Thyme

Thyme – Grow Guide

Discover how to plant, grow and harvest thyme, in our practical guide.

Overview

Thyme is famed for its versatility in cooking and healing. It's also easy to grow and looks attractive all year round. Gardeners have nearly 200 different varieties to choose from. Leaf colour varies from dark green to golden yellow and variegated, and growth habit ranges from ground-hugging to upright. Many thymes also produce a mass of white, pink or lilac-coloured flowers over the summer.
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Spread: 25cm

Avg yield: Pick leaves as necessary

Growing thyme through the year

Planting

Young plants are widely available and easier to establish than seedlings.

Originally from the Mediterranean, thyme prefers well-drained soil that's low in nutrients. Planting it in full sun brings the essential oils to the surface of the leaves and gives it great flavour.

Essentially drought-loving, thyme needs protection from cold winds and wet winters. Plant it in free-draining soil or gravel in spring or autumn. If growing in a container, use a soil-based compost with plenty of grit added, and keep it raised off the ground to provide free drainage.

Tending the crop

Trim thyme after it's finished flowering to promote new growth. This will give you more leaves to harvest through the winter. If you don’t tidy them up, plants become woody and will need replacing after three years.

Once established, thyme won’t need watering. If you are growing your plant in a container, give it a weekly feed from March until May with liquid seaweed.

Harvesting thyme

Thyme is an evergreen perennial, so leaves can be picked fresh all year round. The best time, though, to pick the leaves is early summer, when the plant is at its most productive, before flowering or in late summer after flowering.

Storing thyme

Thyme dries well, but the best method for preserving it is to add it to butter, vinegar or oil.

Preparation and uses

Together with bay and rosemary, sprigs of thyme are a key ingredient of bouquet garni, which is used to flavour many savoury dishes. The chopped leaves are also used in stuffings for pork and poultry. Lemon-scented thymes go well with fish.

Troubleshooting

Thyme rarely suffers from any pests and diseases, although it can be susceptible to rosemary beetle.
Pot

Growing thyme in pots or containers

Thyme prefers almost drought conditions and minimal nutrients, so it won't grow happily alongside other herbs in a mixed container.

Thyme varieties to try

  • ‘Annie Hall’ – an especially attractive hardy evergreen, with pale pink flowers and mid-green leaves
  • ‘Bertram Anderson’ – has golden leaves and pink flowers
  • Thymus herba barona (caraway thyme) – lemon/caraway-scented leaves and pink flowers
  • Thymus cilicius (Cilician thyme) – frost-hardy with pink flowers and vivid green leaves
  • ‘Golden King’ – lemon-scented, variegated leaves and pink flowers
  • ‘Silver Posie’ – hardy, with silver-edged leaves and pale pink flowers

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