Here's another plant with more names than a gardener knows what to do with. Common names include Cuban oregano, false oregano, county borage, Indian borage, Indian mint, Mexican mint, and Spanish thyme. Some call it "Vicks plant," because the fragrance of camphor and menthol aroma is not unlike the cough medicine. Currently the plant bears the botanical name Plectranthus amboinicus, but before that it was officially a member of the Coleus genus.
If you come across this leafy, aromatic plant, figure out which common name works best for you. The leaves of Cuban oregano are delightful in cooking, with a strong fragrance and a taste somewhere between oregano and thyme.
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Meet the Cuban Oregano
Members of the Plectranthus genus are native to the tropics but otherwise quite diverse. Some are highly aromatic and used in cooking. Others have beautiful leaves or appealing flowers. The Cuban oregano offers both, so it's a great Plectranthus to start with.
Cuban oregano is a perennial evergreen herb with a sprawling or spreading growth habit. It grows about 19 inches tall. It has squared stems like members of the salvia genus along with aromatic, velvety leaves with toothy edges. The plants bloom from late winter through mid-spring, offering white, lilac, or pink flowers that grow in 6-inch spikes.
Care for Cuban Oregano
Unlike "true" oregano, Cuban oregano doesn't like to bask in hot sun all day long. In fact, this is a perfect herb to grow in a part-shade herb garden. Like other herbs, it needs soil that drains well, minimal irrigation, and very little else.
This herb is native to the African tropics, so don't expect Cuban oregano to appreciate the cold. It is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. Those in cooler regions can grow it in a pot with other herbs and move them all indoors as the temperature cools. Don't wait for freezing: Cuban oregano won't last a night outdoors if the temps fall to 40 degrees.
Use Cuban Oregano
For starters, Cuban oregano is a pretty plant while in bloom, with a bushy, generous form. A variety of cultivars are available with added ornamental features. P. amboinicus 'Variegatus' has green leaves bordered in cream and edged in bright pink, whereas 'Well-Sweep Wedgwood' has blossoms that are Wedgwood blue and yellow leaves with dark green margins.
But the best way to use Cuban oregano is in cooking. Its strong flavor of oregano/thyme is just a bit sweeter than either of these herbs and can overpower a dish if overused. It is said to be delicious in poultry stuffings, beef, lamb, and game dishes.