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Cuban Oregano

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

A recent introduction to American herb gardens is Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus). This globe-trotting member of the coleus family originated in India but has spread throughout the tropics as an oregano substitute where European oregano grows poorly. It has thick succulent three inch leaves, often with white scalloped edges. This herb has a distinctive oregano-like aroma that may be on the strong side for some. The tiny lavender flowers appear in small but dense clusters in late fall.

Like other coleus, Cuban oregano won�t tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees. If you want to grow this herb outdoors, put it in a pot buried in a shady part of the garden so it can be brought indoors before the first frost. You can also grow it indoors as a tropical houseplant. I�ve had mine growing in a sunny window for several years. Whether indoors or out, Cuban oregano prefers sandy well-drained soil. It grows to two feet high and has a somewhat sprawling habit, reaching as much as 6 feet if it�s happy. Pinch the tips periodically to encourage dense foliage. Cuban oregano needs regular water and some shade for lush growth. In full sun, the plant will tend to be stunted and hug the ground. Place it where the distinctive foliage can contrast with snapdragons or other vertical annuals.

Cuban oregano stems are brittle and will easily break off form the parent plant. The silver lining to this is that the detached pieces can be easily rooted to create new plants. Any section with three or more sets of leaves can be used. Pinch off the bottom two sets of leaves and sink the stem into damp soil close to the lowest remaining set of leaves. Keep it well watered (but not soggy) and you should see new growth in a few weeks. Then you can put your new plant out with the others or pass it along to a friend. Cuban oregano is fun to grow so share the wealth!