You Will Have the Thyme If You Follow These Guidelines

Thyme is one of the easiest of perennial culinary herbs if you grow it hot and dry in soils with excellent drainage.

Nothing kills this plant faster than clay soils or poorly drained soils with excessive water. So watering the herb garden is not recommended if you want to grow lots of thyme.

General Culinary Thyme

The general culinary species is easily started from seed. The seed germinates in 7 to 10 days when the soil temperature is 70F. If you sow indoors at the end of January, you'll have massive plants by May when you put them outdoors.

If you sow in May directly into the garden, you'll have working plants by the end of summer.

Sow very shallowly, 1/8 inch deep and sow very thinly, making sure each seed has lots of room to grow. This plant will damp off very fast if overcrowded.

The easiest way is to sow six to eight seeds in a pot and thin to four of the strongest. Or direct sow and thin to one plant every ten inches in the garden.

thyme illustration

Illustration showing parts of the thyme plant


Plant started plants outdoors after all danger of frost. Or, harden them off by putting out in the day and indoors at night for the last few weeks of cool spring and then plant in early May. They'll be fine if hardened off properly. Commercial nurseries regularly leave small pots outdoors to freeze solid for the winter with only a heavy canvas covering for ice protection (they die if ice covered in a pot).

With indoor started plants, you'll have to water them well for the first month so their roots get fully established and heading downwards looking for water. If you don't water to establish, you may lose plants. Water garden plants until they are established and then ignore.

Harvesting Thyme

Harvest regularly all spring and early summer. Allow the plants to gain some energy in mid-summer onwards for winter survival. Plants generally live for 3 to 5 years before dying so do keep new plants coming along.

Thyme is propagated by seed or by cuttings. They take from cuttings very easily and if you've never done this kind of propagation before, this is the plant you should start with. If you have fancy varieties such as the lemon-flavoured or variegated foliage, propagate them from cuttings.

thyme illustration

Variegated thyme in my garden


Some gardeners mulch thyme over the winter. I've found if I do that it kills the plant. I expect to lose a few every year (see above re propagation).

Here are the fancy thymes that are available through specialist herb growers. Frankly, I'd be growing one lemon and the regular culinary thyme (T. vulgaris) in the garden (I can hardly taste any difference once I start cooking). The ornamental value of the variegated thymes is high for the rock garden. And wooly thyme is great for landscaping (wooly looking leaves) as is 'Minus' with its tiny leaves. I confess I can hardly smell the differences between any of the Thymus sp. plants.

Citrus Group (Thymus spp.)

T. herba-barona 'Lemon Carpet'
T. 'Highland Cream
T. citriodorus (Lemon T)
T. pulegioides 'Lemon' Creeping Lemon T
Thymus praecox articus 'Magic Carpet' Magic Carpet Lemon T
Thymus praecox articus 'Purple Carpet'
Purple Carpet Lemon T
Thymus pulegioides 'Doone Valley'
Doone Valley Lemon T (gold variegated)
Thymus sp Lime T
Thymus x citriodorus 'Aureus' Golden Lemon T
Thymus 'Orange Balsam'
Thymus 'Goldstream' Goldstream Lemon
Orange Spice

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Other Available Varieties

Thymus herba-barona Caraway T
Thymus sp.
Oregano T
Thymus sp. Coconut T
Thymus carnosus Portuguese T
Thymus praecox Creeping T
Thymus thracicus Lavender T
Thymus sp. Silver Needle T
Thymus sp. Mint T.
Thymus pulegioides (T. serpyllum)
Wild T.
Thymus.praecox spp. articus 'Minor' Minus T.
Thymus pseudolanuginosus Woolly T.

Traditional Uses Include

  • Medicinally - bronchitis, whooping cough, sore throat, colic, arthritis, upset stomach, stomach pain intestinal gas, parasitic worm infections, and skin disorders, increase urine flow and as an appetite stimulant. Fight bacterial and fungal infections in ears.
  • Hoarseness (laryngitis), swollen tonsils (tonsillitis), sore mouth, and bad breath.
  • Germ-killer in mouthwashes and liniments.
  • Treat baldness
  • Thyme oil in perfumes. Also used in soaps, cosmetics, and toothpastes.

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