Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Herb of the Week - Ornamental oregano

This year when I went to the FOPCON Herb Sale (Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory), I got my favorite go to plants like lemon verbena, lemon basil and purple basil because I love the care they take at FOPCON with those varieties.  They are the best of any I get elsewhere.

Wanting to get at least one out of the ordinary herb I picked up an ornamental oregano plant -- Kent Beauty, Origanum rotundifolium

One of the most beautiful ornamental herbs I have had the opportunity to grow is this unique plant. While most oregano varieties are grown for their culinary use, Kent Beauty and a few other ornamental oregano varieties are not, and in fact, have no taste at all. Ornamental oregano are best used for their beauty in gardens, borders, and especially containers.

In the photo above, I created a hanging container out of a red bucket and the oregano shares space with a traditional garden sage.  The red bring out the pink color in the ornamental blooms.

As the Kent Beauty grows, it spills gracefully over the sides of its re-purposed container. Its simplicity is enchanting.  Kent Beauty is a delightfully fragrant herb, attractive to bees, and has such a delicate “tossled” beauty about it. Its foliage is actually hard to describe. It has wiry stems that reach 4″ in height, with beautiful blue-green stemless rounded leaves. The leave will darken on the edges as the plant ages.

Off of these stem ends, bloom textured bracts, similar to hops, in a delicate mauve pale pink color throughout the summer. These delightful mauve pink bracts can be cut in full bloom, hung, and dried upside down for use in crafts.  I took my first cutting just after I took these photos.

Kent Beauty is native to Turkey, Armenia, and Republic of Georgia and is a hybrid ornamental oregano of Origanum rotundifolium x Origanum scabrum. I have seen multiple preferred climate zones for this herb, so check with your plant source for details for your area first, before purchasing.  At FOPCON they marked it as a tender perennial which generally means it will not winter over if we have our bone-chilling winter cold with high winds which is typical here in January.  However, I intend to bring mine indoors this winter and see how it looks hanging in the bedroom window. 

Prune Kent Beauty closely back after its summer bloom. It does best in well-drained soil. It prefers to be in dry soil, between thorough waterings. That makes it a great container plant like a scented geranium which will not need to be watered twice daily in the peak heat like some herbs in containers do.  It is best to protect it from excessive winter moisture if you hope to winter it over.


  1. How did it work when you brought the ornamental oregano indoors for the winter?

  2. It died in the winter due to the dry air in the house. Next time I let it stay outside, but sheltered in a shed and it did so much better. It was straggly in spring, but sun and warm spring weather brought it back quickly. I do that every year now.


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