Oregano or wild marjoram – Origanum vulgare – is a variable, bushy, hardy perennial that can grow up to 60 cm tall, with aromatic, ovate, dark-green leaves and panicles of pink to purple tubular flowers that appear in summer. Its flavor varies according to soil, sun and general growing condition. If grown in cooler, wetter regions it will not have the same intensity of flavor as the ones grown in a Mediterranean climate. Native to the Mediterranean regions it will require a well-drained soil and a sunny position in order to develop full flavor. Propagate by division or by cuttings taken in summer. Use in the kitchen – leaves and flowers – fresh or dried. There are also some ornamental cultivars, not suitable for culinary use, including golden marjoram – Origanum vulgare Aureum and variegated marjoram – Origanum vulgare Polyphant.
Pot marjoram – Origanum onites – is a hardy to frost-hardy perennial that can grow up to 60 cm tall with hairy stems and ovate-elliptic, bright-green, downy leaves. In mid to late summer white or purple flowers are borne in dense clusters. Native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East it requires a well-drained soil and a sunny position. Propagate by division or by cuttings taken in summer. Its flavor is less delicate than Origanum majorama and not as pungent and aromatic as Origanum vulgare. Use in the kitchen – leaves and flowers – fresh or dried. Dried leaves and flowers may also be added to pot-pourri.
Sweet marjoram – Origanum majorana – is a half-hardy perennial that is often grown as an annual. It can grow up to 60 cm tall and has elliptic, pale greyish-green leaves, arranged opposite. It bears small, white, sometimes pinkish flowers that grow in distinctive knotlike clusters, surrounding the stems. This was giving it the once popular name of knotted marjoram. Native to the Mediterranean and Turkey it requires a fertile, well-drained but not too dry soil and a place in full sun. Propagate by seeds sown in spring, after all dangers of frost have passed if you live in a cool temperate area. Leaves and flowering stems may be used in the kitchen, fresh or dried. It is said that it has the most delicate flavor of all marjorams. Dried flowering stems add flagrance to pot-pourri.