Hardy herbaceous or shrubby plants with aromatic leaves. Origanum belongs to the Mint family, Labiatae; the name comes from oreos, a mountain, and ganos, joy, and refers to the plant’s favored surroundings. The herbs Pot Marjoram and Sweet Marjoram were at one time included in Origanum but are not included in Majorana.
The Dittany of Crete (O. Dictamnus) is found wild in southern Europe, and is cultivated in herb gardens and as a pot plant for its showy flowers. It forms a procumbent plant, 12 in. or less in height, with slender wiry stems and small, woolly, ovate leaves, and bears a spike of pink flowers in hoplike heads.
Dittany of Crete as a Pot Plant. This requires a minimum winter temperature of 45 degrees and a soil compost of two parts of sandy loam and one part leaf mold, with sand added freely. Repotting is done in March. The shoots are first shortened to one third and syringed daily to assist them to break into growth. The plants are then removed from the pots, the ball of soil being slightly reduced, and they are repotted in slightly larger pots.
After potting, they are shaded from bright sunlight and no water is given until the soil becomes quite dry; it is then thoroughly saturated. When well rooted, the plants are exposed to full sunlight. As the flower shoots elongate, they are lightly fastened to a thin cane inserted in the center of the pot. After flowering, water is gradually withheld from the soil, and during the winter sufficient only is given to prevent the leaves from shriveling.
Propagation Is by Cuttings. Small side shoots are removed in spring. The lower leaves are cut off and a clean cut is made just below the bottom joint. The shoots are inserted in sand and are covered with a bell jar. This is wiped inside each morning to prevent the condensed moisture from falling on the cuttings and setting up decay.
When roots are formed, the cuttings are potted separately in 2-in. or 2 1/2-in. pots, or three are placed in a 3-in. pot, to obtain bushy plants more speedily. When the shoots are established, their points are removed and the resulting side branches are similarly treated. The plants are then given the treatment detailed above.
For the Rock Garden. Two kinds, O. hybridum and O. pulchellum, which grow about 9 in. in height and bear spikes of rosy-pink flowers with glistening bracts, are excellent plants for the rock garden in regions where winters are not excessively severe.
The plants require a sunny position and a soil of sandy loam. They are planted out in March or April, and are increased by division in March, or by cuttings in summer. The shoots are inserted in a cold frame and covered with a bell jar. When rooted, they are potted separately in small pots, and planted in their permanent positions in the following spring.