Origanum syriacum

Common Name: bible hyssop 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Native Range: Western Asia
Zone: 9 to 10
Height: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Herb
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought, Clay Soil

Culture

Tender perennial that is winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-10. Elsewhere it is grown as an annual. It performs well in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Prefers neutral to alkaline soils. Thrives in gritty, sandy loams. Superior soil drainage is the key to growing this plant well. Good heat and drought tolerance. Start seed indoors about 6 to 8 weeks prior to last spring frost date or sow seed outdoors about two weeks prior to last spring frost date. New plants may also be purchased at local nurseries. Cut back stems before flowers appear to encourage bushy growth. Leaf flavor is usually best before flowers bloom. Container plants may be brought indoors in fall before frost, but they often do not overwinter well.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Origanum syriacum, commonly called Syrian oregano or zaatar, is a bushy perennial herb with highly aromatic foliage. It typically grows in an upright mound to 2 1/2' tall. It is native to the Middle East. This plant is believed to be the hyssop of the Old Testament of the Bible, hence the sometimes used common name of Bible hyssop. Hairy square stems are densely clad with ovate, highly aromatic, gray-green leaves (to 1" long). Tiny, two-lipped, tubular, white or pale pink flowers with gray-green bracts bloom in spike-like clusters from mid to late summer. Flowers are not particularly showy. This oregano is a popular herb (fresh or dried) for seasoning soups, sauces, salads, stuffings, stews, roasts, vegetables and meats. Dried leaves may be added to potpourris. Zaatar is not only a common name for this plant, but is also the name of a food preparation (dried/crushed leaves plus sesame seeds, ground sumac berries, salt and pepper) which is exceedingly popular in the Middle East. Zaatar is often baked into the crust of pita bread brushed with olive oil. It is also sprinkled into a variety of other foods as a seasoning.

Genus name probably comes from the Greek words oros meaning mountain and gamos meaning beauty in reference to the physical appearance of this plant which is sometimes native of mountain areas where it is appropriately referred to as “beauty of the mountain”.

Specific epithet means Syrian.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Root rot may occur in wet, poorly drained soils.

Garden Uses

Culinary herb for herb gardens. Also effective as an ornamental in window boxes, hanging baskets or containers.