herb has a warm fragrance and will eventually adopt a trailing growth habit with its oblong, green leaves when grown indoors in pots. If your oregano seems to be growing too slowly, here are seven tips to speed up the growth of your oregano in your indoor herb garden.
1. Increase Sunlight
Oregano can survive at low sunlight levels, but chances are that you don’t only want your oregano to survive–you want it to thrive. If your oregano plant seems spindly and tired, check how much light you are giving it. Oregano needs lots of sunlight to grow well–between 6 and 8 hours of direct light.
If you live in the northern hemisphere, a south-facing window will provide enough sunlight most of the year, provided your home or apartment is not shaded. Your second best option is a southwest-facing window. But what if you don’t have either of these options? Does that mean that growing beautiful, vibrant oregano plants is out of the question for you? Actually, not at all.
If you want to grow oregano and your windows don’t provide enough sunshine, you can purchase a grow light set up to give your plants supplemental light to help them grow beautifully. Set these lights at least 5 to 6 inches above the plants, but no more than 15 inches away from the tallest leaves of the oregano plants.
2. Prune and Harvest Frequently
If you have some lovely oregano plants, you may be very excited about their growth. You may have even lightly plucked a few leaves off of the plants to season your pasta sauce. However, to really help your plants grow well, you may need to do a bit more cutting.
If you are a novice gardener, the idea of cutting pieces off of the plant to make it grow better might seem a bit counterproductive. However, plants like herbs actually do work that way. When you harvest and prune your herbs it actually stimulates the plant to grow better.
When you snip off bits of the stems of your oregano plants, new stems will pop out where you cut them back. Often, two more branches will emerge from where it was cut. This means that your oregano plant will grow fuller and bushier. When the plant is cut back, the stems of the plant will grow soft and flexible rather than eventually turning woody and hard.
The main thing to remember when pruning your oregano plants is to never cut more than one third of the plant away. If you cut it back too much, there may not be enough leaf area to sustain the plant and it may struggle to survive.
3. Feed Your Plants with Water Soluble Fertilizer
Rich soil is a necessity for excellent oregano growth, but eventually, the plants will use up the nutrients that are available in the soil. For this reason, you will have to fertilize the plants every now and then.
The easiest way to do this is to use a water soluble fertilizer about once every two weeks as directed on the label. Just water the plant as you would with regular water but use the fertilizer solution instead. Do not use too much because excessive fertilization can damage the plants.
4. Improve Your Potting Soil
When grown outdoors, oregano does okay in poorer soils. However, if you are growing your plants inside, then there is no reason not to give your oregano plant excellent potting soil to promote beautiful, healthy plant growth. If you re-used an older pot with existing potting soil in it for your oregano, you may want to add a bit of compost to the pot to refresh it and increase its fertility.
Even better than just adding a bit of compost would be to remove the plant from the pot, gently shake off any loose dirt clinging to the roots, and empty the pot of the old, tired soil. Add fresh potting soil to the pot and replace the plant, settling new dirt around the plant’s roots. Give the oregano plant a nice, cool drink of water to settle the dirt around the roots and add extra soil if needed.
Oregano needs equal parts of sand, perlite or vermiculite, potting soil, and peat moss. But if you cannot find this exact blend, that’s okay. Just a standard bag of potting soil will give your plants a great environment in which to grow.
5. Improve Drainage
Like most herbs, oregano needs excellent drainage to do well. This is a plant that does not like to have soggy roots. When an oregano plant has to live in water saturated soil, it may develop fungal diseases and root rot.
To prevent this and increase the growth of your oregano plant, always choose a pot with several drainage holes. Use excellent quality, well draining potting soil and never try to scrimp by using dirt that you dug out of your lawn or garden. It just won’t drain well enough to keep your oregano plants healthy.
If you want to ensure excellent drainage, mix some sand into your potting soil and add some pebbles or stones at the bottom of the pot to keep it draining well and to prevent the drainage holes from clogging with loose dirt particles.
6. Keep an Eye Out for Pests and Problems
Oregano is generally a fairly trouble-free herb to grow indoors, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. However, that is not necessarily your fault. The main thing is to keep an eye on your plants and address problems as soon as you notice that something is awry. Many problems can be fixed if you catch them early enough.
In the winter months, spider mites can become a problem for your oregano plants. Aphids can also be a problem. If this happens to you, simply spray the pests off with a hard blast of water from a sprayer attached to your kitchen sink. Do this everyday or every other day until the pest problem is resolved.
Root rot can be a problem for oregano, but it only happens if you allow your plants to sit in standing water. Prevent root rot by planting your oregano in pots with drainage holes and well-draining soil. Also, if any water remains in the drip pan after you water, dump it out.
If you end up with fungal diseases, change your watering habits and only water when the plant needs it. If you need to treat the fungus, just use an anti-fungal spray that you can find in any hardware store.
7. Water Your Oregano Correctly
Watering oregano sounds pretty easy, right? Actually, it isn’t terribly complicated, but it is important to remember that oregano is not a plant that likes tons of wetness. Oregano does need to be watered regularly, but you definitely should allow the plant to dry out somewhat between watering.
If the surface of the soil is dry, that is not necessarily a reason to water your oregano plant. Instead, poke your finger into the soil. If it is dry in the first inch, then you should go ahead and water the plant.
However, if the soil is still damp down below the surface, wait a couple of days and test the dirt again with the “poke test.” After a few weeks, you will learn the rhythm of the oregano plant and figure out how often the plant needs to be watered for the best growth.
When you follow these steps, chances are that your oregano plant will respond and reward you with lovely new growth. This way you will have plenty of this tasty herb to season all of the recipes that you enjoy creating in your kitchen.