I am at heart something of a practical gardener. If I’m going to give a plant room in my garden I want them to “work for their keep.” That’s why I love growing Mexican oregano, a native Texas herb that is drought tolerant, blooms from late spring through fall, isn’t an aggressive spreader, and – for extra bonus points – is a spicy seasoning in the kitchen.
Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) is a hardy shrub native to the dry Southwest. It grows to three feet in ideal conditions. By Memorial Day inch long tubular flowers begin to appear, starting out white but gradually changing from white to pink to lavender. With flowers maturing at different times, this small shrub becomes a kaleidoscope of gorgeous hues in the garden.
Plant this woody herb in a sun to part shade location with good drainage. Water it weekly for the first growing season. After that Mexican oregano will be drought tolerant and needs water every other week to maintain the blooms.
When you shop for Mexican oregano, look closely at the leaves. The Mexican oregano I’m describing has medium green oval leaves with smooth edges. There is another plant, Lippia graveolens, that goes by the same common name. This other Mexican oregano has darker, rough-textured leaves that look much like verbena leaves.
In the kitchen, Mexican oregano can be used in the same way you would use regular oregano (Origanum vulgare). The leaves add a spicy zip to home-made salsa or pico de gallo. Try adding it to your next chicken marinade or spice rub mix. Keep in mind, though, that Mexican oregano has a definitely hotter flavor. For every teaspoon of fresh garden oregano called for in a recipe, start with about a half teaspoon and work up from there.
Want to grow a multi-purpose native herb? Then Mexican oregano is for you. Lovely flowers through the heat of summer, adaptable to a variety of spots, and a spicy addition to the kitchen spice drawer. I call that a win.