Origanum majorana 'Aurea'

Common Name: golden oregano 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Zone: 9 to 10
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: White to pale pink
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Herb
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Fragrant
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


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 in cell packs 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 usually do not overwinter well.

Yellow foliage appreciates some afternoon light shade for best color.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Origanum majorana, commonly called sweet marjorum, is a bushy sub-shrub with aromatic foliage that typically grows in an upright mound to 1-2' tall. It is widely cultivated as an annual culinary herb. Leaves are milder with a more delicate flavor than those of perennial oregano (Origanum vulgare). Sweet marjorum features branching, reddish, square stems that are densely clad with ovate, highly aromatic, pubescent, gray-green leaves (to 1.25" 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. Marjorum is a popular herb (fresh or dried) for seasoning soups, sauces, salads, stuffings, stews, roasts, vegetables and meats. Fresh leaves do not freeze as well as oregano leaves. Dried leaves are sometimes added to potpourris.

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".

'Aurea' is a golden-leaved cultivar that is more often grown for the ornamental impact of its yellow foliage than as a culinary herb. Yellow leaves tend to fade as the summer progresses.


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


Herb gardens. Edging. Effective in window boxes, hanging baskets or containers.