Cuban Oregano

A variegated form of Cuban oregano
A variegated form of Plectranthus amboinicus. UF/IFAS.

Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) is an herb of ambiguous origin and many names. Mexican mint, Spanish thyme, and Indian borage are just a few; some people even call it “Vicks plant,” because its camphor and menthol aroma is similar to the cough salve.

With all these conflicting names one may wonder, what is this plant? P. amboinicus isn’t oregano, mint, thyme, or borage, although it is a member of the Lamiaceae family like these and some other herbs.

This perennial evergreen herb reaches about 19 inches tall and has a spreading growth habit. With aromatic, velvety leaves, this herb makes a great addition to any garden. The menthol or camphor scent of this plant is particularly strong when the leaves are crushed. Used in poultry stuffings, beef, lamb, and game dishes, this herb can easily overpower other flavors, so use sparingly.

This is an ideal herb to grow in partial shade. P. amboinicus requires well-drained soil, only occasional irrigation (if any), and little else as far as maintenance is concerned. You should see blooms from your plants from late winter to mid-spring depending on your area. This plant is frost-tender, so while it does well in sub-tropical and tropical areas, gardeners in cooler climates should plant in pots that can be moved indoors when temperatures plummet.

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