What You Need to Know About the Cuban Oregano Plant.
When it comes to flavoring, no herb is more suitable than Cuban oregano. It is a hardy, succulent herb used for hundreds of years in Caribbean cooking. The Cuban oregano plant has soft ovate leaves with a distinctive smell resembling oregano, thyme, and peppermint. It’s used primarily in cooking but has been found to have some medicinal properties. It is often used also as an ornamental plant.
Despite being a perennial, this herb is frequently planted in containers. It is simple to cultivate and manage. So, if you’re searching for something new to grow in your garden or on your windowsill, this plant might be exactly what you need.
History and Cultivation.
Cuban oregano, scientifically known as Plectranthus amboinicus, is a perennial plant that belongs to the mint family. Other names are frequently used: Spanish thyme, Mexican mint, Indian borage, Broadleaf thyme, and Caribbean oregano.
Although the precise history of this plant is unclear, some sources situate its origin in the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. Many say India is where it first appeared. Others argue that southern and eastern Africa may have been the plant’s original home. It may have been transported from there by Arab traders to the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia. Then it was introduced to Europe, from which it later traveled to the Americas during European colonization.
Regardless of where it originated, this plant has naturalized throughout many tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
Cuban oregano has stems that resemble succulents, and new growth features more delicate green stems. It has pairs of spherical, thick, and velvety leaves that are arranged around the stem. Although some types have a variegated tint and more deeply toothed margins, the leaves generally have a green appearance with a serrated edge. Additionally, you’ll see that the leaves are surrounded by trumpet-shaped flowers that, when in bloom, can turn pink, purple, or white.
Cuban oregano vs. oregano.
Cuban oregano is neither a Cuban nor oregano, even though its primary name suggests both. French oregano is the local name for Cuban oregano in Cuba, contrary to its name.
Additionally, Cuban oregano is not true oregano. It’s also not thyme, borage, or mint. It is not the same as oregano, although it resembles and has traits in common. Cuban oregano is a species of coleus plant called Coleus amboinicus, which also goes by the scientific name Plectranthus amboinicus. Coleus plants are perennial semi-succulents (meaning their leaves retain some water but not as much as a typical succulent) in the mint family Lamiaceae, which also includes basil and thyme.
Due to its propensity to burn in direct sunlight and thrive better in some light shade, Cuban oregano cultivation requirements differ slightly from those of oreganos. In contrast to common oregano, the plant also has fleshier, serrated leaves than common oregano and grows from a short, thick stem. It can reach a height of between 12 and 18 inches (30.5 and 45 cm) and acquire a trailing habit that makes it appealing in hanging baskets. It will grow into a little mounded ground cover as an underground plant.
Cuban oregano has a somewhat minty scent and is comparable to actual oregano, although not nearly as potent. This is a reference to the name similarity. It could be used as a substitute for regular oregano when harvested and used in recipes.
Growing Cuban Oregano.
The gender perennial plant Cuban oregano grows quickly. It can be cultivated indoors in pots or outside in gardens.
Being a native of the tropics, it can hardly survive in USDA Zones 10 to 11. It can endure cold winters in North America’s warmest parts of California, Florida, Hawaii, and Texas. Cuban oregano can be grown outdoors year-round without restriction in these places.
You can grow it anywhere else on a sunny windowsill or outside during the months when it doesn’t frost. Cuban oregano grows quickly in areas with hot, humid summers. During the growing season, the plants expand by at least one foot (30 cm).
Several techniques can be used to propagate Cuban oregano.
Cuban Oregano Seed.
Beginning with a packet of seeds is the norm. If you choose to plant seeds, purchase them from a reputable source and use a heated propagator or heat mat.
Plant seeds approximately one inch apart in either individual seed pots or non-divided trays. Lightly press the seed into the top of the soil.
Keep the soil at a temperature of around 70 degrees in a bright area, and keep it just a little bit damp. Germination should start anywhere between 21 and 30 days.
From Cuban Oregano Seedlings.
This is the most straightforward and dependable method for growing Cuban oregano or any other plant. A seedling is a seed that has recently sprouted and can be regarded as a young or infant plant.
You can purchase seedlings from a nearby garden supply store. This method has two main advantages: not worrying about germination and knowing that you are getting Cuban oregano and not some other random plant. Plant each seedling in a large container or at least 18 inches apart in a bed after selecting the healthiest looking to grow.
Taking a cutting can be an easy way to grow a new plant if you know someone with a healthy plant or you already have one.
Cut a healthy stem close to the main stem using a sharp knife. Remove any foliage from the lower half of the stem and then insert it into a pot with soil after dipping the base in some rooting powder.
This is a suitable method if you have a strong and mature plant.
Shake off any excess soil before carefully removing the plant from the ground. The root ball should be cut into quarters using a sharp knife. Then, like with seedlings, each of these divisions can be put outside or into separate pots.
Tips for growing Cuban oregano indoors.
Here are the basic steps to accomplish growing your plant indoors.
Soil and pH Levels
Cuban oregano prefers soil that drains well. Simple potting soil will do. It is tolerant of various soil types and is not particular.
This herb prefers a pH range of slightly alkaline to slightly acidic. Aim for a pH between 6.0 and 7.6. If you can’t determine your pH, purchase a soil tester and test for the pH.
Add some lime to raise the pH if it is excessively acidic. In case it’s too basic, add some sulfur or compost.
When growing many plants, separate them into different containers and space them as wide apart as possible. Using a little pot won’t work because Cuban oregano may grow up to 36 inches broad.
Watering and Sunlight.
Use your finger to test the moisture level of the top 1-2 inches of soil. Water it from the soil’s surface at the root if it is dry. It dislikes having damp feet, so try not to overwater. It might also result in fungus issues. Water once a week, allowing the soil’s top inch to dry out in between applications.
Like other herbal plants, Cuban oregano enjoys warm, sunny conditions.
Set up the established plants close to a windowsill in your kitchen or another sunny area of your house. It’s not necessary to go overboard. Although it may survive in any light, sunlight yields the highest yield. However, don’t let it burn in the summertime heat. It likes the sun, but too much of it will kill it.
Aim for six hours or more of sunlight each day. During those hot summer days, give it some shade or partial sunlight to keep it comfortable. You can use a greenhouse to keep it warm at night if you wish to grow it outside.
Temperature and Humidity.
Cuban oregano despises the cold. Because of this, growing it indoors will help keep it warm at night. Try to maintain it above 40F at night and between 60 and 90F during the day.
There isn’t much you can do to control the humidity since it’s in your kitchen. But if you believe your humidity level is too low, you can use a hand sprayer to mist the leaves daily to keep the humidity level high.
During the active growing season, fertilizer should be added to plants to provide them with food. In the spring and summer, a little fertilizer is all that is required. Use slow-release 5-5-5 (NPK) fertilizer every three to four weeks.
Avoid overfertilizing, as this may cause the herb to lose flavor and scent from the excess plant nourishment.
Plant Care (Pruning and maintenance).
Pruning is essential to keep the leaves tasty.
When it spirals outwards, grab a fresh pair of scissors or pruners and make the necessary cuts. Anytime you need a piece to cook with or use as a garnish, prune. If you want to grow more, you can clip off some cuttings.
Trimming the root ball may also be necessary. Simply take the entire plant out of its pot to accomplish this. After clearing it of any dirt or debris, lay it down. Cut off the bottom of the root ball, or roughly one-third of the roots, using a clean pair of pruners.
You should prune the roots if they get crowded and overgrown or when the water supply appears to be waning. Heavy roots will obstruct water movement.
Harvesting Cuban Oregano.
Snip off a two-inch section of the main stem of Cuban oregano using a pair of sharp scissors. Approximately half of the stem can be cut off at once.
Cut it right above a pair of leaf nodes to promote bushy growth instead of legginess.
If you randomly remove leaves from the plant, especially at the bottom, the main stem will lengthen to make up for the removed leaves, creating an unsteady, too-tall plant.
Trim the leaves from your stem with scissors or simply pick them off and use in your cooking.
Managing Pests and Diseases.
Cuban oregano isn’t frequently affected by pests or illnesses because of its powerful fragrance, antifungal abilities, and insect-repelling oils. But they should still be included in discussions on common issues because pets and occasionally diseases can still infect them.
Some common pests are:
Webbing is formed by these tiny, virtually microscopic mites all over the leaves, serving as a clear indication of their existence. Spider mites feed on the leaves of the plant; however, even though they are not very destructive to the plant, they can harm it if not controlled.
They are small oval-shaped gray or white bugs ranging in size from 1/20 to 1/5 of an inch. Mealybugs suck the plant’s juices and can result in leaf drop and possibly premature death.
The larvae of black flies are leaf miners. These tiny, worm-like larvae leave meandering tan or brown trails as they feed inside oregano leaves.
Before they get too severe, you can control moderate infestations of these pests. Use a heavy spray of water (from a hose) on the plant every other day until the mealybugs and spider mites are gone. These insects are unable to reappear after being washed off the plant. Use neem oil spray or insecticidal soap for persistent infestations. Spray the plant extensively, giving close attention, in particular to the undersides of leaves, as these pesticides must come into direct contact with the bug to kill it.
Cutting off and destroying the afflicted leaves before the larvae grow is the only way to cure leaf miner infestations because insecticides can’t kill the larvae inside the leaves.
Regarding diseases, fungi are typically the cause of infection in oregano plants. Fungi flourish in damp environments; When the air doesn’t circulate well enough to keep the foliage dry. So long as you avoid letting the plant lie in soggy conditions and the leaves stay dry as you water it, your plant should be generally safe.
Plants can be opened up for more airflow by pruning, and spacing plants per the instructions on the plant tag can resolve several oregano issues. Oregano should be grown in raised beds or containers if your soil doesn’t drain effectively.
Rotting leaves or roots are a common symptom of the fungus that causes oregano disease concerns. The plant is likely afflicted with botrytis rot if older leaves in the middle of the plant start to decay. Since there is no treatment for this, you should cut down and destroy the plant to stop it from spreading.
Rhizoctonia root rot may be indicated by progressive wilting. Check the roots and the base of the stems for any brownish or black discoloration. If you notice these signs, get rid of the plant and avoid planting oregano in that location for at least three years.
Another fungus that might be problematic for oregano is rust. Rust forms circular spots on the foliage, and if you can prune off the afflicted areas quickly enough, you might be able to rescue the plant.
If your plant ends up diseased, burn it or put it in a bag and throw it away. Never compost fungus-infected plants.
The risk of diseases and infestation shouldn’t scare you away from growing this herb. It is packed with enough nutritional benefits that outweigh the odds. This herb is rich in ascorbic acid, vitamin C, vitamin A, and omega-6. It also has anti-inflammatory effects and ingredients that can counteract the capsaicin in hot peppers.
Cuban oregano Benefits.
Since the earliest Ayurvedic practices in India and Indonesia, Cuban oregano has been used for various purposes and to great advantage. They used Cuban oregano for its anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing properties.
Cuban oregano leaves have been used for generations to treat respiratory and throat infections, constipation, rheumatism, flatulence, and fever. Additionally, convulsions, epilepsy, and malarial fevers have all been treated with this plant. It is even given to nursing women in Indonesia to increase milk production.
You may ward off mosquitoes by rubbing this plant’s leaf on your skin. Crushed leaves can also be applied to the skin to cure sores, burns, eczema, and insect bites.
Its rich aroma makes its culinary prowess equally valuable.
Cuban oregano culinary uses.
Cuban oregano is particularly edible and simple to cook. It is included in jerk seasoning blends and is used to season meat and seafood. Most recipes that call for oregano can utilize Cuban oregano; however, if too much is used, Cuban oregano can be overpowering.
The fresh leaves are best. The best leaves are those that have just fallen. They may be blended with other ingredients to make salsa, marinade, or pesto. They may also be used in a salad. Black beans taste great when flavored with Cuban oregano. It also goes well in stews and soups. Even the heat of hot peppers is somewhat mitigated by it. It is also excellent when it is only fried and battered.
The plant is now widely used in warm-weather cooking around the world. Cuban oregano has also been included in beer and wine recipes. You can look for different Cuban oregano recipes to experiment with several dishes. The leaves are mainly used for cooking because most of the flavor is concentrated there.
Cuban oregano is an excellent addition to any garden, and it’s also an excellent herb to have around the kitchen to give your recipes an extra kick. With the information provided in this article, you can grow this plant in your home, care for it, and reap the benefits of a healthy growing plant, enjoying its benefits year-round!
Frequently Asked Questions.
What is Cuban oregano used for?
Cuban oregano is edible and can be added to a salad or blended with other ingredients to make pesto, marinade, or salsa. It is also used medicinally for various conditions, including respiratory problems, insect bites, malaria, and more.
What is the difference between Cuban oregano and regular oregano?
Cuban oregano isn’t a true oregano. Cuban oregano is Coleus amboinicus, while Oregano is Origanum vulgare.
What does Cuban oregano taste like?
This plant has a flavor profile comparable to typical Italian oregano with a powerful, pungent, and musky scent with a hint of thyme.
Does Cuban oregano taste like regular oregano?
Although they both have comparable flavors, oregano is more potent than Cuban oregano.
Thank you for this detailed description. I now finally know what plant my friend gave me years ago as a withered stem! It thrives on my kitchen window sill and is so good to cook with. I now have the knowledge to pass cuttings it on to friends.