- Learn About Marjoram
- Growing Your Own Marjoram
- Growing Your Own Marjoram
- Indoor Care of Marjoram Herbs: How To Grow Sweet Marjoram Inside
- Growing Marjoram Indoors
- Care of Marjoram Herbs
- Using Marjoram Herbs
- Growing Marjoram
- Sweet Marjoram
- Popular Varieties
- Indoor Culture
- Marjoram Blossoms: Can You Use Marjoram Flowers
- Harvesting Marjoram Herbs
- Can You Use Marjoram Flowers?
Learn About Marjoram
Botrytis Blight: Also called gray mold, this causes a brown to gray fungus on plant leaves and stems. Diseased leaves die and fall off. If the infection is severe on the main stem the plant may die. The condition thrives in high humidity and cooler temperatures. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants and plant debris and clean tools before working with plants to avoid the spread of the disease and make sure plants have good air circulation.
Damping Off: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason. Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, thoroughly wash them in soapy water and rinse in a ten per cent bleach solution after use.
Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet.
Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Rust: A number of fungus diseases that rust colored spots on foliage. Burpee Recommends: Plant early as these diseases tend to be worse later in the season. Practice crop rotation. Remove infected plants.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects that can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Cutworms: These insects cut off the seedlings at the soil level. Burpee Recommends: Place a paper cup collar (use a coffee cup with the bottom cut out) around the base of the plant. They are usually mostly a problem with young seedlings. You can also control by handpicking and controlling weeds, where they lay their eggs.
Mealybugs: Mealybugs are 1/8 to ¼ inch long flat wingless insects that secrete a white powder that forms a waxy shell that protects them. They form cottony looking masses on stems, branches and leaves. They suck the juices from leaves and stems and cause weak growth. They also attract ants with the honeydew they excrete, and the honeydew can grow a black sooty mold on it as well. Burpee Recommends: Wash infected plant parts under the faucet and try to rub the bugs off. They may also be controlled by predator insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls.
Herb gardeners growing marjoram (Origanum majoricum) enjoy its fragrant and aromatic leaves which are highly valued for seasoning. The aroma and flavor improves with drying and is similar to mild oregano, but noticeably sweeter. Chefs choose it for its robust flavor but gentler bite.
Marjoram is a cold-sensitive culinary herb in the mint family. It grows 1-2 feet tall and has square stems, gray-green leaves and small white flowers borne in clusters. Pot-sized plants are perfect for containers and can be grown indoors all year round. Also makes an attractive outdoor groundcover in the summer. This tender perennial is often grown as an annual.
Fun fact: During the middle ages, marjoram and oregano were widely used to flavor beer. Hops came along much later.
Choose from a large selection of heirloom herb seeds available at Planet Natural. Planting instructions are included with each packet and shipping is FREE!
Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Marjoram
- Attracts beneficial insects and butterflies; excellent in soups, sauces, salads, and meat dishes
- Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost, then plant outdoors after soil and air temps have warmed
- Grows in almost any type of soil with minimal watering
- Start harvesting 5-6 weeks after transplanting
- Prevent attacks from aphids, spider mites and mildew by providing good air circulation
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 70-90 days from seed
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Spacing: 8 to 12 inches apart
A member of the mint family, marjoram does well in containers, window boxes and garden beds. Plants prefer full sun and will grow in most types of soil with very little water. However, sandy fast-draining soil is best (watch our video How to Grow an Herb Garden).
Tip: Sweet marjoram will attract beneficial insects and butterflies when used as a border in the garden.
How to Plant
Start indoors under grow lamps 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Sow seeds just beneath the surface of the soil. Seeds will germinate in about 10 days. Set the seedlings in the garden after all danger from frost has passed (see our article How to Plant Seedlings in the Garden). Space plants 10 inches apart in all directions. If high humidity levels are a problem in your planting area, it is best to space plants further apart to encourage good air circulation. Begin harvesting 5-6 weeks after transplanting outdoors, or when plants are growing vigorously.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest marjoram anytime after the plants are 3 inches tall. Harvesting herbs before the flowers open gives the best flavor. Marjoram is highly aromatic and its taste improves with drying. To dry, tie the cuttings in small bundles and hang upside down in a well-ventilated dark room. When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store whole. Crush or grind just before use.
Insect & Disease Problems
A couple of the garden pests, including aphids and spider mites, are found attacking marjoram. Watch closely and take the following common sense, least-toxic approach to pest control:
- Remove weeds and other garden debris to eliminate alternate hosts.
- Discard severely infested plants by securely bagging and putting in the trash.
- Release commercially available beneficial insects to attack and destroy insect pests.
- Spot treat pest problem areas with neem oil or other organic pesticide.
To prevent or reduce plant diseases, many of which are characterized by wilting, spots and rotted tissue, we recommend the following:
- Avoid overhead watering whenever possible (use soaker hoses or drip irrigation)
- Properly space plants to improve air circulation
- Apply copper spray or sulfur dust to prevent further infection
Quick Guide to Growing Sweet Marjoram
- Plant sweet marjoram in spring after the last frost. It grows well in containers but is also a great choice if you’re looking for an edible groundcover.
- Space plants 12 inches apart in an area with full sun and fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.7 to 7.0.
- Add nutrients to your native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
- Feed regularly with a water-soluble plant food to get the best results from your growing efforts.
- Check soil moisture every few days and water when the top inch of soil becomes dry.
- Harvest sweet marjoram leaves 4 to 6 weeks after planting.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Plant sweet marjoram in the spring once there is no longer threat of frost. Sweet marjoram is slow-growing, so you will want to start with young plants instead of seed. Choose strong young sweet marjoram plants from Bonnie Plants®, which has been helping home gardeners succeed for over 100 years. Plant them 12 inches apart in full sun in rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.7 and 7.0. To improve the nutrition and quality of your existing soil, mix in some compost or aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil. If planting in pots, fill them with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, which also contains nutrient-filled compost.
For best results, you’ll want to pair all that great soil with regular feedings for your marjoram plants throughout the season. Fertilize with a water soluble plant food like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition (as directed on the label). Sweet marjoram will grow to about 12 to 24 inches tall. Be sure to trim plants when buds appear (and before they flower) to ensure continued growth.
If you live north of zone 7 and want to continue growing marjoram after it turns cold, take cuttings from late spring to the middle of summer to keep in indoor pots for the winter. Otherwise, lift plants in the fall. Marjoram may also be divided in the spring or fall to begin new plants.
Growing Your Own Marjoram
Native to North Africa and western Asia, marjoram (Origanum majorana) is sometimes called “knotted” marjoram because the tiny white flowers emerge from knot-shaped buds. You can use this flower characteristic to help confirm that you do, indeed, have marjoram rather than a related oregano, of which there are more than 30 species. This herb sometimes is called sweet marjoram, too, because no other oregano matches its clean, sprightly flavor.
To the ancient Greeks, marjoram was the herb of marital bliss. Thought to be a favorite of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, it was woven into garlands that brides and grooms wore on their heads. Also according to ancient folklore, sleeping with a bit of marjoram tucked under your pillow was supposed to promote dreams of true love. And before the Middle Ages, many people believed that planting marjoram on graves helped assure the happiness of departed loved ones.
Marjoram is not considered an important medicinal herb, but a tea brewed from its leaves may help with indigestion, headache or stress.
The herb’s flavor more than justifies growing it in your garden for culinary purposes, though. Think of marjoram as a tame oregano and use it with confidence in Italian-style, tomato-based dishes such as pasta or pizza, or as an accent for most vegetables, especially potatoes, whether they’re served hot, or marinated and served cold. Marjoram also is good on fresh tomato sandwiches, and it pairs well with eggs or cheese. A light sprinkling adds savory flavor to cream-based sauces or soups, especially potato soup, and to savory herb butter, too. And, the flowering tops are a pretty addition to herbal vinegar.
Dried marjoram delivers flavor nearly equal to that of the fresh version; on the plant, the flavor usually peaks just before the flower buds form, though the buds are edible, too. When drying marjoram for kitchen use, lay 3-inch-long stem tips on a dry cookie sheet and place the cookie sheet in a 150-degree oven for two to three hours; this method retains marjoram’s essential oils and the green color of its leaves. Store the dried stems with their leaves intact in an airtight container in a cool, dark place; when you need some leaves for a recipe, just strip the right amount from the stems.
A fast-growing plant, marjoram will produce a steady supply of new growth if it is regularly trimmed back. Should you have more stems than you can use in the kitchen, mix them into potpourris, sachets, tussie-mussies or herbal wreaths; the flowering tops sometimes are used as a source of beige or gray dye, too.
Growing Your Own Marjoram
Marjoram cannot tolerate subfreezing temperatures, so it usually is grown as an annual, but it can be carried over because it is one of the easiest herbs to propagate from stem cuttings (described below), and it grows beautifully indoors in winter near a sunny, south-facing window.
In the garden, marjoram never grows more than 15 inches tall, and the soft stems tend to sprawl as they mature, so this herb makes a good edging plant. You can start with seed sown indoors in late winter, but germination usually is only about 50 percent, and early growth is very slow; a faster option is to buy new plants in spring.
Most marjoram plants are grown from cuttings, so they are well rooted and ready to grow as soon as you transplant them into warm soil. After the last spring frost, set out plants in full sun, in soil that is gritty and fast draining with a near-neutral pH. Alternatively, you can grow marjoram in containers; it’s a good plant to mix with other culinary herbs such as basil and thyme.
Feed your marjoram plants monthly with an all-purpose organic plant food, or more often if you’re growing them in containers. Take care not to overwater marjoram, but watch closely for signs of drought stress, too. Plants that wilt for more than a few hours in midday need more water. Cut stems back often to encourage your plant to branch, or wait until just before the flower buds form to harvest them in bulk by shearing the whole plant back by two-thirds its size. Sufficient stems for a second cutting should develop by early fall.
Take cuttings to root in midsummer: Cut several 3-inch-long stem tips that show no flower buds, remove all but the six to eight topmost leaves and set the cuttings to root in moist seed-starting mix. Placed in a shady spot and kept constantly moist, they should develop vigorous, new root systems in about three weeks. At that time, transplant the rooted cuttings, two each to a 6-inch pot filled with potting soil. A few weeks later, pinch back the tops to encourage branching.
With casual care, marjoram will continue to grow through fall and winter, and into the following spring. Soon after moving the plants outdoors, take cuttings from your overwintered marjoram, allow the cuttings to develop roots and then transplant them to the garden in early summer. This way, you can keep a strain of marjoram indefinitely, and always have plenty of fresh sprigs for use in the kitchen.
Indoor Care of Marjoram Herbs: How To Grow Sweet Marjoram Inside
At this writing, it is early spring, a time when I can almost hear tender buds unfolding from the still chilly earth and I yearn for spring’s warmth, the smell of freshly mown grass and the dirty, slightly tan and calloused hands I prefer. It is at this time (or similar months when the garden is sleeping) that planting an indoor herb garden is enticing and will not only cheer up those winter doldrums but enliven your recipes as well.
Many herbs do exceptionally well as houseplants and include:
Sweet marjoram is another such herb, which when grown outside in cooler climates may die during icy winter, but when grown as an indoor marjoram herb plant will thrive and often live for years in that mild clime.
Growing Marjoram Indoors
When growing marjoram indoors, there are a couple of considerations that apply to any indoor herb. Access the amount of space you have, the temperature, light source, air and cultural requirements.
A sunny location and moderately moist, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.9 are the elementary details of how to grow sweet marjoram indoors. If planting from seed, sow uncovered and germinate at about 65-70 F. (18-21 C.). Seeds are slow to germinate but plants can also be propagated by cuttings or root division.
Care of Marjoram Herbs
As previously mentioned, this little member of the Lamiaceae family is usually an annual unless planted indoors or outside in mild climates.
To maintain the vigor and shape of the indoor marjoram herb plant, pinch back plants prior to blooming in mid to late summer (July to September). This will also keep the size down to a manageable 12 inches or so and eliminate much of the woodiness of the indoor marjoram herb plant.
Using Marjoram Herbs
The tiny, grayish green leaves, flowering top or entirety of indoor marjoram herb plants may be harvested at any time. Sweet marjoram’s flavor is reminiscent of oregano and is at its peak just before blooming in the summer. This also reduces the seed set and encourages herbaceous development. This little Mediterranean herb may be sheared severely down to 1 to 2 inches.
There are many ways of using marjoram herbs, including using fresh or dry in marinades, salads and dressings, to flavor vinegars or oils, soups, and compound butters.
Indoor marjoram herb plant marries well with an abundance of foods such as fish, green vegetables, carrots, cauliflower, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, and potatoes. Sweet marjoram pairs well with bay leaf, garlic, onion, thyme and basil and as a milder version of oregano, can be used in its place as well.
When using marjoram herbs, they may be dried or fresh, either method useful in not only cooking but as a wreath or bouquet. To dry indoor marjoram herb plant, hang sprigs to dry and then store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container out of the sun.
Note: Today’s guest post comes from Chris from Joybilee Farm. She lives on 140 acres in Southern BC, Canada. Chris Dalziel is a veteran homeschool Mom with 3 graduates, a published writer, with 30 years of homesteading under her nails. Living in a log house, in the mountains and surrounded by pines, and pasture, Chris was a city mouse who migrated to the country, as a young mom. Chris is also an award winning fiber-artist who raises her own medium from her organic garden, and from her own sheep, goats, llamas, and angora bunnies. Chris is passionate about ethical, holistic husbandry — her sheep have garlic breath. Her passion is to revive the skills and knowledge of the “Lost Arts” of homesteading and present this plainly, so that others can master them and live joyfully and courageously in these perilous times.
Sweet marjoram has been cultivated since ancient times. Considered to enhance marital bliss, it was well known in ancient Egypt and Greece and is essential for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Related to oregano, it has a similar flavour but it is sweeter and less pungent. Dried marjoram has a more concentrated flavour than the fresh herb and should be used sparingly in cooking.
Marjoram, in its native climate (zone 9 to 11), grows into a small bush about 18 inches in height, but most of us never see it in its optimal growing conditions. It has small oval leaves, similar to oregano. Sweet marjoram has white flowers, while common marjoram or “Wild Oregano” has pink to purple flowers. When grown as an annual, from seed, marjoram reaches 12 inches in height.
3 Kinds of Marjoram
There are 3 main varieties of marjoram. Pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is a native of Sicily and is a hardy perennial. It has a sharper, less sweet flavour than both oregano and sweet marjoram. Pot marjoram is suitable for growing in containers. It is used in many Greek dishes. It grows wild in Greece. Sweet marjoram (Majorana hortenis)(zone 9 to 11) is a native of Portugal and Spain. A similar species also called Sweet Marjoram or Knotted Marjoram (Origanum marjorana) (zone 9 to 11) is used extensively in French cooking. It has a more delicate flavour than the other marjoram and should be added at the end of the cooking time, to preserve its delicate flavour. The third kind of marjoram is Common marjoram, also called “Wild Oregano” (Origanum vulgare)(zone 4 to 8). It has the strongest, most camphorous flavour and is used predominantly in Italian cooking or for medicinal use. This is the oregano that medicinal “oil of oregano” is extracted from.
How to Grow Marjoram in Zones 3 to 8
Unless the Latin name of the marjoram that you are planting is given, you can assume that it is knotted marjoram or sweet marjoram and is tender to frost. Only the Richters Herbs seed catalogue gives the Latin name of the marjoram that it sells. So treat any marjoram that you find as a tender annual, unless the Latin name is given, and plant early indoors to give it a good start in your shorter growing season.
Marjoram is a native to the Mediterranean region and dies back in frost. Start marjoram seeds indoors, under lights, in March or April. The seeds are slow to germinate. To prevent damping off disease while you wait for the seedlings to emerge, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on the soil when you plant the seeds. While, you can start the seeds outdoors in warm soil after all danger of frost is past, if you have a short growing season, the plants may not get to flowering stage before they are frost-killed. Since the first harvest of the plant is usually done just as the flowers appear, your efforts will be stifled if you wait to plant them.
You can also obtain marjoram as seedlings from your local garden store. Garden store seedlings are usually grown from rooted cuttings and are already vigorous when they are ready for setting out. These should be planted out after all danger of frost is past and the soil is warmed up. Starting with cuttings instead of beginning with seeds allows you to harvest sooner.
Hardening off Your Seedlings
Whether you start marjoram from seeds indoors, or buy starts from the garden store, the young plants should be hardened off before planting them in the ground. Acclimate your plants to the strength of the sun and the drying nature of the wind by putting them outdoors in the shade for a week. Be sure to bring them back indoors at night to prevent shock or put them in a greenhouse and cover at night. Once the plants have been hardened off, you can plant marjoram in full sun in prepared soil.
How to Prepare the Ground for Planting Marjoram
Marjoram prefers to well drained, porous, pH neutral soil. Prepare the ground by liming well the season before, if your soil tends to be acidic. Incorporate some grit or find gravel into the soil if you have clay soil. Mound up the soil in the planting area and plant your seedlings into the mound, or alternatively, plant marjoram in a raised bed. Marjoram, like other Mediterranean herbs, doesn’t require rich soil and produces more flavour when the ground is less fertile.
Marjoram is a preferred companion plant for vegetables. Its pungent scent confuses caterpillars and pests. Consider planting a few marjoram seedlings among your lettuce, root vegetables, and bush beans – plants that won’t shade them out as the growing season progresses. Marjoram will only reach about 12 inches high, when grown as an annual.
Page Two: Zones 9-11 and Tips for Your Harvest
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Shakespeare knew his herbs, and characterized them in his work. In All’s Well that Ends Well, someone gives a compliment, describing another as, “the sweet marjoram of the salad, or rather the herb of grace.” It is a delightful herb, at once sweet and savory. Use it in sauces, egg dishes, fish, poultry, and, as the Bard alludes, in salads.
Origanum majorana goes by several common names: sweet marjoram, garden marjoram, and annual marjoram. It is hardy only to USDA Zone 9 and rarely survives even mild winters. Plant seeds or purchase plants each spring. Sweet marjoram has an upright, bushy growth habit and can reach a foot in height. (Where perennial, it can reach 2 feet.)
Start the tiny seeds indoors under grow lights about 6 weeks before the last frost date in your region. Set out seedlings in full sun in slightly alkaline soil that’s rich in organic matter. Place plants about 6 to 8 inches apart, or in clumps of two or three plants set 12 to 14 inches apart, and keep the soil slightly moist until they are growing vigorously. Pinch back stems to maintain a bushy growth habit. After each harvest, add 1 inch of compost in a 12-inch-wide band around the plants.
Harvest and Storage
When flowers appear, cut entire plants to stand 3 to 4 inches tall, and repeat as more flower buds appear. Use leaves fresh, and dry some for winter use. Leaves dry quickly and retain their flavor well. To dry, tie stems together and hang bunches upside down in a shady, dry, well-ventilated place. After drying, remove leaves from stems and store in an airtight container.
Very Tender Perennial/Annual
Sweet marjoram is an annual with a low, spreading growth habit. Leaves are gray-green and velvety to the touch. Sweet marjoram is another member of the Oregano family but with a sweeter, milder flavor.
Sweet marjoram is easily grown from seed or cuttings. It prefers a full sun location and requires a well-drained soil. Sweet marjoram tends to be a low spreading plant that benefits from being pruned back when it is 6-8 inches tall to encourage a bushy growth habit. To enhance seed germination, soak seeds in water overnight.
Harvest marjoram when ball-like tips appear at the ends of the stems. When the plant starts to bloom, cut plants back close to the ground to stimulate a new flush of growth. The second flush of growth tends to be a more desired crop than the first cutting. Air dry cut stems and store in sealed containers.
Marjoram is used in soups, egg dishes, beef, and chicken dishes, sausages, cheese and tomato dishes.
- Variegated Marjoram – Low growing perennial, with yellow-green variegated foliage. It is useful as an ornamental.
Sweet marjoram is easily grown as a container plant indoors in a sunny location. Start plants from seed or cutting or dig up plants from the garden before frost and bring them indoors.
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Marjoram Blossoms: Can You Use Marjoram Flowers
Marjoram is a wonderful plant to have around, whether it’s in your garden or a pot closer to the kitchen. It’s tasty, it’s attractive, and it’s very popular in salves and balms. But what do you do when you start getting marjoram blossoms? Do marjoram blooms affect harvest? Keep reading to learn about marjoram blossoms and harvesting marjoram herbs.
Harvesting Marjoram Herbs
You can start harvesting marjoram herbs when the plant is about 4 inches tall. This should be before the flowers start to form, when the leaves are at their best. Just pick the leaves as needed and use them fresh. You can brew them into tea, extract their oils for salves, or put them into your food just before you finish cooking to impart a pleasant, mild flavor.
Can You Use Marjoram Flowers?
Marjoram blossoms tend to appear in midsummer as beautiful delicate clusters in pink, white, and purple. Do marjoram flowers affect harvest? Not completely. You can still pick the leaves, though they won’t taste quite as good.
When you have marjoram buds, the best thing to do is to start picking sprigs for drying. Before the buds open, cut some of the stems from the plant (no more than one third of the total leaves) and hang them in a dark airy space. Once they’re dry, pull the leaves from the stems and either crush them or leave them whole to store.
Once you have a marjoram plant blooming fully, the flavor of the leaves isn’t going to be as good. It’s still perfectly safe to eat them, though, along with the flowers, which taste like a milder version of the leaves. At this stage both the leaves and the flowers can be brewed into a very relaxing tea.
Of course, leaving a few plants to bloom in the garden will entice pollinators. You can also harvest seeds from the spent blooms for more of this delightful herb.
Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is closely related to oregano but not as cold hardy. It is a Mediterranean plant native to Cypress and southern Turkey. The Greeks and Romans regarded sweet marjoram as a symbol of happiness. In ancient Greece, it was woven into garlands worn by brides and grooms to guarantee marital happiness.
It was not used as a medicinal plant. Instead it has been consistently been used as culinary herb through the centuries. The flavor contains both pine and citrus notes. It has also been used as an edging in the garden thanks to its low stature and neat growth habit.
Sweet marjoram is hardy in zones 7 through 9. In northern climates it is grown as an annual or brought indoors for the winter. South of zone 9, it dies from the heat of the summer. The plants grow to 12- to 24-inches tall. They need full sun and well-drained soil.
Sweet Marjoram Flowers
The flowers are very different from oregano flowers. They are small and knot-like. Sweet marjoram is sometimes called “knotted marjoram” because of the unusual shape of its flowers.
Most gardeners buy plants because sweet marjoram is difficult to grow from seed. Seed can be started indoors six weeks before your last frost date. Germination will be low, in the 50 percent range. Seedlings should start to appear within 1 to 2 weeks. Plant your seedlings in your garden after all danger of frost.
You can also propagate sweet marjoram by cuttings. Some gardeners take cuttings in late spring or early summer rather than bringing the entire plant indoors in the fall. Cuttings should be made from stem tips that show no flower buds. Cut off three inches and strip off all the leaves except 6 to 8 at the very top of the cutting. Place your cuttings in moist seed starting mix. Do not allow them to dry out. They should have enough roots to transplant within 3 weeks. You can begin harvesting 4 to 6 weeks after planting.
Sweet marjoram is used both fresh and dried because it retains its flavor very well after drying. Pinch back the stems to keep the plants full. When the flower buds start to appear, you can cut down the plants to 3 to 4 inches. Don’t worry, it will grow back. You can continue to harvest your plants right up until frost in northern areas.
Drying your harvest is easy. You can gather the stems in bunches and hang upside down in a dark, well-ventilated space or you can dry in your oven or food dehydrator. After drying, store in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place.