How to grow thyme
All you need to know about planting, growing, caring for and harvesting thyme, in our practical Grow Guide.
Thyme is famed for its versatility in cooking, adding flavour to fish dishes, soups and as an ingredient in stuffing mixes. It's also easy to grow and looks attractive all year round. Gardeners have nearly 200 different thyme 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.
How to grow thyme at home
Grow thyme in well-drained soil in full sun. Some varieties of thyme work well planted in gravel gardens, cracks in paving or as an alternative to a lawn. Others do best in pots, which you can bring indoors in autumn. Cut back thyme after flowering and protect tender species in winter.
More on growing thyme:
Where to plant thyme
Originally from the Mediterranean, thyme thrives in 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. It's particularly well suited to growing in gravel gardens, cracks in paving or at the edge of paths. If growing in a container, use a soil-based compost with plenty of grit added, and keep it raised off the ground to aid drainage.
How to plant thyme
It's possible to grow thyme from seed but plants grown from seed can be hard to establish. Young thyme plants are widely available to buy in garden centres and nurseries, so it's best to plant these, instead.
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Plant thyme in free-draining soil or compost, and water in. Once established, you won't need to water your thyme plants.
Thyme thrives in almost drought conditions with minimal soil nutrients, so it won't grow happily alongside other herbs in a mixed container.
Here, Monty Don plants up a pot of Mediterranean herbs, including thyme. Find out which herbs grow well with thyme and how to create the best growing conditions for them:
How to care for thyme
Trim thyme back after it's finished flowering to promote new growth. This will give you more leaves to harvest through autumn. 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're growing your plant in a container, give it a weekly feed from March until May with liquid seaweed.
Find out how to propagate thyme and other Mediterranean herbs, in he video clip from Gardeners' World:
Thyme is an evergreen perennial, so leaves can be picked fresh all year round. However, the best time to pick thyme is in early summer, when the plant is at its most productive, before flowering.
How to store thyme
Thyme dries well, but the best method for preserving it is to add it to butter, vinegar or oil.
How to prepare and use thyme
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.
Growing thyme: problem solving
Thyme rarely suffers from any pests and diseases, although it can be susceptible to rosemary beetle. However, as thyme is a Mediterranean plant used to very dry conditions, you may lose plants in winter if conditions are too wet. It's therefore a good idea to bring your thyme plants indoors for winter. Avoid watering them, and plant them back outside again in spring.
Great thyme varieties to grow
- ‘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