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    Origanum rotundifolium (Round-leaved Oregano)

    Origanum rotundifolium, commonly known as Round-leaved Oregano, is a small aromatic, woody-based herbaceous perennial with a spreading cushion form.

    Its arching stems are covered with rounded grey leaves and end with hanging clusters of small white or pale pink flowers surrounded by overlapping pale yellowish-green bracts, resembling hops.

    Native from the East Mediterranean to the West Tanscauscus region, specifically to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

    This species should not be confused with “Kent Beauty” Oregano, and I will explain why, later in this article.

    Origanum rotundifolium plant (round leaved oregano)

    Quick Overview

    TYPE

    Type herbaceous

    HEIGHT & WIDTH

    Origanum rotundifolium height and width

    BLOOM TIME

    Origanum rotundifolium bloom time

    SUNLIGHT

    full sun

    HARDINESS

    hardiness (-15ºC / 5º F)

    DROUGHT TOLERANCE

    drought tolerance aprox 4 months

    ORIGIN

    Round-leaved Oregano Scientific name

    • Botanical name: Origanum rotundifolium (oh-RI-guh-num ro-tun-dih-FOH-lee-um)
    • Family: Lamiaceae (lay-mee-AY-see-ee)
    • Common name:  Round-leaved oregano
    NameMeaning
    OriganumThere are two versions of the origin of the name;
    1-  Derives from a combination of two Greek words “oros” meaning mountain and “ganos” meaning joy. So Origanum means “Joy of the mountain”.
    2- Derives from the Greek word “origano” meaning bitter, referring to the bitter flavour of these herbs.
    rotundifoliumDerived from Latin words, “rotundus” meaning “round” and “folium” meaning “leaf.” Meaning round leaf referring to the round leaves of this species.

    How to identify Origanum rotundifolium

    Origanum rotundifolium plant (round leaved oregano)

    Plant

    Round-leaved Oregano (Origanum rotundfolium) is a herbaceous perennial that forms a spreading mound.

    It is evergreen in milder climates but may lose its foliage during the winter in colder climates or even die completely in very severe climates where it is grown as an annual.

    The stems are densely covered with rounded greyish leaves and drooping clusters of inflorescences, rising above the foliage during the flowering months.

    The height is, on average, 10 cm (0.3 ft), 20cm (0.6ft) with flower, and the width is around Width 20 to 30 cm (0.6 to 1 ft).

    Origanum rotundifolium stem (round leaved oregano)

    Stem

    The stems are upright to prostrate and arching. They are woody at the base and more herbaceous towards the tips.

    They are green to reddish, with opposite grey-green leaves at each node.

    The flower stems, are about 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in) tall with hop-like inflorescences hanging from the slender branches.

    Origanum rotundifolium leaf (round leaved oregano)

    Leaf

    The leaves are grey-green with a smooth and slightly succulent texture. They produce volatile oils that contribute to the plant´s strong fragrance. 

    They are entire, round to oval-shaped, clearly veined and sessile (with no stalk).

    The length is, on average, 2 cm (0.8 in).

    Origanum rotundifolium flower (round leaved oregano)

    Flower

    The flowers are grouped in drooping hop-like formations. The tiny flowers are white to pale pink and peek through loosely overlapping bracts, which are pale green, flushed with shades of reddish violet.

    The flowers have two lips. The upper lip is notched, and the lower lip has 3 lobes which then fuse forming a long narrow tube. This tubular corolla is inserted between the overlapping bracts.

    The bracts are so beautiful and colourful that they are often mistaken for the flower, which is very small and almost unnoticeable.

    Bloom time is usually during summer but may extend from late spring to early autumn.

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    Origanum rotundifolium Habitat

    Round-leaved Oregano, native to Turkey and transcausus, is seen growing in arid areas ranging from 300 to 1300 meters (1000 to 4300 feet) in elevation.

    It is well adapted to grow in rocky and dry regions. 

    “Kent Beauty” Oregano vs Origanum rotundifolium

    Origanum rotundifolium is often incorrectly called “Kent Beauty”. There is however some relationship because “Kent Beauty” is a cultivated hybrid between Origanum rotundifolium (native to Turkey and Transcausus) and Origanum scabrum (native to Greece).

    One way to distinguish them is by the colour of the bracts, O. rotundifolium has pale yellow-green bracts whereas the hybrid “Kent beauty” has pinkish-tipped bracts which are inherited from Origanum scabrum.

    Origanum rotundifolium Usage

    Ornamental

    Round-leaved Oregano is a very interesting addition to any garden due to its cushion shape, leathery round leaves and graceful, drooping hop-like flower heads, which form a lovely cascading effect.

    It can be used in the landscape in the following ways:

    1. Borders and Edges: Planted along garden borders or pathways, Round-leaved creates an aromatic and visually appealing low-spreading edge.
    2. Rock Gardens: Its ability to thrive in rocky and dry conditions makes it a popular choice for rock gardens.
    3. Container Planting: Round-leaved Oregano has a spreading growth which makes it ideally suited as a “spiller” plant. (Oregano in pots).
    4. Xeriscapes: With its drought tolerance, Round-leaved Oregano is a fitting choice for water-wise landscapes where its ornamental qualities contribute to the overall aesthetic.
    5. Wildlife garden: The small flowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, making them a valuable addition to gardens focused on supporting wildlife.

    However, you may not easily find this variety of Oregano in nurseries, you will most probably get the hybrid “Kent Beauty” which is often confused with this species.

    Biodiversity

    Round-leaved Oregano flowers are rich in nectar attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Like other types of Oregano, this plant is a valuable addition to the biodiversity of your garden and is ideal for wildlife gardens.

    Other Uses

    The flower stems of Round-leaved Oregano can be used in both fresh and dried floral arrangements, adding unique colour highlights.

    How to care for Origanum rotundifolium

    Cold exposure

    This plant is frost hardy and tolerant to very cold weather, tolerating temperatures down to -15ºC (5ºF) or less, but this is possible only if the soil is well drained. Cold and humid soil can be fatal to it. 

    However, especially while the plant is not yet established, you should add a thick layer of mulch around the plant’s base to protect the roots from cold temperatures. It´s preferable to use gravel mulch because organic mulch will stay humid and can cause the plant to rot.

    Sun exposure

    Round-leaved Oregano prefers full sun.

    However, in places with very hot climates or strong sunlight, it can be helpful to protect plants from the afternoon sun to prevent leaf damage. Providing partial shade during the hottest hours of the day can protect the plant from excessive heat and intense sunlight.

    Soil

    Round-leaved Oregano prefers well-drained stony, or sandy soils. Avoid planting it in wet areas, as it dislikes soggy soil, which may lead to root rot and fungal diseases.

    It prefers alkaline soils but can tolerate mildly acidic soils too.

    Watering

    Round-leaved Oregano is drought tolerant and can go for some months without water once it is established (about 4 months of drought if the temperature is not too hot). 

    Once established, it usually does not need watering. However, if there’s a long period without rain or very hot weather, you should water it, letting the soil completely dry out before watering again.

    It’s essential to water the young plant regularly during its first year after planting. Depending on the soil and the temperatures you may need to water it once a week, every two weeks or every three weeks. Let the soil completely dry out before rewatering.

    When you water the plant, give it plenty of water, allowing the soil to get a good soak. This way, the water can sink deep into the soil, helping the roots grow deeper as well. With deep roots, the plant can withstand longer dry periods since the lower soil layers stay moist for longer.

    To preserve the soil´s moisture, you should add mulch around the plant’s root area. 

    Pruning

    Pruning Round-leaved Oregano helps maintain its shape and encourages bushier growth.

    • Give it a cleaning prune in early spring. You should cut back the stems that are old, weak or overly crowded. This will allow for better air circulation and light penetration which will promote healthy growth. Prune it down completely if it is overgrown or weak. This will enable new stems to grow from the base.
    • Give it a hard prune (always cutting above a healthy set of leaves)  immediately after the flowering period typically late summer to help maintain its shape and encourage new growth. However, if you like to see the wiry sculptural structure during the winter, wait until early spring to give it the hard rejuvenating prune.

    When to plant Origanum rotundifolium

    The best season to plant is spring or autumn, depending on your climate. Avoid planting during periods of extreme temperatures.

    If you live in a location with moderate weather, you should preferably plant during autumn. By doing so, the plant gets a chance to develop its roots during the cooler months before summer’s hot temperatures. However, if you encounter severe winters, it’s better to wait until spring when the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up, creating a more favourable environment for the plant to thrive.

    How to propagate Origanum rotundifolium

    Round-leaved Oregano is best propagated by stem cuttings or seeds.

    Stem cuttings: Take softwood cuttings in spring before blooming or semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer or early autumn.

    1. Cut the stem just below a leaf node.
    2. Remove the lower leaves, leaving a few pairs of upper leaves intact. 
    3. Plant in a well-draining medium. Keep the medium consistently moist and keep in shade until rooted.
    4. Once the roots have developed, transplant the rooted cuttings into individual containers and grow in cold frame during the first winter, exposing them to as much sun as possible.

    Seeds: Sow seeds in autumn.

    1. Sow the seeds in a well-draining medium. Lightly press the seeds into the surface of the soil without covering them. 
    2. Maintain consistent moisture and provide indirect light. 
    3. Germination typically takes 2-4 weeks. Once the seedlings have grown a few sets of true leaves, transplant them into individual containers and grow in cold frame during the first winter.

    An excellent online source for plant propagation techniques can be found in RHS propagation article.

    Sources

    Sources of information used for this article

    Internet

    Article from Pacific Horticulture Site

    Article from Kew

    Article from Botany.cz

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