How to Grow and Care for Thyme

Growing a thyme plant allows you to have herbs on hand. How can you help it thrive?

Thyme is easy to grow and requires little maintenance. Over 350 varieties of thyme have savory, minty, or earthy scents and flavors. Most thyme varieties are ornamental. The ornamental varieties make excellent edible and drought-tolerant groundcover for gardens

French, lemon, and caraway thyme are the three most typical kinds used in cooking.

Today, we will learn how to grow and care for this versatile, simple plant.

Why You Should Consider Growing It

Thyme is high in vitamin C, which helps to improve the immune system, potassium, which helps to maintain healthy cells, and manganese, which helps with bone growth and blood clotting. It contains a variety of vitamins and minerals that promote overall health.

Thyme can be sown any time of the year. It will be ready for harvest in a few months, and it will return year after year in temperate climates, which means that when the conditions are right, you only need to plant thyme once. 

The ornamental varieties thrive and proliferate among pavement stones, emitting a delightful fragrance to the area. Bees enjoy the tiny tubular blooms of thyme shrubs in the spring and summer. For this reason, many gardeners take advantage of the herb’s ability to attract pollinators to their vegetable patches. 

thyme twigs placed on wooden table

When To Plant It

Thyme should be planted in the spring as soon as the risk of frost has passed. To give the plant a head start, plant them indoors six to ten weeks before the last spring frost. The seeds germinate slowly and sporadically, making it more challenging to grow from seed. It’s easier to acquire cuttings from a friend or the plants from a garden center and use them to start your crop. 

Plant cuttings or young thyme plants in well-drained soil when the ground temperature reaches 70°F, typically around two to three weeks before the last spring frost.

General Care

Water Needs

Thyme rarely needs watering, except during long periods of drought in the summer. Water established plants once or twice per month, depending on the weather conditions. However, potted pots should not be allowed to dry. If the top inch of the soil is dry, it is time to water the plant.

Amount of Sun

Thyme must be planted in a warm, sunny location, and the more sunlight it receives, the better and stronger the flavors become. Plant them in a sunny location in your garden or in attractive pots that can be relocated as the light changes. If you’re, growing indoors in a container, plant near a window where there is plenty of bright light.


Although thyme dislikes rich soil, it will benefit from a light feeding a high potassium plant food in the spring. Fertilize at half strength to keep the plant from producing too many leaves and diluting its aromatic oils.

thyme plant growing on a yellow pot

Other Maintenance

Regular trimming results in a more rounded appearance while also fostering better development. The more you harvest or prune, the more thyme grows. Trim the new stems in the morning, removing any tough, woody areas. Leave at least five inches of growth to allow the plant to thrive. 

How to Harvest

Though thyme can be harvested all year, the flavor is at its finest in the summer. Once established, thyme plants can be picked whenever large enough. Its leaves retain flavor even after the plant has bloomed. Like sage or oregano, thyme tastes great fresh or dried. 

Just clip a few stems whenever you want to use the herb for cooking. Harvesting is best done early in the morning after the dew has evaporated and the essential oils are at their peak and are most concentrated.

Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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