Origanum dictamnus

Common Name: dittany of Crete 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Native Range: Crete
Zone: 7 to 10
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: Pink to purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy, Good Dried
Leaf: Fragrant
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Dry Soil


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10. Elsewhere it may be grown as an annual or in containers that are overwintered indoors. It is best grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates part shade. Young plants appreciate some part shade in the heat of the day in hot summer climates. 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. Generally dislikes high humidity. 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 often do not overwinter well. Reduce watering indoors in winter but do not allow the soils to dry out.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Origanum dictamnus, commonly called dittany of Crete, is a bushy sub-shrub with aromatic foliage that typically grows in a spreading mound to 12” tall and to 18-24” wide. It is native to rocky slopes on the mountains of Crete. Stems are densely clad with aromatic, rounded, green leaves (to 1” wide) covered with white-woolly hairs. Leaves are sometimes mottled with purple. Leaves have a mild oregano flavor. Tiny, two-lipped, pink to purple flowers (each to 1/2” long) bloom in pendant spike-like clusters resembling hops from mid to late summer (June to August). Flowers are surrounded by greenish bracts which mature to showy reddish-purple as the seeds begin to form.

Dittany of Crete is perhaps best noted for its ornamental qualities rather than its culinary ones because its flavor is much milder than the flavor of some other species of oregano more commonly used in cooking (e.g., O. vulgare and O. majorana).

As a culinary herb (fresh or dried), dittany of Crete may be used for seasoning soups, sauces, salads, stuffings, stews, roasts, vegetables and meats. Dried leaves are sometimes added to potpourris. It has also been a popular medicinal herb since ancient times.

In the Aeneid, Virgil describes an incident in the Trojan Wars where Aeneas is severely wounded by an arrow prompting Venus to go to Mount Ida on Crete to pick some dittany which was applied to the wound causing the immediate expulsion of the arrow and healing of the injury.

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 comes from Dicte which is a mountain on Crete where this plant is known to grow.


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


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