Growing Organic Herbs

How Much Water Does Oregano Really Need?

In this article I will compare two sets of leaves, one set was grown during a time when the plant’s soil frequently went dry, and the other set was grown when the soil hardly went dry and remained relatively moist.

I frequently research information about herbs, particularly their light and water requirements, because I want them to grow optimally. Not only for the highest yield possible, but also because I save seed and to get the best seed you need strong healthy plants. There is a plethora of information out there – much of it conflicting advice. Many websites said that oregano liked to go a bit dry, that it enhanced the flavour of the herb, and that most herbs don’t like to be overwatered. Overwatering is quite dangerous, more dangerous than underwatering, and is actually the most common cause of death in potted plants. This is why many websites say let the top of the soil dry out before watering again, because they know many people overwater. Overwatering is more dangerous than its opposite because plants can store water for those dry spells that occur in nature, but if their roots are constantly waterlogged the roots will die and the plant will struggle.

For optimal growth and the healthiest plant, you don’t want the plant to go too long without water and getting the water requirements right for your plant is almost an art form. It is a very good skill to have. Oregano definitely does not like to go dry and I advise people to treat it like mint, but a full sun version of mint. That means that it likes sun and the soil should be moist. Oregano should NOT be treated like lavender for example. Both are herbs, but lavender doesn’t mind really hot dry conditions and will survive quite well. Do the same to oregano and you have a poor specimen of plant.20151229_073219

The first photo shows healthy oregano leaves. These leaves were grown in conditions of what I call half sun. This means that the plant received about 5 hours of direct sun, maybe even less, and the plant was watered almost daily. This is because the plant is quite large and in a pot, so watering needs to be done carefully because the plant cannot grow roots in search of deeper water sources. The plant would appreciate more sun, but because it is in a pot I can’t risk it going dry from sitting in the sun all day so I have placed it in a place where it gets shade, to conserve water. It grows just fine. Of course, I hate potting up plants and prefer them to grow in the garden but sometimes it is just not feasible.


The second picture shows leaves that were grown in full sun of about 8 hours per day, in the hottest p20151117_152404art of the garden, and the soil frequently went dry. This photo is of the plant after I moved it to another garden, and then it still wasn’t doing well so I potted it so that I could shade it more. So this is a bit worse than how it normally was but still quite accurate. You can see a marked difference. The leaves have become PERMANENTLY curled. I say permanently because oregano leaves curl a little when conditions are dry, to conserve water, but this is now a permanent feature. I noticed this about this plant when it was younger – I thought oregano leaves were normally a little curled, but after a very misty morning one day I saw that the leaves were flat, not curled. This explained why my oregano never looked the same as in photos on the internet! And also, I watered the plant almost every day but it wasn’t enough evidently. So as you can see, this poor plant really had dry conditions – so much so that the leaves have now become permanently curled inwards.

Growing Organic Oregano in the Highveld of South Africa

Oregano is probably most famous for being the herb used most on pizzas. It has a lovely smell that is quite strong, simply watering it is enough to release the scent. Oregano is a spreading herb, it grows tall and then sort of leans over and where it touches the ground it will make new roots and so it spreads. It needs a lot of water and the leaves will curl in a little when it is thirsty. It likes a sunny position – mine is in the sunniest spot in the garden – but because of the intense sun it does need to be watered almost every day during the hottest parts of summer.