Tips for Growing Cuban Oregano in Your Indoor Kitchen Garden

Cuban oregano is a unique plant that brings year-round beauty to your house as well as taste to your food.

It will only thrive as a perennial outsider in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11, making it an excellent addition to an indoor kitchen garden if you don’t reside in those areas.

Cuban oregano (Coleus amboinicus) is a perennial semi-succulent herb in the mint family Lamiaceae that also goes by the names Mexican mint, Spanish thyme, and Indian borage, to mention a few.

It’s linked to real oregano (Origanum vulgare) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris), however, it’s a coleus species.

Its pungent flavor, though, is eerily similar to that of regular oregano, hence the name. Its flavor, though, is near twice as powerful.

It’s used in everything from black bean soup to pasta sauce to pulled pig dishes all around the world.

If you reside in a warm climate, discover how to cultivate Cuban oregano outdoors with our entire guide on growing Cuban oregano.

Are you ready to discover how to produce this delectable herb in your own backyard?

Here’s what we’ll talk about:

Getting Started 

The origins of Cuban oregano are supposed to be in Indonesia’s “Spice Islands,” India, or possibly someplace on the African continent.

It has become naturalized in all of the aforementioned locations, as well as in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.

The semi-succulent reaches a height of one to three feet and a width of two to three feet, though it may not grow as swiftly indoors as it would outside.

C. amboinicus prefers and tolerates low light conditions, requiring only four to six hours of sunlight every day.

As a result, it’s an excellent choice for a kitchen windowsill or tabletop.

To begin, look for a plant at your local nursery or start with a rooted cutting from a friend’s plant.

Choose a container with drainage holes and a dish to catch extra water for a tiny plant that is at least eight to twelve inches broad and deep.

Fill it with a potting mix that is organically rich and drains nicely. A succulent cactus combo is an excellent option. Just make sure the pH of your potting mix is between 6.0 and 7.5.

Make a hole in the mix as big as the root ball you’re about to transplant. Remove the plant from its container with care and place it in the ready-to-use pot. Backfill with dirt, ensuring that the entire root ball is covered.

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Cover all of the roots and two to three inches of stem above where the roots have developed if the plant is a rooted cutting. If you’re transplanting a C. amboinicus from a nursery, however, merely cover the root ball and not the stem.

Deeply water the new transplant, allowing the liquid to drain from the bottom of the pot.

Find a window sill with four to six hours of indirect sunshine, or a corner on a countertop with about the same amount of bright, indirect light.

Then take a seat and admire your lovely new addition to your kitchen garden.

Transplanting from Outdoors

If you don’t live in Zones 9-11 and are growing C. amboinicus as an annual outside, you can bring it inside before it succumbs to the cold to keep it alive all winter.

Fill a well-draining potting mix container with drainage holes and a drainage dish with eight to twelve inches of well-draining potting mix.

Find the primary stem of your Cuban oregano plant in the yard or garden and mark a space in the dirt approximately six inches away from it. Make a six-inch radius circle in the earth with a hand trowel around the plant.

Carefully dig down to the six-inch mark, all the way around the circle and approximately six inches down, until your plant comes loose.

Lift the root ball out with the trowel. It’s fine if some of the longer roots are cut off; this hardy plant will continue to thrive.

Dig a hole in the potting mix about the size of the dug-up root ball. Fill the pot halfway with soil and water the plant. However, don’t bring it inside just yet.

Instead, put it in its new pot outside for a full day. Then start bringing it inside for an hour in the morning, two hours the next day, and so on until it spends six or more hours indoors.

Each time you bring the plant into the house, inspect it for insects to ensure you aren’t bringing in any undesirable bugs.

This reverse hardening-off method will help prevent your C. amboinicus from being shocked by the abrupt shift in its growing location and environment.

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Caring for Your Plant

C. amboinicus is a great beginner plant for children or grandchildren who wish to get into indoor gardening because it is so easy to maintain.

Furthermore, its powerful oils help protect it from numerous pests and illnesses, whether it is cultivated indoors or outdoors.

Keeping in mind that C. amboinicus prefers temperatures between 65 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 65 to 95 degrees at night, locate a place for your plants that receives four to six hours of indirect sunlight, like a countertop.

To keep your plant healthy, you’ll need to give it a gentle soak once a week. The secret to a happy plant is drying the top inch of soil between waterings.

Apply a 5-5-5 NPK slow-release fertilizer every three to four weeks during the spring and summer, which is the active growing season for Cuban oregano when grown outdoors, according to package recommendations.

If you want to use this aromatic herb in your cooking, simply cut sprigs from the main stem.

A good general rule of thumb is to chop approximately half of the main stem off and use the leaves in your cooking. Rather than tall, lanky, and potentially unstable development, bushy growth will be promoted in this way.

To avoid overcrowding the plant, you can take off one-third to one-half of each lateral stem as it grows. In between major cuttings, always leave at least two-thirds of the plant uncut and let it grow naturally for two weeks.

It’s time for a new container if you find that the roots are protruding from the bottom of your container after a year or more.

It’s best to get one that’s at least two sizes larger than the one you’re currently using. Trim the herb’s roots and replant them in the same container if necessary.

If space is at a premium, the kitchen garden can be a better solution. All but those who are gifted with plenty of counter space, that is.

What’s the point of repotting it? There may be an imbalance in the plant’s ability to utilize water and nutrients because of its root-bound nature.

Make sure that you remove the herb from its pot before snipping the roots. Removing as much of the potting soil as possible, and exposing the root ball, is the first step. Remove the bottom third of the root system with a pair of pruning shears.

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The root ball can be trimmed from the bottom to about one-third of the way up toward the plant, which is another option for shaping the sides.

Make a new hole in your original pot and set your newly shorn root ball in it. Then, replace your original pot. Fill in the holes with dirt and water gradually until the water seeps through the holes and drains away.

Roots that appear congested should be pruned or relocated every few years.

Growing Tips 

  • Allowing the top inch of soil to completely dry between applications of water is a good rule of thumb.
  • Slow-release 5-5-5 (NPK) fertilizer should be applied every three to four weeks during the spring and summer months.
  • You can encourage bushy growth by taking cuttings from the stem.
  • Roots should be replanted or trimmed every 1-2 years.

Recipes and Cooking Ideas

To add a pungent, oregano-like flavor to any recipe that calls for oregano, take a cutting from your kitchen garden’s Cuban oregano.

To avoid overpowering your dish, use C. amboinicus sparingly and taste-test along the way, as it has a stronger flavor than O. vulgare.

If I’m making something like this delicious spaghetti bolognese from our sister site, Foodal, I like to chop up a few leaves and sprinkle them on top.

C. amboinicus can be substituted for the oregano in this recipe, either fresh or dried.

When making a recipe, use only half of the amount called for, and then taste it before making any additional adjustments!

Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs Recipe from Foodal: You can also substitute the oregano for half the amount in this recipe.

Move Aside, Regular Oregano

Is this succulent, perennial, semi-succulent herb growing in your kitchen garden? If so, congratulations! If you haven’t already, now is the time.

Let us know how you like to consume it. Please let us know if you have any questions about starting or maintaining your C. amboinicus plant in the comments section below!

Here are some more ideas for herbs you can grow in your kitchen garden while you’re waiting:

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