Gardening Groundcovers Herbs

The 1001 Uses of Golden Oregano

There are plants for which you really can’t help falling in love with. Golden oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’) is one of them.

Originally, golden oregano was an aromatic herb, with bright yellow foliage that is about 10 inches (25 cm) tall and tiny pinkish white flowers you can clip off if you want. It’s widely agreed, though, that golden oregano isn’t the best oregano, flavor-wise. On the other hand, its decorative foliage is very interesting to work with in landscape design.

With Its Herbal Friends

Obviously, golden oregano is just perfect as the splash of color any herb container really needs. It can be combined with chives, mint, basil or thyme. Same thing if planted in the ground, where it is perfect at the edge of a path of mixed herbs.

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Let golden origan add a touch of color to your raised beds. It may ber one of the best design decisions you ever made! Photo: Vejaa, depositphotos.

In Decorative Containers

Although golden oregano is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8, you can choose to grow it as an annual. Indeed, it’s an easy plant to divide in the garden. You can use a few divisions from your own garden to integrate into pots of annuals around the house. In addition, in garden centers, you usually find it in the herb department. And garden centers usually charge more for annuals than other plants of the same size and age. As a result, golden oregano is less expensive than competing annuals. So, it’s a great bargain!

Golden oregano is sensational in a decorative container. Its fluorescent yellow foliage goes perfectly with all annuals that have brightly colored blooms. For example, you could combine it with orange tuberous begonias, candy pink calibrachoas or royal blue clary sage. Plus its bushy, yet slightly drooping habit makes it a beautiful plant to place on the edge of a pot. In larger containers, it contrasts wonderfully with the large green or red leaves of cannas, the multiple colors of coleus or the graceful foliage of fountain grasses (Pennisetum spp.). Try a monochrome arrangement, too, combining it with coneflowers, coreopsis and golden strawflowers.

In Mixed Borders

You can allow golden oregano to mingle with neighboring plants for a wonderful effect. Photo: Catherine Kaufell, Flickr

Golden oregano also finds its place at the edge of mixed perennial beds. Imagine a border where you would alternate golden oregano, catmint (Nepeta racemosa) and bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum). Then, at the back, you could plant a mixture of speedwells (Veronica spp.), blazing stars (Liatris spp.) and echinaceas.

Here you can see golden oregano integrated into the flowery borders of the ornamental vegetable garden at the Château de Miromesnil, Tourville sur Arques, France.

Its Only Flaw: It Can’t Take Full Sun

In terms of its ornamental qualities and its great interest in landscaping, the value of golden oregano is beyond question. And it’s a plant that is completely ignored by pests. However, there is one small downside.

Like many golden-leaved plants, the foliage of this oregano tends to “burn out” in the sun. Indeed, under conditions of full sun, high heat and lack of water, the foliage will start to turn pale and dry out. This misfortune can sometimes be prevented by watering it more during heat waves. You’ll also get healthier plants by growing it in partial shade or where it becomes shady in late afternoon.

If grown in full shade, the plant takes on a lime-green tint, which is still interesting for the effect of contrast it gives.

In short, golden oregano is a very interesting plant that will bring a touch of color to anywhere green dominates. In my garden, it borders a row of perennial herbs, where it rubs shoulders with French tarragon, Egyptian onions and parsley. It’s the first plant that catches my eye when I visit this part of the garden. And I couldn’t do without it!

Julie Boudreau is a horticulturist who trained at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. She’s been working with plants for more than 25 years. She has published many gardening books and hosted various radio and television shows. She now teaches horticulture at the Centre de formation horticole of Laval. A great gardening enthusiast, she’s devoted to promoting gardening, garden design, botany and ecology in every form. Born a fan of organic gardening, she’s curious and cultivates a passion for all that can be eaten. Julie Boudreau is “epicurious” and also fascinated by Latin names.

3 comments on “The 1001 Uses of Golden Oregano

  1. Christine Lemieux

    I never thought of using it in my perennial garden. On my list for next year! Thank you.

  2. 100% agree! Under-appreciated, easy to grow in gardens and containers, hardy, drought tolerant and a welcome splash of brightness in sea of darker greens. Looks great with catmint (Nepeta), and grows in the same conditions.

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