Variegated Cuban Oregano

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Yesterday, I found this variegated Cuban oregano plant for only a couple of bucks at a small parking lot nursery. Isn’t it gorgeous?! I wish the internet had smell-o-vision and you could get a whiff of this thing through the screen. Delicious, pungent, sweet, and strange all at once. A lot of new plants have come into my life this spring, but I am probably most excited about this one.

Maybe. I don’t know, ask me again tomorrow. My favourites tend to change rapidly throughout the growing season. Two days ago it was a variegated hot pepper plant. I experienced a recurring love affair with the ‘Tom Thumb’ peas just five minutes ago. With so much happening in the garden from day-to-day, it’s hard to stick to any one plant. They all have their moments!

I haven’t come to any solid conclusions about Broadleaf thyme, aka Cuban oregano, Coleus amboinicus, aka Plectranthus amboinicus since I last wrote about it in 2007. I still can’t say definitively which is which; however, I have come upon several plants since then and there are distinct differences. About a year ago, at a small corner shop, I have found a type for sale with a similarly distinct and pungent aroma, but with much smaller leaves and softer fuzz than the plants I am familiar with.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I have also seen the plant cultivated in Cuba, and it was the one I’ve had for a few years now, the one I previously referred to as broadleaf thyme. Given that I saw the plant in Cuba, I’ve since switched to referring to it as Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus var.) and will continue to do so until I am convinced otherwise.

Do you have any experiences growing and eating these plants? have you come to any conclusions about the name?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

16 thoughts on “Variegated Cuban Oregano

  1. My mother-in-law unwittingly bought me a Cuban Oregano plant two years ago and it is bar-none my favorite. The smell! We haven’t cooked much with it but one time we put it in a chili and it was fan-freaking-tastic. Enjoy!

  2. I love Cuban Oregano. It is great crumbled up when cooking eggs. I always overwinter a few branches so that I have pots of it the next summer. It is very easy to propagate, falling branches usually take root without any help.

  3. Thank you! I have a pot of “Cuban Oregano”, I overwintered it in Boston for several years and then brought it with me to South Carolina. I didn’t know what it was and therefore have not tried cooking with it. It makes a great potted plant and is easy to propagate, looks good and smells just wonderful. You just made my day putting a name to it.

  4. Is a very common plant used in Latin American and Puerto Rican cuisine. Here in Puerto Rico it is called “oregano brujo” __ bewitching oregano. What a wonderful name!

  5. They sold this as a “Vicks Plant” at our local Navy exchange! And when I visited my grandma in Puerto Rico last summer, she had some taking root in a glass. She just called it ‘oregano.’

  6. It is so pretty, and smells lovely. I tried drying some once, and it hung upside down and did not dry out one iota for A MONTH! Freakish!

  7. Is the cuban oregano hardy? I would love to grow it but kept thinking it wasn’t hardy in our Zone 5. I have a varigated sage that’s really pretty too.

  8. Oooooh, I must get some for eggs… Troy makes is sound so good. I have the variegated sage, and the typical oregano, but I don’t believe they’ve never had this cuban oregano at my local nursery. Will have to look into starting it from seed!

  9. Oooooh, I must get some for eggs… Troy makes it sound so good. I have the variegated sage, and the typical oregano, but I don’t believe they’ve never had this cuban oregano at my local nursery. Will have to look into starting it from seed!

  10. Brenda: It’s not hardy to zone 5. But you can take a cutting indoors and overwinter it as a houseplant. It is insanely easy to grow.

  11. I LOVE Cuban oregano. It’s possibly my all-time favorite plant – because of the smell and the texture, I think. I lost all mine trying to transport them through Pittsburgh (in winter. frozen to mush.) and then nearly swooned when I found some more at the farmers market. Definitely highly recommended.

  12. In the Carribean it is called Big Thyme. It is very easy to grow from a cutting. I have grown both the plain and the variegated ones. I love to add it to anything dish I make, but most of all I love it in beans. A number of years ago I saw it at a farmers’ market in NYC by the name Cuban Oregano…….have been calling it that since, but to my Caribbean friends I say big thyme.
    I cup of the tea during the winter will knock the chill out your bones.

  13. The day after looking at your blog, I went to water my hanging basket where this varigated sagey smelling plant was creeping out. I thought it was sage at first but I recognized it from your blog and I went back and looked at your picture and I swear it’s your cuban oregano!! How can I be sure?

Comments are closed.