Marjoram or sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a half-hardy perennial sub-shrub in the Lamiaceae or mint family. It has small rounded leaves and white tubular flowers in summer and early autumn that attract bees and other pollinating insects. Marjoram originates from the Mediterranean and Turkey.
How to grow marjoram
Sweet marjoram thrives in full sun and has good drought tolerance once it is well established. It’s important to plant marjoram in well-drained soil to avoid problems with root rot in wet conditions.
What is the difference between marjoram and oregano?
Marjoram and oregano are often confused. Although they are closely related, they are not the same species. Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a hardy perennial sub-shrub native to most of Europe, including the UK. It’s often known as wild marjoram and is widely used as a dried culinary herb.
Marjoram is not as hardy as oregano. It has a delicate, sweeter taste and is usually used fresh. Pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is another culinary Mediterranean species. It closely resembles oregano and is hardy in milder areas of the UK. Both marjoram and oregano are toxic to pets.
Where to grow marjoram
Plant marjoram in a sheltered sunny spot in well-drained soil with an alkaline or neutral pH. Plants grow into bushy mounds which reach around 60cm in height. It combines well with other Mediterranean herbs in borders and raised beds, and can be grown in containers on a sunny patio or in a greenhouse or conservatory.
How to plant marjoram
Sow marjoram seeds in spring under cover in peat-free seed compost. Harden plants off and transplant into the garden after the last frost. Young marjoram plants that have been bought from a nursery or garden centre can also be planted out in a well-draining sunny spot once the risk of frost has passed.
How to care for a marjoram plant
Although marjoram is a perennial, it is often grown outside and treated as an annual in the UK. When grown in containers, marjoram can be brought indoors in autumn and overwintered in a sunny spot ready to put back out in the garden in late spring after the last frost. In summer and early autumn, plants should be harvested regularly to promote new growth.
How to harvest marjoram
The best time to harvest marjoram is on a sunny morning when the leaves are full of essential oils. Remove some flowerheads before they open in midsummer for the best flavoured leaves, but allow plenty to flower to provide food for pollinating insects.
How to prepare and use marjoram
Marjoram is often used fresh in Mediterranean food such as meat, stuffings and pasta dishes. Oregano can be used as a substitute for marjoram. To store, dry small branches upside down in a dark, warm, well-ventilated area for a few weeks. Then strip the leaves off and store in air-tight containers. Do not use marjoram while pregnant or breast-feeding.
How to propagate marjoram plants
Pests and diseases
Sweet marjoram has few issues with pests and diseases. If plants attract aphids, remove by hand or with a spray of water, or leave as food for beneficial species such as ladybirds and blue tits.
- When choosing plants, make sure to check their uses as some Origanum species are grown as ornamental rather than culinary varieties
- Buy from a specialist herb nursery for the widest choice
- Check that plants are healthy and free from signs of pests and diseases before buying