Thyme is a hardy perennial shrub. Sow thyme from seed as early as 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring. Thyme can also be grown from cuttings or divisions taken in spring or early summer.
Description. Thyme is a fragrant, evergreen perennial shrub that stands 6 to 15 inches tall. Thyme has small, oval, pointed, gray-green leaves on long, wiry, four-sided stems. Thyme flowers in early summer: tiny, tubular white, lilac and pink blossoms in clusters.
Yield. Grow one thyme plant per household.
Site. Plant thyme in full sun. Thyme grows best in well-drained slightly sandy soil. Soil too rich in organic matter will produce plants that are large but less fragrant. Thyme prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.7.
Planting time. Sow thyme in the garden as early as 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring. For best results, start seed indoors at a soil temperature of 70°F and transplant seedlings to the garden once the last frost has passed. Thyme grows best where the climate is mild but established plants can survive temperatures below freezing. Thyme does not grow well in cold or wet soil.
Planting and spacing. Sow thyme seeds ¼ inch deep in rows 16 to 24 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 12 inches apart when they are 2 to 3 inches tall thin. Cuttings can be rooted in moist sand in about 4 weeks. Set rooted cuttings or divisions 12 inches apart.
Water and feeding. Thyme requires little watering once established; it does best on the dry side. Grow thyme in soil that is not too rich. Spray foliage with compost tea 2 to 3 times during the growing season.
Companion plants. All cabbage family plants, eggplant, potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes. Thyme repels cabbage worms and whiteflies.
Care. Keep planting beds weed free. To keep plants from becoming woody, start new plants every 3 to 4 years.
Propagation: Seed is difficult to germinate; divide the whole plant; starting cuttings is easy
Container growing. Thyme grows easily in containers. Choose a container with a minimum soil depth of 6 inches. Over-winter containers in a protected place.
Pests. Thyme has no serious pest problems. Aphids and spider mites may attack plants; spray them away with a strong stream of water.
Diseases. Thyme has no serious disease problems. Avoid root rot by keeping plants out of wet areas.
Harvest. Pick thyme leaves as needed. Cut back thyme to about 3 inches high twice during the growing season to encourage vigorous growth. For drying, harvest plants when they begin to bloom. Cut off the tops of the branches with four to five inches of flowering stems.
More tips at: Thyme: Kitchen Basics
Use: flavoring, tea, attract bees, liqueurs, attract bees, insect repellent, medicine, perfume
Varieties. There are more than 400 species of thyme; 60 varieties of thyme can be used for cooking. Here are a few:
• Thymus camphorates: 6 to 12 inches high; strong camphor scent.
• Thymus caespititius: prostrate, mounding, light green foliage.
• Lemon thyme (T. citriodorus): to 12 inches high; rich lemon scent.
• Golden lemon thyme (T. c. ‘Aureau’): creeping; lemon fragrance.
• Thymus doerfleri: prostrate grower, woolly gray leaves, lavender flowers.
• Loevyanus thyme (T. glabrescens): low growing, gray leaves, purple flowers.
• Caraway-scented thyme (T. herba-barona): dark green leaves, pink flowers; caraway fragrance.
• Thymus nitidus: to 10 inches tall, white flowers.
• Thymus nummularius: shiny, dark green leaves, rose-pink flowers.
• Marschallianus thyme (T. pannonicus): prostrate ground cover, rose-lavender flowers.
• Mother-of-Thyme or creeping thyme (T. praecox arcticus): to 6 inches high, blue-gray fuzzy leaves.
• Creeping white thyme (T. p. ‘Albus’): to 2 inches high, white flowers.
• Coconut thyme (T. p. ‘Coccineus): glossy, dark blue-green leaves, pink flowers.
• Woolly thyme (T. pseudolanuginosus): to 3 inches high, soft, woolly leaves.
• Common thyme or garden thyme (T. vulgaris): 6 to 12 inches high; small gray leaves, white to lilac flowers.
• Silver thyme (T. v. ‘Argenteus’): silver and green foliage, lemon-scented.
• Thymus vulgaris ‘Aureus’: variegated yellow-green foliage.
• Thymus vulgaris ‘Fragrantissimus’: fragrant gray foliage.
• English thyme (T. v. ‘Narrowleaf English’): to 8 inches high, narrow, bright green leaves.
• French thyme (T. v. ‘Narrowleaf French’: to 12 inches tall, narrow, gray leaves.
• Orange thyme (T. v. ‘OrangeBalsam’): narrow leaves, orange scented.
Storing and preserving. Dry leaves on a screen or clip stems and hang them upside down to dry. Store dry leaves in an airtight container.
Common name. Thyme
Botanical name. Thymus species