Plant Profile: Thyme

In Ancient Greece and medieval Europe, thyme was used as a source of courage. Today, you can easily grow it at home in your Minigarden!

Minigarden Basic Herbs Thyme

Description 

Thymus Vulgaris

Difficulty: Easy

Thyme grows from a thin, woody stem. It reaches a height of about 15-30 cm, making it the perfect plant for both container and vertical gardening. Its pale green, slightly curved leaves are fragrant and aromatic, and it blooms with tiny white flowers in the summer.

As a houseplant, thyme can be grown all year long. If you’re growing thyme indoors, repot your plant every 1-2 seasons.

Conditions

Temperature: Thyme is a hardy plant. It grows best in hot and sunny areas, but it thrives in temperatures ranging from 16-27 degrees Celsius (that’s 61-80 degrees Fahrenheit) and higher.

Soil: Thyme is one of the easiest plants to cultivate indoors, but it requires attention to its soil conditions. Thyme is intolerant to soggy soil and needs adequate drainage. Choose an airy and light, well-draining potting soil with a pH level about 5.5-7.0.

Sun: Thyme loves bright light and sun, so make sure your plant receives enough sunshine during the daytime. If natural sunlight is not an option for you, try using a fluorescent light.

Propagation

There are three ways to propagate thyme: germinating from seed, dividing your plant at the root, and cutting.

Germinating from Seed: If you don’t want to purchase a seedling or aren’t already growing a thyme plant, plant new seeds and cover them with a thin layer of compost. Place your planted seeds in a warm spot, and wait for the seedlings to emerge.

It takes anywhere from 1-12 weeks for your seeds to germinate. Transplant your seedlings once they reach 4 inches tall.

Root Division: The fastest way to propagate thyme is to divide the roots of an older plant. If your plant is about three years old, it’s a great candidate for root division. April is the best season to divide your plant.

Root Division

Photo by Della Chen via Food52.com.

To divide your plant at the root, gently separate the plant into 3-4 pieces, making sure to include both the roots and the foliage. Plant your divided thyme and wait for harvest.

Cutting: Cutting is the most difficult method of propagation, and like root division, it’s best to cut and propagate your thyme in the spring.

Cut your thyme at a growth node, where the leaves attach. Remove the lower leaves and place the cutting into wet soil. Leave it in a warm, shaded area, and keep the soil slightly damp.

Care 

Water: Thyme needs regular watering, but like most plants, it dislikes overly wet roots. If you aren’t sure if your plant needs watering, poke your finger into the soil about an inch. If the soil feels dry, give your thyme some water.

Watering Thyme
In the summer months, your thyme will likely enjoy a drink every 10-15 days. In the autumn and winter, you won’t need to water as often.

Pruning: There are four ways to prune thyme:

  1. Hard rejuvenation: Hard rejuvenation reduces woody stems and encourages tender growth. If you harvest thyme regularly throughout the growing season, you likely won’t need to prune for hard rejuvenation. For hard rejuvenation, prune in the late fall after the first frost.
  2. Light rejuvenation: Pruning for light rejuvenation prevents your plant from becoming woody. Prune after blooming in the summer, cutting back the oldest 1/3 of the stems by about 2/3s.
  3. Shaping: Pruning for shaping is purely aesthetic. Prune in the spring, and don’t cut your plant back by more than 1/3.
  4. Harvest: Cut any time during the spring and summer while your plant is actively growing.

Diseases

Due to its strong flavour, thyme is usually resistant to most of diseases and pests. It’s even easier to grow it in Minigarden considering that its unique drainage system and plant spacing prevent pests and funguses from affecting your plants. However, there are some diseases you should always watch for.

Gray Mold 

Gray Mold ThymeSymptoms: Dense, brown-gray fuzzy growth on plant stems and leaves; leaves dying and dropping from the plant. 

Perpetrator: Fungus.

Cause: Gray mold prefers humid conditions with poor air circulation.

Treatment: Remove dead or infected leaves immediately and treat your plant with Minigarden Bug-Off Blue Fungus & Mold Protection. 

Alternaria Blight

AlternariaBlight ThymeSymptoms: Small, round, yellow, brown, or black spots with concentric rings, with spots first appearing on lower shaded leaves; holes in leaves caused by lesions drying and dropping out; leaves dropping; death of plant. 

Perpetrator: Fungus.

Cause: Infected seed; poor air circulation. 

Treatment: Remove and destroy infected leaves; ensure proper plant spacing to promote air circulation around foliage.

Root Rot

Symptoms: Root damage, yellow leaves, slow growth.

Perpetrator: Fungus.

Cause: Soggy and overwatered soil.

Treatment: Use a well-draining soil and only water when your plant needs it. If you aren’t sure, insert your finger about 1 inch into the soil – if it feels dry, give your thyme some water.

Harvest

When: Harvest thyme prior to blooming, usually in the spring and summer. Before flowering, your thyme’s leaves will contain their highest level of essential oil (and flavor!). You can harvest during flowering, but do not harvest when your plant is not actively growing – this might harm your plant.

How: Cut branches about 8-13 cm above the ground. Strip the leaves from the stem before using them. To remove the leaves, pinch the end of the stem between your thumb and forefinger and pull up the stalk.

Uses

Bouquet GarniThyme is a very popular culinary herb, especially in Middle Eastern and European cuisine. Thyme pairs well with a wide variety of meats, including beef, chicken, fish, lamb, and pork, as well as popular vegetables like carrots, onions, peas, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Thyme adds deep, fragrant flavour to soups and stews, but there are many ways you can use it in your cooking.

Using Fresh Thyme: Strip the leaves off the stem and use them in soup, sauces, or even main dishes. Try creating a bouquet garni using fresh thyme, parsley, and bay leaves.

Preserving Thyme: Spread the stripped leaves or stems on a cookie sheet. The leaves will dry quicker if they are separate from the stem, but they’re easier to strip from a dried stem. Stems can take more than a week to dry, while leaves may dry in just a few days. Store your dried thyme in a cool, dark place for no more than six months.

Dried thyme is one of the main ingredients in Herbes de Provence. Try making your own using this recipe.

Thyme to Grow!

Thyme is a hardy, easy to grow herb that is perfect in a variety of dishes.

Download our free printable Thyme Plant Profile and get growing!

thyme-printable-thumbnail


Read More

Learn about growing and harvesting more herbs. Check out our other plant profiles:

Basil


Susan Austin is Sales Director for Minigarden North America. She can be reached at susan@minigardening.com.