Everything You Need to Know About Marjoram Plants

Marjoram has long been prized for its many culinary, medicinal, and aromatic uses. Ancient Egyptians adorned mummies with fragrant marjoram wreaths, and the Greek goddess Aphrodite was said to gift the herb its scent remind mortals of her beauty. In the kitchen garden, marjoram also adds a savory note to meals. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to need about marjoram flower meaning and symbolism; the plant’s rich history and origins; uses and benefits, and essential tips for growing marjoram at home today. 

Marjoram Flower Meaning & Symbolism – The Essentials

In the language of flowers, marjoram symbolizes happiness and love, which is why many brides include it in their bouquets. The herb marjoram has long played a role in myth and culture. The goddesses Aphrodite and Venus used marjoram to remind mortals of their beauty, leading to an association between the fragrant herb and love in mythological times. Today, marjoram is prized for its aroma, culinary uses, and medicinal benefits.


About Marjoram Plants

About Marjoram Plants

Marjoram – Family, Genus, and Taxonomy

Marjoram belongs to the Origanum genus. This tender perennial is a member of the Lamiaceae family, which is commonly known as the mint or sage family. Lamiaceae contains other widely cultivated herbs such as basil, lavender, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

Origanum contains about 39 species. Several are grown as ornamentals in the landscape, or cultivated for their culinary and medicinal uses.

Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances, Toxicity

Most varieties of Origanum grow as herbaceous perennials or sub-shrubs. These plants are prized for their aromatic foliage. Marjoram leaves are smooth, ovate, and gray-green

Plants grow to about 24 inches tall and produce purple, pink, or white flowers atop erect stems.

Marjoram foliage is highly aromatic, with a fragrance that’s described as similar to, but sweeter and milder than, oregano. Dried leaves are often used to scent potpourri and sachets, as well as herb blends such as za’atar and herbes de Provence.

Marjoram is safe for human consumption. However, the plant is toxic to dogs and cats, and acts as a gastrointestinal irritant.

Popular Marjoram Types, Species, and Cultivars

The genus Origanum contains about 39 species. Of these, sweet marjoram (O. majorana) is the most common species found in North American and European gardens. Sweet marjoram grows as a tender perennial or annual in temperate zones.

Pot marjoram (O. onites) is also grown as an ornamental. This species tends to spread low, rather than grow upright. 

Wild marjoram (O. vulgare), sometimes known as Greek oregano, has a milder scent and blooms with pink flowers.

Other popular Origanum varieties include:

  • ‘Compactum’, a low-growing cultivar of O. majorana
  • Variegated marjoram, a compact variety with white-margined foliage
  • Hardy marjoram (O. x majoricum) is a cross between marjoram and oregano
  • Showy marjoram (O. x pulchellum) blooms with pink flowers

Etymological Meaning

The genus name Origanum comes from the Greek term for oregano or, roughly, “joy of the mountains.” In ancient Greek, orei translates to “mountain” and ganos means “brightness” or “joy”.

As for the Latin term majorana, it’s thought to stem from the Sanskrit word maruva, but the pronunciation may have been confused with the Latin for “greater,” a.k.a. major. This led to the French word majorane; in English, this translated to mageram, maioron and marierome, all pre-cursors of today’s “marjoram,” which stems from the mid-18th century.

What Regions are Marjoram Plants Native To?

What Regions are Marjoram Plants Native To

Sweet marjoram is native to Southwest Asia and North Africa and has naturalized across much of Southern Europe. Pot marjoram is native to southeastern Europe and parts of the Middle East, including Turkey and Syria.

When does Marjoram Bloom and Produce Flowers?

In temperate climates, sweet marjoram blooms with pink, purple, or white flowers from late spring through summer.


Uses and Benefits of Marjoram

Uses and Benefits of Marjoram

Marjoram in Herbalism and Medicine

Marjoram has a long history of medicinal uses in folk medicine traditions across continents. The Culpeper Herbal, a 17th-century English book of herbal pharmaceutical knowledge, described marjoram as a remedy for brain and mind issues.

Marjorom was also used to treat respiratory issues, liver and spleen disease, and loss of speech. When dried and mixed with honey, marjoram lessens bruising. Tinctures of marjoram were applied to the ears to ease tinnitus, and the herb was chewed to draw phlegm from the lungs.

When applied topically, marjoram is thought to ease joint stiffness and pain. It was also used to ease the pain of spider bites and scorpion stings. Folk medicine traditions prize marjoram as a treatment for a number of ailments, including gastrointestinal, respiratory, cardiac, neurological, and rheumatologic issues.

Scientific research supports the medical use of marjoram for numerous conditions. Studies indicate that marjoram offers a number of useful health benefits, such as:

  • antioxidant
  • anti-inflammatory
  • hepato-, gastro- and cardioprotective
  • anti-platelet,
  • anti-bacterial, fungal and protozoal
  • anti-atherosclerosis
  • anti-metastatic and antitumor
  • anti-ulcer

Studies also indicate that marjoram has anti-spasmodic properties. It may also act as a stimulant, a diuretic, and to stimulate menstruation.

Marjoram in Food and Drink

Marjoram in Food and Drink

In culinary traditions around the world marjoram is utilized for its slightly sweet, mildly spicy flavor. Dried or fresh leaves flavor beef, chicken, eggs, sausages, cheese, tomatoes, and soups.

Fresh foliage is used to infuse vinegar, and seeds can be used to flavor sweets. Leaves and flowers can be used to make tea. Marjoram tastes best when harvested before flowers bloom.

Marjoram Toxicity

The marjoram plant has not been found to be toxic to humans. However, dogs and cats should not ingest marjoram, as it may lead to gastrointestinal issues.

Marjoram Bee Friendliness & Pollination

From late spring through summer, marjoram attracts bees, butterflies, and other pollinators with its fragrant flowers.

Marjoram and Use in Feng Shui

In Feng Shui traditions, the southwest corner of a room governs marital happiness and prospects. Place marjoram in a southwestern corner along with other herbs such as basil, dill, mint, rosemary, and thyme.


Marjoram Flower Meaning & Symbolism

Marjoram Flower Meaning & Symbolism

Common Marjoram Colors and Their Meaning & Symbolism

Marjoram blooms with pink, purple or white flowers, depending on the variety. In the language of flowers, the marjoram flower meaning symbolizes joy and happiness.

The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Marjoram Flowers

Marjoram played a role in Greek and Roman mythology; the goddess Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) is said to have given the herb its distinct scent to remind mortals of her beauty. 

Greeks also associate marjoram with marriage and use it to make wreaths for weddings. Even today, some Greeks believe that rubbing the herb on your body before sleep will cause you to dream of your future spouse.

Some posit that the Biblical reference to “hyssop” — the herb used to mark Jewish houses with lamb’s blood in the story of Passover — actually refers to marjoram.

In medieval Europe, marjoram was thought to repel the devil and was strewn on the floor at funerals. It was also used as a charm against witchcraft and thought to keep milk from spoiling during storms.


Suitable Gifting Occasions for Marjoram Plants / Flowers

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Marjoram Plants / Flowers

Marjoram is a traditional plant to add to wedding bouquets, wreaths, and arrangements due to its association with happiness and joy. 

However, the herb’s gray-green foliage and fragrant scent make a pleasant addition to floral gifts for any occasion.

How to Grow and Care for Marjoram Plants at Home

How to Grow and Care for Marjoram Plants at Home

Sweet marjoram is easy to grow at home, from cuttings or from seed. Marjoram grows best in well-drained soil, so use a potting vessel with adequate drainage.

Choose a spot with full sun exposure. Marjoram is a tender perennial or annual, so you may be able to overwinter plants by bringing them indoors.

To encourage bushy growth, prune marjoram when it reaches about 6 to 8 inches tall. When blooms start to appear, cut plants back to stimulate new growth. Harvest when ball-shaped tips grow at the end of stems for the best flavor.

Whiteflies and spider mites may attack marjoram; treat with a spray of soapy water. Similarly, use water to spray aphids, cutworms, or mealybugs away.


Wrap-up

Thanks to its aromatic scent and pleasant flavor, marjoram is a popular herb in many culinary traditions. Marjoram’s medicinal properties also add to its value. This tender perennial is easy to cultivate in the landscape or in containers, making it a natural choice for the home gardener. What’s more, fragrant marjoram stems symbolize joy and happiness in bouquets and floral arrangements.


Marjoram Plants FAQ: 

Oregano and marjoram are both members of the Lamiaceae family but are different species in their own right. Marjoram is typically considered to have a slightly sweeter taste.

Whilst marjoram forms part of the mint family it’s generally perceived by many to have a light, herbal and woodland scent with soft notes of spice.

Dried and fresh marjoram is a popular savory accompaniment in cooking and also used to infuse oils and vinegar. Marjoram has a long history of medicinal uses in folk medicine traditions across continents. It was also used to treat respiratory issues, liver and spleen disease, and loss of speech.

In the language of flowers, marjoram symbolizes happiness and love, which is why many brides include it in their bouquets.

Marjoram is derived from the Latin majorana, it’s thought to stem from the Sanskrit word maruva, but the pronunciation may have been confused with the Latin for “greater,” a.k.a. major. This led to the French word majorane; in English, this translated to mageram, maioron and marierome, all pre-cursors of today’s “marjoram,” which stems from the mid-18th century.


Author

Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.

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