Cuban oregano is one of my all time favorite plants because it’s so easy to grow and smells amazing. Cuban oregano, also known as Spanish thyme, Indian borage, and Mexican mint, isn’t actually a type of oregano but is a type of succulent. And like most succulents, they are drought resistant and hardy. Being related to the mint family, it has some similar characteristics, like growth pattern and fuzzy leaves. It’s a great plant for beginner herb gardeners!
Although it isn’t a true oregano, it bears a similar odor to oregano. It can be grown as either a houseplant or outside in your garden. Ideally, Cuban oregano should be grown in warmer areas if it’s to be grown outdoors. It is said to have a more powerful odor than other types of oregano more commonly used, like Greek oregano.
Growing Cuban oregano
Cuban oregano is a great addition to any garden due to its dynamic foliage, wonderful aroma, and its bright, colorful flowers. Some fast facts about the plant:
- Latin name: Plectranthus amboinicus
- Other names: Spanish thyme, Indian borage, and Mexican mint
- Native to: Africa, Asia, along Indian ocean coastlines
- Invasiveness: Not known to be invasive
- Tenderness: Perennial
- Sun: Part shade, may burn in full sun
- Water: Water regularly, but allow soil to dry between watering.
- Soil: Well draining, sandy soil
- Hardiness Zone: Zones 9 through 11
- When to plant: Can be planted outdoors after last danger of frost. Perennial in tropical areas.
- Spacing: 3 to 6 feet
- Plant height: 19 inches
- Bloom period: Summer
- Flower color: Purple, pink, or white
- Container friendly: Can be grown in containers indoors and outdoors
- Fertilizer: 10-10-10
- Toxicity: Not toxic to humans or pets
- Deer resistant: Yes
- Pest resistant: Yes
When grown in hardiness zones 9 through 11, Cuban oregano is a perennial plant that requires part shade. It needs some sun, but if the afternoon sun can be blocked, that would be ideal for the plant. Cuban oregano is a drought-resistant plant that can’t grow easily in wet, soggy soil. It needs regular watering, but allow the soil to dry between watering.
It can be planted outdoors after the danger of the last frost in your area, however, it is not frost-tolerant and will only grow for a single season if you live in a zone cooler than zone 9. It can be grown in containers and brought inside during the winter. If planting outdoors, space them 3 to 6 feet and expect growth to about 19 inches tall.
This wonderful, aromatic flower produces pink, white, or purple flowers through summer and then go dormant over winter.
Cuban oregano is a succulent, making it a drought-tolerant plant. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to water it, however. The plant needs a good amount of water, but allow the soil to dry out some between waterings. The plant won’t be healthy if it’s stuck in drenched, marshy soil.
Cuban oregano is not a full-sun plant but requires part shade. If exposed to full sun, the leaves may burn which will cause the plant to fail to thrive. Protecting it from harsh afternoon sunlight is the most important factor.
Cuban oregano doesn’t like rich, loamy soil. Instead, offer it well-draining, sandy soil. This will prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged if overwatering occurs.
Cuban oregano doesn’t really need much in the way of fertilizer but you can provide it a 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring to kick off a healthy growing season. If your plant is in a pot, it will likely benefit from annual fertilizing.
Cuban oregano is not considered to be an invasive plant, but it is not native to all regions. The plant is native to portions of Africa and Asia where their coastlines meet the Indian ocean. If you are outside of this region, plant with care, but know that your plant won’t likely grow out of control.
Growing Cuban oregano in containers
This plant is totally happy grown in a container. It can serve as an aromatic houseplant or it can be planted outdoors permanently if you live in a warm enough area. Cuban oregano can be placed outdoors in a partially shaded area during the summer, where it will erupt in beautiful flowers, and then brought back indoors during winter. Plant your Cuban oregano in a medium-sized pot and, if growing indoors only, place in a partly sunny window.
Care & tips
Cuban oregano is a no-fuss kind of plant. You can provide it 10-10-10 fertilizer annually to ensure that it grows healthy new growth in the spring, but it should do well even without fertilizer. If you want it to grow bushier, cut off the flowers to encourage more base-level growth.
Cuban oregano is such an easy plant to grow that most gardeners won’t experience any problems with the plant. The two biggest issues with the plant are too much sun and too much water. It needs protection from the harsh afternoon sun and may burn if it gets too much sun. It also needs its well-draining soil to dry out between waterings. If the plant appears to not be thriving, it could be because of too much water. If it’s wilted looking, it’s probably not getting enough water.
Propagating Cuban oregano
This plant is so ridiculously easy to propagate and reproduce. Similar to mint, Cuban oregano can be propagated by simply taking a cutting, placing its stem in water, and waiting for roots to form. Rooting hormone is optional. In a few days, you’ll begin to see new roots emerge from the submerged portion of the stem. Allow the roots to grow for a bit, then plant in well-draining soil.
Uses for Cuban oregano
Cuban oregano can be used like other types of oregano and is a delicious addition to many meat dishes as well as soups and stews. It’s especially good on chicken. Be careful though, it can have a very strong flavor and overpower other flavors in a dish. Use sparingly.
Cuban oregano is not considered toxic to humans or pets.
History of Cuban oregano
The origins of this plant is shrouded in mystery, and there isn’t a lot of agreement about where it came from. Some argue that it is native to East Africa, but the plant can be found growing throughout the coastal regions of countries that have a coastline with the Indian Ocean. It has had ancient medicinal uses, but these are unverified by modern science.
Cuban oregano is a plant well worth adding to your garden, indoors or out. Its flowers are beautiful, the foliage is interesting and diverse, and the taste is out of this world!