How to Grow a Thyme Plant: A Comprehensive Care Guide

By: Matt Slaymaker
May 21, 2024
How to Grow and Care for a Thyme
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Thyme is a fantastic herb to grow at home, whether you’re into cooking, landscaping, or aromatherapy. This beautiful culinary herb thrives in various conditions but prefers a Mediterranean climate. It forgives occasional neglect, due to its resilient and low-maintenance nature. Even if you’re not a seasoned gardener, learning how to grow thyme is a rewarding experience. 

So, if you want to know everything about thyme plant care, keep reading! Our comprehensive guide will help you master growing this aromatic and delicious houseplant in no time.

About Thyme Plants 

About Thyme Plants

Thyme is a small, woody perennial herb that thrives in hardiness zones 4-10. Native to the Mediterranean region, it prefers a sunny location, well-draining soil, and dry conditions 

You can place your Thyme plant on your patio or add it to your indoor kitchen herb garden. Either way, it’s ideal for growing as a potted plant or as a ground cover outdoors. You can enjoy this versatile herb even if you have furry friends, as it’s pet-friendly and non-toxic to animals.

Thyme Varieties

There are many types of thyme, which have similar care needs. Some of the most popular varieties are:

  • English Thyme, French Thyme, and German Thyme: All three varieties are known scientifically as Thymus vulgaris. They display slight differences in leaf shape and colors. French Thyme has a milder aroma compared to the other varieties.  
  • Lemon Thyme: The Thymus citriodorus is known for its strong lemony smell. It boasts golden or silver variegated leaves. This variety makes the perfect decorative plant because of its gorgeous foliage. 
  • Creeping Thyme: The Thymus serpyllum plant produces tiny white, pink, and pink-red flowers. The foliage is dense, hence this thyme variety is ideal for growing as a ground-cover plant outside to create a stunning landscape in the garden.

Thyme: Benefits

The Thymus plant varieties have culinary, aromatherapy, and landscaping uses. Here are a few Thyme benefits that make this plant so popular:

  • Culinary/beverage uses: Thyme is famous for its use as an aromatic herb in cooking. Thymus vulgaris leaves are used extensively in Mediterranean cuisines to season various dishes. It’s also used in beverages like cocktails and cold-relieving herbal tea. 
  • Aromatherapy uses: The fragrance of thyme, especially Thymus citriodorus, is strong, uplifting, and soothing, making it ideal for aromatherapy. You’ll find stress-relieving diffuser supplies, massage oils, bath products, etc., infused with thyme essential oil.   
  • Landscaping uses: Thyme is a low-growing plant with beautiful foliage. Thymus serpyllum, in particular, is renowned for its stunning flowers. They’re grown as ground covers around lawns and paths, and make a great addition to any rockery.   

Thyme Plant Care & Growing Conditions

Thyme Plant Care

Thyme plant care is surprisingly easy as the plant is not at all demanding. While it’s commonly grown outdoors, growing Thyme indoors requires little effort. 

Thyme: Light Requirements and Watering 

Thyme growing conditions require lots of light. However, this herb’s watering needs are quite low. Whether you grow it indoors or outdoors, you should ensure it gets sufficient sunlight and consistent but infrequent watering. 

Does Thyme Do Well in Full Sun? 

Like many other herbs of Mediterranean origin, thyme does best in full sun. It needs at least 6-8 hours of full sunlight per day. When planted outside, it thrives well if it receives 10 hours of direct light. Place your thyme plant on the porch or a brightly lit window sill if you grow it in a container.

Can Thyme Grow in Indirect Sunlight?

Thyme can also tolerate indirect sunlight and partial shade, perfect for indoor spaces with filtered light like a kitchen or greenhouse. However, full light exposure is recommended to help it grow and bloom. If you don’t have a well-lit spot for your plant, you can use an LED grow light. 

How to Often to Water Thyme 

Thyme plants are drought-tolerant and don’t need a lot of water. Depending on the environment, you can water your thyme plant every 10-15 days. You should allow the soil to dry between watering sessions. In more humid locations, you can even water it once a month. 

Can You Overwater Thyme?

Thyme can be overwatered, and it is a common problem. You can recognize an overwatered thyme by its leaves starting to yellow. You may also notice some leaves falling off. Other signs of an overwatered thyme plant include root rot and brown stems and foliage. 

What Temperature and Humidity Can Thyme Tolerate? 

Thyme is native to the Mediterranean region and thrives in hardiness zones 4-10. It grows well in a temperature range of 68°F-86°F. It prefers moderately dry climates and mild winters. 

The ideal humidity range for thyme is 40%-70%, depending on its variety. If you grow your thyme indoors, the spot should have sufficient air circulation to avoid excess humidity. 

Thyme can tolerate and adapt to more humid environments. But it doesn’t like these conditions, especially because they can cause infections and mildew. 

Thyme: Soil and Fertilizer Requirements 

Thyme Soil and Fertilizer

Thyme prefers well-draining, sandy soil, preferably alkaline. You should add loam to it if too acidic. As a low-maintenance plant, it doesn’t require regular fertilization except during planting.

Will Thyme Grow in Poor Soil?

Thyme’s soil requirements are simple, as the plant grows happily in poor soil. You don’t need to enrich the soil; your thyme can tackle neglect. It is drought-resistant and can grow even in stony soil. However, you must ensure that the growing medium is clayey as it has poor drainage qualities. Thyme plants don’t like wet feet. If the soil is heavy or poorly-draining, add sand to improve drainage.    

How Often Do You Feed Thyme? 

Thyme doesn’t need additional fertilization. Small amounts of macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium can be added to the soil in the growing season. You can feed the plant every spring with a balanced fertilizer, diluted to half strength. Compost or worm castings work great for outdoor plants growing in the ground.

When Should I Repot Thyme? 

Thyme plants rarely need repotting. Depending on how fast your plant grows, change the pot every 2 years in spring or fall. Repot your thyme when the roots start peeping out of the drainage holes or soil surface.

How to Repot Thyme Plants

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to repot thyme plants:

  1. Water your thyme plant thoroughly the night before repotting.
  2. Choose a pot one size larger than the current one and fill it with potting mix. 
  3. Gently remove the thyme plant from its current pot. Ensure the root ball remains intact. 
  4. Place the plant in the center of the container.
  5. An additional step is to add rooting hormone around the roots to boost growth. 
  6. Fill the pot with more soil and gently press down to remove air pockets. 
  7. Water your plant and place it in a sunny spot.

Here’s a video to show you how to repot thyme plants.  

How to Prune a Thyme Plant

Without pruning, thyme plants can become straggly. To maintain a fuller plant shape, follow the tips below:

  • Check the plant regularly to remove dead, damaged, or diseased stems. 
  • Once the flowers fade, lightly trim the thyme back by a couple of inches to boost growth. 
  • If the plant looks tired or scorched, due to heat, give it a rejuvenating trim.
  • Regularly trim the leafy stems to maintain a bushy look.

When Should Thyme Be Pruned?

The best time to prune thyme plants is in spring and fall. Fall is when thyme blooms and you can trim it and manage its size right after flowering. Meanwhile, pruning the plant in early spring right before the growing season is also a good choice. But you can pick any time of the year to clean and reshape thymes.  

How to Propagate Thyme Plants

There are three ways to propagate Thyme plants: by division, from cuttings, or from seeds.

Use an old plant to grow multiple new ones with the division method. Dig up the plant in spring, preserving the roots. Remove diseased or woody sections and separate the remaining root ball into small clumps with healthy roots. Replant these about 30 cm apart or in pots and water them well. 

Popagate thyme from cuttings by trimming off  5”-8” sections of young, non-flowering shoots. Cut them below a leaf node. Remove the lower leaves and plant them in a well-draining potting mix in the spring. New roots will develop after 6 to 8 weeks.

Growing thyme from seeds needs time. Start indoors in late February or plant the seeds in the garden from April onwards till early summer. Scatter seeds on the surface of damp seedling compost so they get sufficient light, and cover with plastic. After germination, remove the cover. In about 4-5 weeks, move the seedlings to individual pots.

Common Thyme Problems

Common Thyme Problems

Although thyme is a low-maintenance plant, it may develop some issues. But don’t panic! Learn about the solutions that can help you eliminate these issues or prevent them from recurring. 

What to Do With Leggy Thyme

If your thyme starts to look leggy, consider it an indication of poor light exposure. Your plant is likely getting weaker and less resilient, due to insufficient sunlight. The first thing to do is prune your struggling thyme to promote new growth. Also, place it in a spot that receives 6-8 hours of full light, or use a grow light. 

Why Are My Thyme Leaves Turning Brown?

If your thyme leaves turn brown, the plant is likely overwatered. Excess moisture in the soil makes it soggy and can cause root rot. Remove the plant from the soil and cut off the brown, mushy roots. Let it dry and replant it in fresh well-draining soil. Allow the soil to dry between watering sessions. Last but not least, ensure the pot has enough drainage holes.

What Diseases Affect Thyme

Bacteria and fungi may cause diseases like root rot, gray mold, and blight in thyme. Use fungicidal sprays if needed to remedy the issue. Clean your thyme with root rot and replant in fresh soil. Heavily plants should ideally be destroyed to prevent the spread of infections to other plants.

Thyme and Pest Problems

Thyme is susceptible to pests like aphids, gnats, spider mites, and fruit flies. If you notice these pests or their larvae, clean the plant with a strong stream of water. Apply neem oil, insecticidal soap, or other chemical solutions available. Remember to remove severely infected plants.  

How to Grow Thyme: FAQs 

Q: Is Thyme heat tolerant?

A: Thyme is a heat-tolerant plant. It prefers dry summers and mild winters without much rain. It can grow well in hot conditions with temperatures up to 86°F.  

Q: Does Thyme like wet soil?

A: Thyme does not like wet soil. It is a drought-tolerant plant and can adapt to poor, dry soil. Wet soil and excess water can cause root rot and weaken the plant. Discolored and drooping leaves are the first signs of overwatering.

Q: Can Thyme survive the winter?

A: Thyme can survive in winter and is quite frost-tolerant. It is a versatile herb that survives in a wide range of temperatures. It can handle cold, though its growth won’t be significant in its dormant period. It will again rperk up and thrive in spring.

Q: Is Thyme toxic to cats and dogs?

A: Thyme is non-toxic to cats and dogs. So, you don’t have to worry about your four-legged companions chomping on its fragrant leaves. Thyme is believed to promote digestive health in pets.  

Q: Is Thyme better in pots or ground?

A: Thyme is an excellent plant to grow in the ground. At the same time, growing thyme in pots in yor container herbal garden is also a popular choice. Thyme is a versatile plant, ideal for gardens, patios, window sills, and kitchen gardens alike. 


Now that you’ve learned how to grow thyme, you can enjoy its beauty and fragrance for years to come. And why just stop at thyme? You can create a beautiful herb garden with other popular aromatic plants like Tuscan Blue Rosemary, Parsley, Basil, and Oregano

All of these beneficial culinary herbs have similar care requirements, due to their preference for Mediterranean growing conditions. You can also grow another edible plant in your garden - the gorgeous and easy-care olive tree for the ultimate Southern Italian garden feel and look.