How to Grow Thyme: Your Complete Guide - AZ Animals

2023-03-16 17:20:39 By : Mr. Lester Choo

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Thyme is renowned for its adaptability in the kitchen, providing flavor to a wide range of different dishes. Just as well, thyme is incredibly easy to grow and can produce loads of harvestable leaves throughout the year. There are almost 200 distinct thyme varieties available to gardeners, most of which are excellent as culinary herbs. Growth habits for thyme range from erect to ground-hugging, and leaf color varies from dark green to golden yellow and variegated patterns as well. Throughout the summer, thyme plants also produce a profusion of white, pink, or purple flowers.

In this guide, we’ll explore some interesting facts about the lovely thyme herb, as well as how to grow and care for thyme at home in your own garden. You might be surprised by how easy it is to grow thyme year-round!

Thyme is classified as Thymus vulgaris. It is part of the Thymus genus of fragrant perennial herbs that are evergreen in most cases. It is a member of the mint plant family known as Lamiaceae. As a member of this plant family, thyme is closely related to herbs such as mint, sage, oregano, hyssop, and many others. Thyme is a woody, short, perennial plant that is primarily used to season food.

The Mediterranean is the original home of thyme, where it grows as a native plant. The Levant, where it may have been initially grown, is one particular area known for having lots of wild-growing thyme. Thyme was once used in ancient Egyptian embalming practices, and the ancient Greeks believed it to be a source of bravery and used it in their baths and temples as incense.

Thyme was believed to have spread over Europe because of the ancient Romans, who used it to scent their homes and to give cheese and alcohol a fragrant flavor. The plant was used to promote sleep and stave off nightmares throughout the European Middle Ages. Thyme leaves were often included in presents given by ladies during this time period to knights and warriors because it was thought to inspire courage and bravery in the recipient. Thyme was also burned as incense and laid on coffins at funerals with the intention of ensuring a person’s transition into the afterlife.

Today, thyme is primarily used as a culinary ingredient. It is cultivated on commercial farms and plantations around the world.

As mentioned earlier, there are over 200 varieties of thyme that are used for cooking and other uses. Creeping thyme is one variety that grows as low ground cover. Caraway thyme is also a low-growing variety that smells of caraway. Wooly thyme is a scentless variety of thyme that is not used for cooking, but rather for ground cover and landscaping purposes. Golden lemon thyme is a variety of thyme that has a strong lemon scent along with the almost mint-like flavor of regular thyme. Golden King thyme is another popular lemony variety that produces very aesthetically-pleasing silver-pink flowers.

Thyme can be grown in USDA hardiness zones five through nine. It is slightly cold-hardy, but cannot handle extreme temperatures that are very cold or very hot. It is a Mediterranean plant that does best in mild climates.

You can grow thyme practically at any time. After a few months, it will be ready for harvest, and in sturdy temperature zones, it will consistently return year after year. Thyme should be protected over the winter in colder climates by a thick layer of mulch. Just as well, in very cold and snowy climates, thyme seeds should be started in spring after the threat of frost has passed.

As mentioned earlier, USDA hardiness zones five through nine are suitable for growing thyme, making it a herb with a wide range of adaptability. The growth patterns of many thyme varieties vary; some will cascade, some will create mats, and some will shoot up flower stalks. Thyme can grow in the spaces between pavers and pebbles and is often used as a ground cover for landscaping purposes; you can even buy the seed in large quantities to plant a thyme lawn! That’s a bit more interesting than grass, don’t you think?

The more you meddle with the plant, the less resilient it will be, thus it is recommended to let the majority of thyme varieties develop on their own with as little human intervention as possible. Give your thyme a position in direct sunlight since it does better in warm, somewhat dry circumstances than in cold, soggy soil.

Believe it or not, thyme actually thrives in really poor soil. This adaptable plant does best in sandy or loamy soil, although it will also grow well on rocky gravel. When introducing thyme to your garden, be sure to leave at least one to two feet between each plant to allow for growth. If you’re planting thyme in a pot, get a bigger one so the plant’s roots can be accommodated. Using a clay container is also beneficial since it can help your thyme grow in the ideal climate by wicking away extra moisture from the soil. Make sure your soil drains well no matter what, as thyme is finicky about damp roots. Every spring, treat your thyme plants with a diluted all-purpose fertilizer. To prevent the plant from producing more leaves than your can easily harvest, which also might dilute its fragrance, keep the fertilizer you use at half intensity.

Provide water to established plants every other week or even once a month. This should be plenty, depending on your outdoor conditions, to properly care for your thyme plant. Wait until the soil is totally dry, then water until saturated before letting it dry out once more. Thyme is extremely drought-resistant and it can take a few additional days without water, so don’t worry about your thyme if you have to leave your home for a while or go on vacation. That being said, until roots are well developed, you should spoil your young plants a little more by providing water more regularly.

Thyme plants don’t require particular conditions for temperature or humidity, so they can survive most of the year until it becomes frosty, at which point they will go dormant for the winter. Summertime is when they grow the most. Summer is also when you can see their blooming blossoms, which will draw bees and other beneficial animals. To prevent fungal illnesses, thyme needs sufficient air circulation, especially in warm, humid conditions. To guarantee excellent ventilation, place plants far enough apart when growing them together in a garden bed.

Due to their Mediterranean roots, thyme plants do best in direct sunshine. Put them in an open, sunny area of your garden or in attractive pots that can be moved around to follow the light as it changes throughout the day. Place your indoor thyme plant on a sunny windowsill. Even better, keep your thyme in a space that receives lots of sunlight all day, such as a sunroom, if you’re growing it indoors.

Thyme plants can be harvested at any point after they reach maturity. The flavor of the leaves endures long after blossoming. Every time you get the urge to use the herb in a recipe, just cut a few stems off using clean, sanitized shears. No more than one-third of the plant should be harvested at any given time. Always trim off the largest leaves first.

Thyme can be easily propagated via division, layering, cuttings, or seeds. If you are a novice grower, cutting propagation is probably the easiest method to try.

To propagate via thyme cuttings, just take a three-inch clip from the stem’s tip and trim off the lowest third of the leaves. Although it is not required, using a rooting hormone product will speed up the process and improve your chances of success. To avoid contaminating your rooting hormone, only take a small amount of gel or powder from its package to dip the bottom third of the cutting in.

Plant the cuttings one inch deep in a well-draining, sterile potting media to avoid any bacterial or fungal diseases. Use sterile sand blended with one-third potting soil, vermiculite, or cactus potting soil. To avoid rubbing the rooting hormone off in the soil, make the hole in the soil with your finger first. From there you can stick the cutting in the hole, carefully press the soil around it, and give it a good dose of water. Keep the soil consistently wet but not drenched.

It will take four to six weeks for the roots to begin to emerge before you notice any new growth. From there, you can move the freshly rooted plants into four-inch pots or a suitable outdoor location. The optimum time to transplant when planting outside is in the spring, following the last frost. As a complement to other plants or as part of your herb garden, plant them one to two feet apart around your landscape.

Though spider mites and aphids are the most likely pests, thyme does not often get too affected by insects. If plants are placed in soil that drains effectively, infections are also uncommon, however fungal diseases might occasionally be a concern.

Aphids are one sporadic pest that could bother your thyme plant. These little insects will congregate on stem ends or the undersides of leaves. They can spread illness through their saliva and weaken plants by sucking out their fluids. Effective treatments include using a cloth dampened with a solution of one part rubbing alcohol to one part water, followed by an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray. This should be done regularly until the problem is resolved.

Fungal infections can be another issue. Fungi spores can flourish in warm, humid environments. Use sanitizer scissors to cut away affected parts. Plants can be bottom watered by placing trays under their pots or by watering only the base of the plant to avoid future infection.

Thyme is a versatile and easy-to-grow herb that does well outside in gardens as well as indoors in pots. If you live in the right hardiness zone, it is definitely worth giving this herb a try!

When should I plant thyme?

Thyme should be planted in spring after all chances of frost have passed.

Is thyme hard to grow?

Not at all. While growing thyme from seeds may be challenging due to its slow and unpredictable germination habits, thyme is quite easy to grow once the germination process is complete.

Does thyme come back every year?

Thyme is a perennial herb that comes back every year.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

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