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How to Grow Thyme

If you want a fully-stocked kitchen garden, you can’t forget to include the essential perennial herb – thyme. This article shares what you need to know about growing, harvesting, and using thyme. Discover how to successfully grow thyme in Arizona and beyond, as it thrives in nearly every zone. Keep reading to become a thyme-growing expert.



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5 Tips for How to Grow Thyme


1. Plant different varieties of thyme in your garden

Thyme comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors, so it’s easy to find one that will fit into whatever space you have available. Plant thyme near vegetables as it is thought to help improve the growth and flavor of vegetables. Put thyme among pathways as their fragrant smell will give your walkways an inviting scent when you pass them. Finally, use thyme along the edges of your garden, as its low-growing nature will keep intruders out and create a beautiful border.

  • Common thyme – Classic culinary thyme; grows about 16 inches (40 cm) tall; white or purple flowers.
  • Provencal thyme – Small leaves with strong aroma; about 12 inches (30 cm) tall; white or purple flowers.
  • English thyme – Soft mounded form; milder aroma; purple flowers.
  • Creeping thyme – Bright green leaves; mild scent; does well in containers; 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) tall; white or purple flowers.
  • Golden thyme – Gold leaves, about 6 inches (15 cm) tall; purple flowers.
  • Lemon thyme – Strong citrus aroma; about 12 inches (30 cm) tall; excellent for cooking.
HOW TO GROW THYME: 5 TIPS FOR GROWING THYME
HOW TO GROW THYME: 5 TIPS FOR GROWING THYME
HOW TO GROW THYME: 5 TIPS FOR GROWING THYME

2. Plant thyme at the right time

Start sowing the seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before your planting date. Fill a seedbed or pots with a good seed-starting potting mix. Lightly press thyme seeds into the moist growing medium and barely cover them with soil.

The optimal soil temperature for seed germination is around 70°F (21°C). If you’re starting indoors, place the seeds in a warm spot or use a heat mat to maintain this temperature.

How to Grow Thyme

When purchasing transplants, choose sturdy well-branched plants with growth spilling over the pot. Avoid tall and gangly plants. Don’t buy transplants with brown leaves or dry spots. 

After the risk of frost has passed and when soil temperatures have warmed up, transplant your thyme seedlings outdoors. This is usually 2-3 weeks before the last expected spring frost.

How to Grow Thyme

Space the plants about 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) apart in all directions.


Perpetual Herb, Fruit & Vegetable Planting Calendar Zone 9b
  • PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists vegetables, fruit & herbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
  • HARVEST GUIDE: Photos show what may be ready to harvest that month.
  • Planting dates are for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).

3. Care for thyme correctly

How to Grow Thyme

Sunlight: Thyme grows best in warm, sunny areas. At least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day is ideal.

Soil: Thyme thrives in well-drained soil. If soil is heavy clay or drains poorly, consider growing thyme in raised beds or containers with a quality potting mix.

Watering: Water deeply only when the soil is completely dry. If you’re growing thyme in containers, water whenever the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch.

Thyme is drought-tolerant once established, and too much moisture can lead to root rot. If thyme becomes wilted with yellow stems, it probably suffers from root rot caused by overwatering or poor drainage. Remove and dispose of affected plants. Planting thyme in raised beds can help with this issue.

Fertilizing: Thyme doesn’t require much fertilization. However, if your soil is poor, you can feed your plants in the spring with an organic fertilizer or enrich the soil with compost. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of the essential oils that give thyme its flavor and aroma.

Fertilizing: Thyme doesn't require much fertilization. However, if your soil is poor, you can feed your plants in the spring with an organic fertilizer or enrich the soil with compost. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of the essential oils that give thyme its flavor and aroma.

Mulching: Mulch can help conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. However, because thyme prefers dry conditions, it’s best to use a light, breathable mulch like straw or wood chips. Avoid thick layers of mulch that can retain too much moisture.

Pruning: Cut back thyme regularly throughout the growing season to discourage flowering and encourage new growth. You can also allow thyme to flower to attract beneficial insects and pollinators. As the weather cools, allow thyme to go dormant, and do not cut it back. Mulch well with compost to provide cold protection. 

Prune back dead thyme stems in spring. New growth should appear in late spring. Thyme can also be divided in late spring. Replace plants every few years for the most flavor. 

Prune back dead thyme stems in spring. New growth should appear in late spring. Thyme can also be divided in late spring. Replace plants every few years for the most flavor. 

Prune back dead thyme stems in spring. New growth should appear in late spring. Thyme can also be divided in late spring. Replace plants every few years for the most flavor. 

4. Harvest thyme often

You can start harvesting thyme once the plants are well-established and have begun to grow vigorously. This usually takes about 6 to 8 weeks from transplanting.

To harvest, simply snip off the top leafy portions of the stems, leaving behind the woody parts.

Harvest thyme just before flowers open for the best flavor. Thyme flowers are edible but have a milder flavor than the leaves.

Prune back dead thyme stems in spring. New growth should appear in late spring. Thyme can also be divided in late spring. Replace plants every few years for the most flavor. 

5. Use thyme fresh or preserve for later

I really enjoy using thyme as a herb in my cooking. It adds a delicious flavor to soups, roasts, potatoes, vegetables, and other savory dishes. Luckily, thyme thrives most of the year in the low desert of Arizona. Whenever I need some fresh thyme, I just head out to the garden to pick a few stalks.

I really enjoy using thyme as a herb in my cooking. It adds a delicious flavor to soups, roasts, potatoes, vegetables, and other savory dishes. Luckily, thyme thrives most of the year in the low desert of Arizona. Whenever I need some fresh thyme, I just head out to the garden to pick a few stalks.

Thyme has the most flavor when used fresh. Fresh thyme can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, you can also dry or freeze the leaves for longer storage.

How to Make Fresh Garden Vegetable Broth & Stock

Get my favorite recipe for garden fresh vegetable stock in this post.

Strip leaves from thyme before storing. Thyme can be stored by drying, freezing, or freeze-drying. Store in a tightly-sealed jar in a cool place for the best flavor.



Tips for how to grow thyme in Arizona

Tips for how to grow thyme in Arizona
  • Thyme appreciates afternoon shade during the warmest months of the year in hot climates like Arizona.
  • Plant thyme from October to April in the low desert of Arizona. Thyme does well when planted in all but the hottest months of the year. 
  • When temperatures warm in the spring, give thyme a good pruning to encourage new growth. Likewise, give thyme a trim once temperatures drop after the summer heat.
  • Harvest thyme often to discourage blooming. 

Visual planting guides for vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers & vines.


If this post about how to grow thyme was helpful, please share it:


Mimi

Wednesday 6th of March 2024

Hello! I just purchased a transplant from a local nursery in Phoenix. Thyme looked healthy at first and already had flowers, but three days after planting outdoors it is already wilting. Watered only once the first day of planting. Is there any hope for revival or anything that can be done? Thank you in advance!

Mimi

Monday 11th of March 2024

@Angela Judd, we will try that, thank you kindly!

Angela Judd

Thursday 7th of March 2024

Check the soil it may be dry, they do need more frequent watering until they get established. Keep an eye on it and hopefully it will come back. Sometimes they have a bit of transplant shock at first.

Santiago

Wednesday 2nd of September 2020

Hi, I have a thyme that looks good & healthy, I bought it in the garden shop of my neighbourhood who are good profesionals. I recently planted (last week) and just noticed that their under leaves are purple. Looking other thyme plants in the internet can`t find this attribute in thymes. Have you ever seen this? Do you know what might be happening? Are this edible? I bought them cause Im a chef and wanted to use them on m plates :) Best! Santiago from Argentina!

Angela Judd

Wednesday 2nd of September 2020

Hi Santiago. Plants grown in soil deficient in potassium may have purple leaves. A lack of potassium is also a cause of poor root growth and poor overall plant growth. Organic sources of phosphorus include rock phosphate, bone meal, and guano. It may need a little organic fertilizer to get it back on track. Water well before and after application and use a light hand. The affected thyme is still edible. Best of luck to you.