How to Grow & Care for Cuban Oregano

Despite its name, Cuban oregano is not just a plant that hails from the Caribbean; it is also known as Mexican mint, Spanish (or French) thyme, and Indian borage.

Cuban oregano isn’t actually oregano at all. But it’s not thyme, either, or borage (Borago) (Thymus). Coleus amboinicus, a type of coleus plant, is the most likely candidate.

There is some taxonomic overlap. Coleus plants are part of the mint family, Lamiaceae, which also includes basil and thyme.

The perfume of C. amboinicus, which resembles that of actual oregano, has earned it the moniker “Cuban oregano” (Origanum vulgare). The flavor of Cuban oregano is comparable to that of O. vulgare, but with a distinct minty flavor.

C. amboinicus differs from common oregano in that it has a short, robust stem and leaves that are slightly fleshy and serrated. If you’re looking for a plant that isn’t quite as succulent as a conventional succulent, look no further.

Cuban oregano, which is only hardy in Zones 9-11, is commonly cultivated as a houseplant on a kitchen ledge in climates where it cannot be grown outdoors all year.

This book will teach you all you need to know about growing C. amboinicus in the wild.

Cuban oregano – like all other coleus plants – is harmful to cats, dogs, and horses even though it is acceptable for people to eat. Consider planting it in a fenced area if you have pets because of the strong fragrance.

Listed below are some of the topics we’ll be discussing:

What Is Cuban Oregano?

Low-elevation rocky, loamy, or sandy soils are ideal for Cuban oregano’s growth. An average plant can reach three feet in height and spread out to about the same amount of space.

They range in size from one and a half to two and a half inches in length and width.

Bees and butterflies flock to the plant in the late winter and early spring when it blooms with pink, purple, or white flowers.

Outside in Zones 6-8, or where summer temperatures are regularly above 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you can grow it as an annual plant. Unless you live in Zones 9-11, the plant may not be able to flower and produce seeds.

Once planted, Cuban oregano thrives in pots or in quick-draining soil in the garden or yard because of its drought tolerance.

Carboniferous Amboinicus grows best in partial shade but may handle full shade in hotter regions. It prefers a soil pH of between 6 and 7.

To prevent sunburnt leaves in the hot afternoon sun, aim to provide four to six hours of daily sunlight, ideally in the morning.

Plectranthus amboinicus was the common name for C. amboinicus until recently.

In the Lamiaceae family, Coleus, Plectranthus, and Solenostemon are three genera that are sometimes misidentified.

There were two species of Plectranthus, Coleus, and Solenostemon, until 2019. Coleus and Solenostemon, on the other hand, were declared separate genera by a group of botanical researchers from the UK, India, Australia, Malawi, Thailand, and France in PhytoKeys in August of that year.

C. amboinicus has supplanted P. amboinicus is a common name. The English botanist George Bentham’s original description of C. aromaticus is another common synonym you may encounter.

Coleus, an annual and perennial shrub, and herb genus include C. amboinicus, which is succulent. The leaves of several species have bright, highly variegated shades of pink and red, making them eye-catching and entertaining.

The unassuming C. amboinicus is the most uninspiring of the coleus species.

We’ve put together a guide to cultivating coleus plants for those who are interested in learning more about this popular decorative and houseplant.

Cuban oregano is sometimes confused with a similar-looking plant often referred to as the “Vicks plant,” due to its scent that closely resembles that of Vicks® VapoRub, the sticky, odorous, camphor, and menthol-based cough suppressant.

In contrast, the Plectranthus hardiness var. tomentosus, or P. hardiness, is a distinct species. It remained in the Plecanthrus genus upon the 2019 reclassification, unlike Cuban oregano.

Images easily available on the internet sometimes confuse succulent coleus with the former.

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C. amboinicus, on the other hand, has prickly, mint-like leaves. A closer examination of the leaves of P. hardiness shows that they are smaller, rounder, and fuzzier than those of O. vulgare.

Crushing and sniffing the leaves can also help distinguish them. C. In contrast to the oregano-like scent of amboinicus, the medicinal scent of P. hardiness is more akin to that of Vicks® VapoRub being rubbed all over your chest.

Cultivation and History

Some accounts situate this plant’s origins in Indonesia’s the Maluku Islands, home of the clove and nutmeg trees (both Syzygium aromaticum and Myristica fragrans).

Many people believe it has its roots in India. Others believe that the plant originated in southern and eastern Africa.

Regardless of where it originated, the plant has spread to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, where it now thrives naturally.

In addition, it lends its pungent, savory flavor to a wide range of cuisines. I’ve even used it as a substitute for oregano in recipes that call for the real thing.

Black bean soup in Cuba relies heavily on it. Sweet and sour soups in Vietnam are often flavored with it. There, it’s called “oregano brujo” (witch oregano) and is often used as a seasoning ingredient in sofrito in Puerto Rico.

The leaves are popular in chutney and eaten raw with butter on bread on the Indian subcontinent. As a seasoning for wine or beer, the leaves can also be fried to create a tasty, crunchy snack.

Actually, fried Cuban oregano seems like something I’d like to eat right now. The omega-6 fatty acids and vitamins A and C in it make it an excellent source of nutrition.

Fresh leaves can be chopped and used in any cuisine that calls for oregano. Cuban oregano, on the other hand, has a far more potent flavor than O. vulgare. Use only half as much as you would if you were cooking with fresh oregano.

C. amboinicus leaves have long been utilized by people in India, Cuba, and elsewhere to treat fevers, coughs, and asthma symptoms.

Bug bites can be soothed using the plant’s essential oils. To relieve itching, simply crack open a leaf and apply the juices to your skin.

Growing it outdoors with your other plants may help them resist pests and fungi. The oil in the leaves was found to be an effective insecticide against white termites in one study.

Several varieties of fungi, including Fusarium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus, were found to be inhibited by the oil in another investigation.

Propagation

Buying a young plant from a nursery is the quickest method to get started cultivating your own Cuban oregano.

A cutting can be easily grown from an old friend’s C. amboinicus if they have a lot of the plant. This is by far the most popular technique of distributing information.

Be aware that while preserving and replanting your own seeds may work, they are not readily available for purchase and are frequently mislabeled.

According to some sources, these need to be planted immediately after they are harvested, as they will not be viable if they are dried and stored.

The same clear plastic cup or glass and sharp scissors are all you need to grow cuttings of basil. A clear cup or glass will make it easy to view the roots as they grow.

Snip a four- to six-inch portion of new growth from an existing C. amboinicus plant with a pair of scissors Remove the lower two or three inches of the leaves and submerge them in water.

A sunny windowsill or a sun-protected spot outside are ideal locations for the cup. Every two days, change the water.

New root development should appear at the cutting’s base in two to four weeks.

In approximately an inch of root growth, place the cutting in a six-inch-deep pot, add some potting mix, and then carefully place it in the center.

The bottom two to three inches of the stem where you removed any leaves should be buried as well.

The root system and the base of the stem should be tamped down with the potting mix.

For a month or two, maintain the plant in a sunny window sill or in a greenhouse or other sheltered area, and water thoroughly.

Dig up and divide mature plants, then replant the divisions in their original locations.

Transplanting

It won’t take long for your plant to outgrow its container once it starts producing new leaves.

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There are two ways to cultivate it outside: either in a container or in the ground. Both methods are described in detail in the sections that follow.

Once the temperature regularly stays above 60°F, it’s time to transplant C. amboinicus outside.

For Zone 9 residents, you’ll need to offer it some winter protection, but once established it will be able to weather cold snaps more easily. We’ll talk about that in a second.

Transplanting to a Container

Ideally, you want something with a depth and width of no less than 12 inches. On a porch or patio, make sure the container has drainage holes and a dish to capture any excess water.

Refresh the potting mix in the container. Cactus and succulent mixes like this one from Miracle-Gro, available at your local Home Depot, can be used instead of ordinary potting soil.

In order to thrive, Cuban oregano necessitates soil that is both loose and well-draining.

In the potting mixture, dig a hole that’s as deep and wide as the root ball you’re going to transplant. Set the young plant in the hole by gently removing it from its container. Backfill with dirt.

As soon as you see water coming out of the drainage holes, you know it’s time to stop watering the soil.

Keep it in an area that gets four to six hours of sunshine, particularly in the morning.

Transplanting Outside

Ideally, you want a site with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5 and four to six hours of morning sun in your yard or garden. Soil testing is recommended before beginning.

A minimum of three feet should be left between your plant and any neighboring plants or structures.

Dig a hole that is double the diameter of the plant’s root ball. In and around the hole, add roughly a cup of well-rotted compost or manure to improve the soil.

A hole has been dug in the ground and a plant is ready to be planted. Fill the hole with soil and then water it in gently to let it settle.

That concludes our discussion.

How to Grow

Keep your Cuban oregano happy with a few simple steps. Every week, or anytime the top inch of soil dries out, provide one inch of water. As much as possible, keep the water away from the plant’s leaves by sprinkling it at the base.

Installing a rain gauge to monitor how much water the Earth is dispersing will help you prevent overwatering during rainstorms.

Apply a slow-release 5-5-5 (NPK) granular fertiliser every three to four weeks during the spring and summer when the plant grows the most, as directed on the package.

Remove dead or damaged leaves as needed. Of course, you should also frequently take cuttings to include in your diet!

Even if you don’t plan on hanging a basket, a vine-like trailing habit can be achieved by taking cuttings from the plant, which can help it grow fuller rather than higher.

In the event that you can’t find a site that receives only four to six hours of the morning sun, you may want to consider erecting a shade cloth that shields the leaves at midday (approximately between 11 am and 3 pm).

However, even while the plant will not die from overexposure to the sun, it may suffer sunscald which can have a severe impact on the plant’s general health.

Sunscald is a form of plant sunburn, and leaves that are damaged will lose some of their vivid green colors.

It’s time to put up a shade cloth or move that container-grown plant somewhere more protected if you notice any of the leaves turning brownish or yellow.

A three- to a six-inch layer of bark chips or straw mulch around the plant will help protect it from the cold weather. If you live in Zone 9, where the typical winter temperature is 20°F or lower, this is extremely crucial.

Growing Tips

  • Plant in the early morning, when the sun is shining for four to six hours a day.
  • The soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings by providing one inch of water every week.
  • In the spring and summer, fertilize about every three to four weeks.
  • Mulch in winter to protect from the cold

Varieties and Cultivars to Select

When searching for Cuban oregano, it’s best to keep an open mind. When you do manage to get your hands on one, though, oh, the rewards!

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Somebody you know may be willing to share a piece of their hair. Perhaps you could ask your local nursery if they have some in stock. For those who don’t have their own plants, perhaps they’d be happy to order some for you, too.

Amazon also sells cuttings that have already been rooted and are ready for planting.

There is also a variegated variant, or ‘Variegatus,’ available. The leaves are green with white edges.

Some cultivars of this plant may be less common, but you may be able to find them.

Some examples include ‘Ochre Flame Wedgewood’ and ‘Well Swep Wedgewood,’ a pale green variant with darker edges.

Managing Pests and Disease

Antifungal qualities and insect-repelling oils make Cuban oregano resistant to pests and illnesses.

There are several spider mites to be aware of, though (Tetranychidae spp.). Evident evidence of their presence in the webbing they leave on the foliage.

Spider mites eat on leaves and, like sunscalds, can have an effect on a plant’s health even if they aren’t particularly detrimental.

Remove any spider mite webbing and treat the plant with neem oil every day or two to help prevent re-infestation.

These oval-shaped grey or white bugs, which are between 1/20 and 1/5 of an inch in length, are also to be on the lookout for mealybugs (Pseudococcidae spp).

Infestation by mealybugs can cause the plant to drop its leaves and even die, but this can be avoided if the infestation is stopped before it gets out of hand.

Insecticidal soap or neem oil should be sprayed on every few days to keep the plant free of pests.

Keep the leaves of your plant dry while watering, and don’t let it sit in waterlogged circumstances, and most infections will stay away from your plant. Powdery mildew or root rot can occur if this is not addressed.

Harvesting and Preserving

Cuban oregano can be harvested by simply cutting a two-inch or longer part of the main stem with sharp scissors. About half the stem may be removed in one fell swoop.

You can encourage bushy growth by cutting it at the point where two leaf nodes meet.

The main stem will grow taller to make up for the leaves lost if you remove a few leaves here and there, especially from the bottom portion of the plant, resulting in an unstable, excessively tall plant.

Pluck or scissor-clip the leaves from the cut stem and use them in your cuisine!

They can also be dried and stored for future use. To expedite the process, wash and dry the leaves before chopping them to the size you desire. The oven should be preheated to 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit, or whatever the lowest temperature is.

Place the leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 10 minutes. Time yourself for ten minutes. If they aren’t completely dry, check them every five minutes until they are.

For up to a year, store the leaves in sealed bags or airtight jars when they have cooled.

Recipes and Cooking Ideas

Use C. amboinicus in place of real oregano in any dish for an added taste boost. To prevent the herb from overwhelming the meal, use half as much as called for in the recipe.

You can use Cuban oregano instead of O. vulgare in this quick 30-minute chicken with creamy mustard sauce from our Foodal sister site when your family is short on time.

This quick and easy cheesy baked ziti from Foodal is another popular weeknight meal.

You’ll be amazed at how much your family enjoys the flavor of fresh or dried Cuban oregano when you add a teaspoon or two to the sauce.

Quick Reference Growing Guide

Plant Type:Semi-succulent perennial herbGrowth Rate:Fast
Native to:South Asia or southeast AfricaMaintenance:Low
Hardiness (USDA Zone):9-11Tolerance:Full shade
Exposure:Full sunSoil Type:Loose, organically rich
Spacing:3 feetSoil pH:6.0-7.5
Planting Depth:Same depth as root ball (transplants)Soil Drainage:Well-draining
Height:1-3 feetCompanion Planting:Cilantro, garlic, lemongrass
Spread:2-3 feetFamily:Lamiaceae
Water Needs:ModerateGenus:Coleus
Common Pests and Disease:Mealybugs, spider mites; powdery mildew, root rotSpecies:Amboinicus

A Savory Semi-Succulent for Your Taste Buds

What could be better than a semi-succulent plant that can also be used as a herb and is easy to grow? With Cuban oregano, you get the best of both worlds: a plant that is both pretty and tasty.

If you’ve never tried growing this unusual herb before, now is the time to start. Have you ever tried to grow it? We’d love to hear your tips, tricks, and questions in the comments section below.

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