Growing Cuban oregano in your kitchen is super satisfying.
Every time you walk into your cooking palace, you see that your oregano has grown a wee bit taller.
You can pluck off a leaf or two for your poultry, stew, soups, or whatever else needs a bit of zest.
Let’s dive in and learn all about caring for these gentle giants.
Yes, they’re giants. They grow up to 36 inches tall! Yikes.
What’s Cuban oregano?
Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) is a favorite in culinary dishes cooked in Southeast Asia because of its strong aromatic scent and sharp flavor.
It’s also known as Indian borage, Puerto Rican oregano, Mexican mint, or Spanish thyme.
A small slice of this herb has enough flavor to garnish soups, stews, and any other food you’d had your usual bunch of herbs like basil, sage, or regular oregano.
That’s why it’s known as Spanish thyme or Mexican thyme/mint.
It’s not the same as regular oregano, so it’s sometimes referred to as “false oregano” to distinguish the difference between the two.
Note that Cuban oregano is NOT a true oregano plant. It’s perennial succulent with aromatic leaves and a zesty flavor. It’s an herb- not thyme, mint, or borage.
What does it look like?
It has fragrant, smelly leaves that are lined with a fine white edging. The leaves are velvety like small flowers that are pink, white, or purple.
The plant is tall and wide and has trumpet-shaped blooms. It blooms in the summertime and is mainly used as a recipe ingredient.
Can you grow it indoors?
It’s a perfect complement to your kitchen when you need some fresh-cut herbs raised without nasty pesticides.
How nice would it be to have instant access to mint, thyme, oregano, basil, and dill right there when you need it?
It doesn’t get any fresher from the “farm.”
Cuban oregano can be grown indoors right in your kitchen provided that the conditions are right. And this plant isn’t picky, so you should have no issue.
Does oregano grow well indoors?
it grows if provided the right amount of light and water, as with any other plant.
You can transplant it to the outside garden later on if you wish, but it’ll be stressful on the herb and possibly shock it.
So you should decide upfront if you want to plant it outside or indoors.
Alternatively, you can use a well-draining pot so you can switch between the two environments as you wish- provided that you harden the plant off before switching.
How to propagate
The first thing you need to do is propagate the herb. You gotta start with something, right?
Most people will start with a packet of seeds from their hardware store.
There’s nothing wrong with this, but make sure you get CUBAN oregano. Even though it’s not a real oregano, it’s easy to get confused. There are multiple types and this guide is for CUBAN oregano only.
Other types may require different care.
If you’re starting from cuttings or using a plant from the nursery, we’ll cover that later. Feel free to skip it if you want.
The first thing to do is to get a container for sowing the seeds.
If you’re emptying an entire packet, you’ll want to use a seed starter for cost-effectiveness.
You can get a dozen or so compartments for just a few bucks. If you REALLY want to make it easy, get a biodegradable one with cut-away compartments so there’s no need to transfer the plant.
Note that this depends on how many you want to grow. For most people, a single plant is enough.
Cuban oregano produces a good yield and grows up to 3 feet tall. That’s plenty of herbs for all your dishes.
If this is the case, you don’t need a seed starter. You can use a basic planter if you’re just growing one.
Get a kit that has the right number of compartments you need.
Don’t worry about buying a huge one. You can always reuse it or cut the pieces off that you use and save the rest for the next project.
Place 1-2 seeds in each compartment, then put a thin layer of soil on top. Put the humidity dome over it and then water it lightly with a mister.
Watch for the sprouts as it germinates and then transplants each individual plant to their containers.
From plant cuttings
If you have a friend or neighbor that gave you a cutting from their oregano, you can propagate it on your own using it. It’s that simple.
Once you have your own going, you can pay it forward by giving it to another friend.
Take the cutting and root it first. Use rooting hormone to help. This is an easy process and will take a few days.
Check out this video for a demo:
After it’s rooted, grab a container that’s at least 12 inches in diameter. The wider it is, the less you have to move it around later on.
You can use any material, with plastic being the cheapest.
Feel free to use ceramics to match your kitchen! Make sure there are multiple drainage holes.
Add sand, gravel, or rocks at the bottom to help keep it from clumping.
Put all the roots and the root ball as deep as the original container.
Cover the roots with 2 inches of soil so that it’s completely protected. The stem plus roots should be completely covered.
From a transplant
Use well-draining soil that’s pH neutral and dig a hole into it as wide as the root ball of; the cutting you’re using.
Then backfill it with soil and you’re done. Only the root ball needs to be covered.
Don’t worry about covering the stem. Use a container with multiple drain holes for adequate drainage.
Consider adding some rocks or sand at the bottom to discourage blockage or clumping.
How to grow Cuban oregano indoors
Here are the basic steps to accomplish this. You’ll find that it’s really easy, which makes this a good choice for beginners.
If you want some easy-to-grow indoor herbs to compliment your meals, this is it.
Cuban oregano offers a strong and delicious flavor to give your dishes some zest without taking up all your time.
Once you get it going, it takes care of itself. Just prune and eat. It’s that easy.
Cuban oregano loves well-draining soil. No amendments are necessary. Just a basic potting mix will do. Nothing fancy.
It tolerates a variety of soil types and isn’t picky.
This herb likes its pH from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline.
Aim for a pH range of 6.0-7.6. If you don’t know your pH, you can get a soil tester to find out.
If your pH is too acidic, add some lime to raise it. If it’s too basic, add some compost or sulfur.
If you plan to grow multiple plants together, it’s highly suggested that you separate them into their containers.
Each oregano can grow as wide as 36 inches, so using a small pot won’t do it.
If you separate them individually, then they each can be placed as wide as possible.
Water it from the soil surface at the root thoroughly and completely. Let the plant go near before you water it.
Use your finger to check the top 1-2 inches of soil for moisture. If it’s dry, water away.
Avoid over-watering as they hate wet feet. It also may lead to fungal problems. Water once a week or twice in dry climates.
If you’re growing Cuban oregano in water, it should have no problem since it’s accustomed to having its roots floating in pure liquid.
Cuban oregano loves warm and sunny weather, as with most herbal plants.
Place the established plants near a sunny place in your home, like the kitchen windowsill.
There’s no need to overdo it. It can thrive in partial to low lights as well, but sunlight generally produces more yield. The natural light coming in from your kitchen counter is enough.
Aim for at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If you want to grow it in the yard, you can use a greenhouse to keep them warm overnight. It does well in full sun or partial sun conditions.
Don’t let it burn in the summer heat though. Even though it loves the sun, too much will kill it.
Give it some shade or partial sunlight during those peak summer days to keep it nice and cozy.
Cuban oregano hates cold temperatures. This is why it’s good to grow it indoors to keep it warm at night.
Keep nighttime temperatures above 40F to keep it alive.
Cubano oregano does not do well in cold climates and will severely become damaged if exposed to it for a short period. Try to keep it between 60-90F in the daytime and above 40F at night.
Find a place in your house that fits these ranges. It doesn’t like the cold and won’t tolerate it.
Keep humidity in the ambient room range. Since it’s your kitchen, you can’t do much to contain the humidity. Just leave it as is.
If you think your humidity is too low, you can spray the leaves with a hand sprayer daily to keep the levels wet. No need to go crazy over it.
Add plant fertilizer during the active growing season to give it a supply of food.
After all, it’s producing delicious leaves for you to eat, so why not return the favor? A bit of fertilizer is all that’s needed in the spring and summer.
Use slow-release granules as directed by the product label.
Avoid overfertilizing as this will force the herb to become less flavorful and lack aroma from the excess plant food. Don’t overdo it.
Consider using half doses instead of the full amount.
Use a balanced plant food (NPK 5-5-5) that’s organic or natural since you’ll be eating the leaves. Slow-release fertilizer works best.
Pruning is critical to keep the leaves tasty.
Get a clean pair of scissors or pruners and prune when it begins to spiral outwards.
You can turn whenever you need a piece to cook or garnish with. You can also cut off some cuttings to grow more of them if you want.
The root ball may also need trimming. To do so, just remove the entire plant from its pot. Then lay it down and remove any debris or dirt stuck on it.
Use a sterile pair of pruners and cut off the bottom of the root ball- about ⅓ of the roots.
Whenever the roots get overcrowded and full, you should trim them down OR when you notice water flow slowing down. Excess rooting will block water flow.
The right way to harvest is the same as pruning.
Take cuttings for use from the main, central stem when you need something to add to your favorite culinary dish. You should never cut the entire stem off.
At most, cut ⅓ of it and use those leaves in your recipe. Instead of removing the entire thing, a small portion will work and encourages bushier, dense foliage rather than tall and leggy plants.
When the lateral stems grow outwards, cut off ½ of each stem each time you need to use it.
Be careful not to cut off more than you need because this can diminish the plant’s ability to produce for you. Leave at least half of the plant alone and let it continue to produce.
If you’re just taking a few leaves here and there, that’s OK.
But for big trimmings, let it produce and give it some time before cutting it again in your next harvest.
How to dry, preserve, and store Cuban oregano
Drying Cuban oregano is simple.
After harvesting, place the leaves on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 1 hour. They should be dried afterward.
There are many different ways to do it depending on how dry you want the oregano to be. Set it to 200F or so. No need to overdo it.
You can also gather them into a bouquet and then hang them up to air dry.
Wash them well then tie the stems together in a well-ventilated area. This will help dry them off naturally.
You can use a paper bag and put them inside to help keep dust and pests off.
Cut some small slits into the bag to help remove the water and help it dry off quickly.
Transplanting to the outdoors
You can always transplant it to your garden if you find Cuban oregano to be unwieldy in the kitchen.
It’s a big and tall plant, so some people don’t like it in the kitchen being an obstacle.
Transplanting outside is easy- just dig a hole in the dirt that’s the same depth and width as the original one in the container. Then backfill it with soil after planting it.
You can also acclimiate it to the outdoors by bringing it out for a few hours each day (in the pot) over a week or so.
Then you can plant it for good.
Can you bring Cuban oregano from the outdoors inside?
Yes, but you’ll need to acclimate it.
This can be done by first uprooting the plant from your garden and then putting it into a pot.
Then slowly acclimate it to the indoors by bringing it inside your home for short periods each day until it’s hardened off. This usually takes a week or so.
When to move to a bigger pot
When you notice that the roots have found their way out of the pot, then you KNOW it’s time to upgrade.
Get a larger pot and transplant it into just like you would as if you were transferring for the first time. Use a container that’s a few inches larger so it can grow.
Remember that Cuban oregano can grow up to 3 feet tall and wide, so provide it plenty of space to produce those delicious greens for you.
Repotting also replenishes necessary nutrients in the soil and prevents soil clumping, so it’s good to do regardless.
Is Cuban oregano a perennial?
It depends. In the tropics, it grows natively as a perennial.
It can be planted as a perennial succulent if you provide it ample sunlight and protect it from the cold. This way, you can enjoy the harvest season after season.
Can Cuban oregano grow in water?
Cuban oregano can be grown in just water like many other herbs that are grown indoors.
Using a mason jar, you can attach the plant to the edges so it’s well anchored. Then let the roots grow in water. The thing about this is that if you don’t watch the water quality, it can rot the roots.
So you need to know what you’re doing.
Plus, water-based plants grow quicker compared to soil, so you may end up with a surplus yield upon harvest.
You’re growing oregano to eat it right? It makes an excellent herb for flavor in soups, stew, stuffings, and paired with meats.
You can garnish venison, lamb, pheasant, or even just eaten as a vegetable. It’s popular in southeastern dishes as a steamed veggie and eaten just like regular oreganos.
They can be dried and crushed to add flavor or a substitute seasoning.
Note that it’s very strong, so you only need a dash of it to work with your dish.
Cook it in Caribbean or Asian recipes.
The leaves can be used dried or fresh. Put it in a blender with other fresh ingredients to blend a salsa. Sauté it with garlic and black beans.
Sprinkle some in the marinade. Use it just like any other oregano.
Can you eat Cuban oregano raw?
It shouldn’t be eaten raw because it’s very strong in flavor. Use it to flavor dishes instead.
Some Indian countries will use it for curries or eaten raw. Some even use it in beer, fish, pork, beans, beef, chicken, lamb, or rice.
Cuban oregano tea
You can use this herb to flavor your tea. Use it dry so it can soak up all the water and give off some zest to it.
There are many different recipes for oregano tea. You can steep fresh or dried leaves and see what you prefer.
- My Cuban Oregano is possibly the best-looking plant … – Reddit
- Cuban Oregano – Gardening Solutions – University of Florida
- Fact sheet: Cuban Oregano – UF/IFAS Extension Nassau County
Cuban oregano looks good in your kitchen
Whether you want to grow it for gorgeous leaves, zesty taste, or aromatic scent, Cuban oregano makes a perfect compliment for your kitchen countertop or windowsill.
It’s ease of care, low maintenance, and unlimited production make it a perfect herb to have sitting around when you need it. It can both add some green to your kitchen countertop PLUS your culinary dishes simultaneously.
It’s a shame this oregano isn’t more popular than its cousin.
Will you be planting it? Where will you keep it? Do you have any questions or tips/tricks to share? Let us know in the comments section!
Enjoy your oregano over and over again.
I’ve always been interested in gardening, but I never took it seriously until I was forcefully gifted an orchid. This was what got me into the hobby and I’ve never looked back. I enjoy writing about it, but not nearly as much as getting into the dirt and sculpting the perfect decorative ornamental to enjoy for the times.