Thyme plant care within the chef's backyard

Growing thyme plant is easy! It is more or less an easy-care, potent herb and perfect for the inexperienced gardener.

Thyme has a long and varied history. Derived from the Greek word thymus, which means courage, spirit and sacrifice, it was worn by medieval knights in battle as a symbol of their bravery. It was used over the centuries from envelopes to bouquets to the Victorians who believed that wild thyme rugs made midnight dance floors for garden fairies!

Thyme is known for its culinary and health benefits. It contains the chemical compound thymol, a powerful antiseptic that is widely used in personal care products such as mouthwash, toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer, perfume, and skin medication. The most common uses of thyme are, of course, to flavor foods, and there are a few specific varieties that are best suited for this purpose.

Thyme herbs belong to the mint family (Lamiaceae), although they have a distinctly different taste and smell. They are primarily associated with Mediterranean cuisine to flavor meat and vegetable dishes like stews, casseroles, soups, and even scrambled eggs.

Good products for growing thyme:

Brief instructions for care

Lemon thyme has a lemony aroma and a very nice taste. Source: Ann McCarron

Common Name (s) Common thyme, garden thyme, German thyme, lemon thyme, caraway thyme
Scientific name Thymus vulgaris, Thymus citriodorus, Thymus herba-barona
Days to harvest 90-180 days to maturity when sown from seed.
light Full sun
Water: Requires little water once it is made. Drought tolerant.
ground Well-drained, slightly sandy soil
fertilizer Top dress with compost, liquid seaweed feed during the main growing season
Pests Aphids, spider mites
Diseases Gray mold, root rot

Everything about thyme

Thyme is a low-growing, evergreen perennial that originates in the southern Mediterranean. It is grown as an ornamental plant with creeping thyme that grows along cracks in pavement and stone walls, and as a culinary herb in pots and in the herb garden.

Young, aromatic leaves grow on delicate stems and later develop their characteristic woodiness as the herb ages. The leaves are small, 5 to 10 mm in size, oval to linear. They vary from medium to gray-green, sometimes brightly white or golden. Thyme grows between 4 inches to 1 foot in height and 8 to 16 inches in diameter depending on the variety.

Flowers are edible and fertile in summer with colors of pink, purple, and white. They are a magnet for bees and their nectar produces high quality honey.

Thyme varieties

There are three main culinary species of thyme plants, Thymus vulgaris, known as garden, German or common thyme; Thymus citriodorus known as lemon thyme; and thymus herba-barona, known as caraway thyme.

Common thyme is available in supermarkets and garden centers and offers us our most famous thyme scent. It is a compact, pillow-forming plant with gray-green leaves and purple to white flowers. A popular variety of common thyme is “Silver Posie” with white-edged leaves.

Thymus citriodorus gets its name from the delicious lemon-scented leaves. Add leafy greens or fruit salads for extra pizzazz and go perfectly with chicken, fish and potatoes. A bushy shrub with medium green to golden leaves, as seen in the Archer & # 39; s Gold and Golden Queen varieties Lemon thyme Plants that you have to have in the herb garden.

Thymus herba-barona, also known as Caraway Thymecomes from Corsica and Sardinia. It is a creeping thyme that prefers loose rocky soils and reflects the windswept island landscapes from which it originated.

Planting thyme

Silver Posie ThymeSilver Posie is a common type of thyme with silver leaves. Source: Ann McCarron

Grow thyme from seeds, vegetative cuttings, or garden center plants. Seeds are best sown in spring and planted from April. Cuttings can be taken and planted out in mid to late spring when they have developed a healthy root system. Garden center thyme can be planted in your garden anytime between the last frost in spring and at least a month before the first frost in autumn / winter.

Plant thyme in well-drained soil, in full sun and about 30 cm apart. If the garden soil is heavy, thyme can be grown in pots filled with a good granular compost mixture. Plant thyme either alone or with herbs that require the same growing conditions as rosemary.


Growing thyme is pretty easy. If you create the right conditions, you can harvest all year round!

Sun and temperature

Growing thyme requires at least 6 hours of full sun and average spring and summer temperatures of 20-30 ° C.

In USDA zones 5 through 9, it is hardy and tolerates freezing temperatures that will survive most winters unscathed. Mulching at the base of the plants in late fall protects the roots from freezing and provides some nutrients in the new season. If you are growing in zone 4, it is best to provide some winter protection.

Water and moisture

Planting thyme in the ground will reduce the need for watering with the exception of periods of drought. Occasional watering in particularly hot climates can be done with drinking hoses, but the roots are deep to find water.

Growing thyme in pots requires watering from time to time when the soil is completely dry. The pots should be lifted off the floor or out of the saucers so that the water can drain away freely.

Moisture and thyme don't mix at all! In zone 10, thyme is grown annually because of the incompatible humidity.


Thyme grows best in sandy loam soils from pH 6.0 to 8.0. Well-drained soil is key to growing thyme. The more sand and rubble, the better!

Plant thyme in pots with a good 30:70 mixture of horticultural grain such as large-particle sand or perlite to general-purpose compost for the best drainage conditions.


Close up of the thyme flowerA close-up of a thyme flower in full bloom. Source: Björn S.

Too many nutrients can cause plants to develop weak leggy growth and negatively affect plant health. If you harvest regularly, a liquid kelp feed can be applied every couple of weeks.

If you provide a light mulch compost or leaf mold in late autumn, sufficient nutrients will be released for the whole year. Additional fertilizer is not required.


If thyme is not harvested regularly, it can become woody and produce less aromatic leaves. Harvesting is essentially a form of pruning. The more you harvest, the more you encourage fresh growth.

Pruning after flowering later in the year creates new stems that protect the plant through winter.


Propagating thyme from the herb garden is easy. Follow the advice below and you can be growing thyme in no time!

It takes up to 28 days for the seeds to germinate and 6 to 12 months for them to mature. Sow in small pots with all-purpose compost in March / April, cover lightly and cover with water. Leave it in a warm, bright place like a greenhouse or sunny windowsill.

When they germinate, thin to the 2-3 strongest seedlings. When the seedlings are about 10 cm, harden them to external conditions and bring them indoors at night. Do this until all threats of frost have passed and they can be planted in their final growing position.

Grow thyme from cuttings in mid to late spring. Take 3-4 inch long cuttings and remove the bottom 2 inch leaves from the stem. Prepare small 9 cm pots with a mixture of all-purpose compost and perlite, and use a pencil or dibber to drill a few holes around the edge of the pot. Gently push the cuttings into the compost up to the leaves. Water and place in a warm and shady place until roots have formed.

Splitting thyme in spring is easy and gives you free plants almost instantly! Choose a nice, healthy specimen with lots of stems growing from the base. Gently lift the plant off the ground and shake off as much soil as possible. Gently pull the thyme apart, making sure that there are sufficient roots attached to each piece. Plant each division in new growing positions 30 cm apart and water them.

Layers of air are easier than it sounds. Choose a healthy stem, remove the leaves and bend it so that it is horizontal to the ground. Make a small cut under a leaf knot and cover this part of the stem with soil and water it well. A wire pin will help hold the stem in place. Check regularly for roots to form, and once built, cut the layered stem off the main plant.

Harvesting and storing

Common thymeCommon thyme is one of the most popular garden herbs. Source: Ann McCarron

Thyme is easy to harvest and can be used fresh or dried for longer shelf life.


Thyme can be harvested as needed, being careful not to allow the plants to grow through clipping in wood. If growing conditions are good and the plant is thriving, the top 5 to 6 inches can be cut back before blooming 2-3 times in a season.


Freshly picked thyme can be stored in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days, wrapped in damp kitchen paper or plastic.

Leaves can also be used straight from the freezer to flavor soups and stews.

To dry, tie the thyme sprigs loosely and hang them in a dark, warm, well-ventilated room or lay them out on a tray to dry. After a few weeks, when completely dry, the leaves will crumble and store in an airtight container for up to 18 months.


Thyme in full bloomThyme can bloom in pink, white, or even a pale shade of lavender. Source: cvtperson

By and large, growing thyme is relatively straightforward, but like most herbs, some problems can arise. Below are a few points to look out for.

Growing problems

Plant death can be a problem with your thyme at times. This can be caused by pest or disease damage, but it can also be related to your watering or fertilizing frequency. Keep in mind that thyme needs great drainage, so excess water can cause problems with yellowing or death. They are also used to poor quality soil in the wild, and too much fertilizer can be a very real problem.

When there are plants grow slowlySpend a day observing your plant's location to make sure it gets enough sun. A lack of sunlight slows the growth of leaves and foliage.


Thyme is mostly pest free, but if anything attacks it, it's usually aphids or spider mites.

Aphids (Aphidoidea) infect plants with new growth, feed on the phloem sap and dehydrate the plant. The resulting damage is distorted leaves and stems. Biological treatment by releasing predatory insects such as ladybird larvae (Coccinella septempunctata). Alternatively, you can spray aphids with a good organic insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Spider mites (Tetranychidae) are arachnids and relatives of spiders and ticks. The adults are red-brown, live in large colonies on the underside of the leaves, and thrive in hot, dry environments similar to thyme's preferred growing conditions. Evidence of spider mites can be viewed as fine webbing between stems and plants showing signs of decline. Spider mites feed on plant sap, causing the leaves to turn yellow and fall off.

Avoid spraying mites with pesticides as these have built resistance to many products on the market. A hard jet of water can knock the plant off the most. You can also use natural predators such as lacewing and ladybugs. Neem oil can smother the mite eggs, but it doesn't necessarily kill the adults. In severe cases, remove and destroy the worst affected stems and whole plants if necessary to prevent spreading to unaffected areas of the garden.


Gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) is an airborne disease that affects all parts of thyme plants in mild, humid weather, especially if they are damaged or in poor health. Symptoms are wilting and brown discoloration of the leaves. Gray fur can appear on stems and is a sign that fungal spores are developing that are ready to be transmitted to other plants. A liquid copper fungicide or biofungicide can slow or stop the early stages of the disease. Remove and destroy the worst affected plants to prevent further spread.

Good plant management can prevent gray mold. Be careful with plants when harvesting. Remove leaves and rotting debris, water only when necessary and keep enough space to allow good air circulation.

Overwatering and poor drainage can cause this Root rot caused by a fungus called Rhizoctonia. It mainly affects thyme plants in cooler months when they sit with wet feet for long periods of time. The first signs of root rot are withered, yellowed leaves, and death. Essentially, the plant is suffocating, preventing the roots from efficiently using oxygen, nutrients, and water.

To treat, stop watering and allow the soil to dry out completely. Gently remove the worst affected plants and examine the roots. Cut back any mushy or brown plants to a healthy growth point. Replant in another place with good drainage or sterilize the pot in the container and replace the soil. Destroy any diseased materials and treat the affected soil with an organic copper-based fungicide. Disinfect tools and clean boots to avoid spreading the fungus elsewhere in the garden.

frequently asked Questions

Q: is thyme invasive?

A: Thyme is not an invasive plant.

Q: Can I eat thyme flowers?

A: Yes, the flowers are completely edible and add interest and color to summer salads.

Q. Does thyme come back every year?

A. Thyme is grown as a perennial evergreen herb in most areas and is a constant herb in the garden.

About the writer Ann McCarron:

I'm Ann McCarron, also known as Mrs. Bloom!

I am Irish, I live and work in Belfast. I switched careers in 2010 and left Public Affairs to study my long-standing passion: horticulture. I love working outdoors with people and plants, so doing freelance collaborative and therapeutic horticulture is a dream.

If I were to pick a favorite plant I would have to say dahlia, but that changes daily. What can I say? There are too many great plants to choose from. My greatest horticultural achievement so far? Growing loofah in Ireland! If you're looking for me, I'll be in the garden.

The green fingers behind this article:
Lorin Nielsen
Lifelong gardener

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