Thyme

Thyme is the herb (dried aerial parts) of some members of the genus Thymus of aromatic perennial evergreen herbs in the mint family Lamiaceae. Thymes are relatives of the oregano genus Origanum, with both plants being mostly indigenous to the Mediterranean region. The word ‘thyme’ has been derived from the Greek word ‘thumus’, which means courage. Since ancient times, thyme has been associated with bravery and even used as a natural anti-depressant. Thymes have culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses, and the species most commonly cultivated and used for culinary purposes is Thymus vulgaris.



A beloved Mediterranean herb, it holds its taste in cooking and blends well with other flavors of its native region, such as garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes. The tiny pink, lavender, or white tubular flowers of thyme plants show up in the spring and summer months and are well-liked by bees. Its tiny gray-green leaves remain evergreen, and most thyme varieties can even be harvested in winter in the zones where it is a perennial.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

6 - 15 inches


Width-Circumference (Avg)

Up to 18 inches


Approximate pH

6.0 - 8.0


Varieties of Thyme


Thyme is one of the most popular herbs in culinary circles. It’s easy to grow nature also makes it a favorite in the ornamental garden.


Culinary Thyme Varieties:


These thyme varieties are grown for culinary use, though some are also used as ornamentals since they have large clusters of white, pink, or purple flowers.


Culinary thyme is an excellent addition to vegetable gardens to attract pollinators. Both bees and butterflies are attracted to the abundant blooms.


Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.)


Common thyme is the most widely used culinary thyme. Common thyme grows well in most climates. The leaves will have a sharper flavor and paler, narrower form when grown at the warmer end of its range. Common thyme grows 8-12 inches high and has white or pale lilac flowers. This type is also sometimes called garden or English thyme.


German Thyme



German thyme is the cold-hardy equivalent of common thyme. Due to its frost-friendly nature, it is sometimes referred to as winter thyme. It has smaller evergreen leaves and thin stems. German thyme has a robust flavor and is one of the more widely used culinary varieties.


Orange Balsam Thyme (T. vulgaris Orange Balsam)


Orange thyme has—you guessed it—orange-scented leaves. It grows between 4 and 12 inches high and has tiny gray-green leaves and pale pink flowers. The Missouri Botanical Garden says its flavor is much better fresh than dried.


Lemon Thyme (T. x citriodorus)



Lemon thyme has a lemony, citrus scent and is especially recommended for flavoring fish dishes, poultry, creamy sauces, and some desserts. Lemon thyme grows well in most growing zones. It has pink flowers and it grows between 6 and 12 inches tall.


Juniper Thyme



Juniper Thyme is a pungent small sub shrub that grows about six inches tall and blooms profusely. It silvery rigid needles also give it the name Moonlight Thyme. Cut flowers off after bloom to keep it tidy.


Culinary Thymes, like Juniper Thyme, are small which make them perfect candidates for growing in a container.


Italian Oregano Thyme


A taller culinary thyme, Italian Oregano grows to 12” tall with a zesty flavor that pairs well in an Italian dish. Its pink flowers will bloom for about four weeks before shutting down. Once out of bloom, it is necessary to prune it back six or eight inches to encourage fresh useable growth.


Silver Thyme



Silver thyme has bright, variegated leaves with a white-edge green coloration. Growing to 1’ tall, this beauty has pink flowers and can be used in any recipe that calls for thyme, but don’t forget to add it to your container garden for intriguing texture and color play.


French Thyme/Summer Thyme (T. vulgaris narrow-leaf French)



French thyme is closely related to common thyme but less hardy and may be better grown as an annual north of zone 6. It is also said to be milder and sweeter in flavor.

It is a popular choice for chefs and grows up to twelve inches with a more compact growing habit than common thyme.


Caraway Thyme (T. herba-barona)



This is one of those thymes that pulls double duty as both a ground cover and a culinary herb. Its strong flavor and scent can be used in any recipe as a true caraway substitute, while its tiny 4” height and rosy pink flowers work hard to quickly fill in open spaces in the garden.


Pennsylvania Dutch Tea Thyme


As its name suggests, Pennsylvania Dutch Tea is perfect (fresh or dried) for tea-brewing, and can be substituted for any recipe calling for English thyme. It has dark, oval leaves, pink flowers, and grows to about 1’ tall.


Golden Lemon Thyme (T. citriodorus v. aureus)



Golden lemon thyme resembles lemon thyme in most ways, but it has golden foliage as the name suggests. This variety is suitable for cooking but also makes an attractive ornamental.


Ornamental Varieties of Thyme:


These thymes are usually grown as ornamentals or ground covers.


Creeping Thyme (T. serpyllum)



As its name suggests, Creeping Thyme is a flat ground-hugging plant usually no more than 3″ high. Its tiny leaves are bluish-green and hairy, and its blossoms are deep pink. It is often used in paths and lawns as it stands up well to foot traffic.


Mother of Thyme


Mother of thyme is one of the common names used for creeping or wild thyme. It has a low-growing habit and is often found growing in rock gardens or along walkways.


Woolly Thyme (T. pseudolanuginosus)



Woolly thyme has tiny grayish leaves and small pink flowers. As the name suggests, leaves and stems are woolly. This variety has no scent, so it's not used for cooking. It’s a flat creeping variety, not usually growing above 3 inches tall. It cascades nicely in rock gardens and can grow in patio cracks.


Elfin Thyme (T. serpyllum ‘Elfin’)



One of the smallest and slowest growing of all the thymes, Elfin has diminutive green leaves and lavender flowers. Like Woolly thyme, Elfin does best when allowed to fill in-between stepping stones.


Lavender Thyme


Lavender Thyme is a low growing thyme with very sturdy little leaves and stems. It's scent is a nice strong thyme with a hint of lavender thrown in, a very clean smell.


Since it reaches about three inches and is not completely flat, It would make a nice rockery plant or filler where not too much walking is done. Its intense green color and mass of blooms definitely perks whatever it grows around.


Lime Thyme (Thymus citriodorus)



A fragrant mounding thyme, Lime Thyme makes a great ground cover. The bright green lime-colored leaves are scented of citrus and help brighten up darker corners of the garden.


Planting Thyme

  • Thyme thrives in full sun and loves heat. If you are growing in a pot indoors, plant near a sunny window.

  • Soil needs to drain well so there aren’t “wet feet.” In the garden, plant with other drought-tolerant perennials.

  • In early spring, you may fertilize with organic matter, like compost, but not much soil amendment is necessary.

  • It’s hard to grow thyme from seeds because of slow, uneven germination. It’s easier to buy the plants from a garden center or take some cuttings from a friend. Over time, you can propagate from your own cuttings.

  • For a head start, plant the cuttings indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost.

  • Plant cuttings or young thyme plants any time after the ground temperature reaches 70°F. This is usually 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost in well-drained soil about 9 inches apart.

  • Space young plants 12 to 24 inches apart, depending upon the specific variety.

  • The plants should grow 6 to 12 inches in height.

  • In the garden, plant thyme near cabbage or tomatoes.

  • If you are growing thyme in containers, plant with rosemary which also likes sunny conditions and has similar watering needs.


Thyme Care


Light


Thyme plants thrive best in full sunlight due to their Mediterranean origins. Plant them in a sunny, exposed spot in your garden, or in decorative planters that can be moved around throughout the day to chase the light. If you're growing a thyme plant indoors, place it on a sunny windowsill or, even better, in a room that catches a lot of rays throughout the day, such as a sunroom.


Soil


The worse your soil is, the better your thyme plant may grow. The easy-going herb prefers sandy or loamy soil instead of moist soil, and can even thrive in rocky gravel. Thyme grows quickly, so space your plants at least 12-24 inches apart from each other when adding to your garden. If you're planting in a pot instead, choose a larger vessel to allow the thyme to grow into it. Opting for a clay pot is also helpful, as it can wick away additional moisture from the soil and help create the right environment for your thyme. No matter what, make sure your soil is well-draining, as thyme is temperamental about wet feet.


Water


To properly nurture your thyme plant, water established plants only occasionally—every other week or even once a month should suffice, depending on your outdoor climate. You should wait until the soil is completely dry, then water to saturation, then allow it to dry out again. Thyme is also drought-resistant, so don't fret if you go an extra few days without giving it water. However, pamper young plants a bit more, checking water more frequently until roots are well established.


Temperature and Humidity


Thyme plants have no special needs when it comes to temperature and humidity and can thrive through most months of the year until there is frost (at which point they will go dormant for the winter). Their largest period of growth is throughout the summer months—this is also when you'll notice their flowers in bloom, which will attract bees and various other insects. However, thyme needs good air circulation, especially in warm, humid climates, to avoid fungal diseases. Space plants well to ensure good airflow.


Fertilizer


Treat thyme plants each spring with a diluted all-purpose fertilizer. Keeping the fertilizer at half-strength will keep the plant from producing too much foliage, which can dilute its fragrant oils.


Harvesting

  • Harvest thyme just before the plant flowers by cutting off the top five to six inches of growth. Leave the tough, woody parts.

  • It’s best to harvest thyme in morning after the dew has dried. Clean leaves should not be washed, because it removes some of the essential oils.

  • Two or more crops may be gathered during the season.

  • Or, if you keep trimming your thyme plant, it will keep growing (and also keep a compact shape). But always leave at least five inches of growth so plant will continue to thrive.

  • Trim thyme whenever it gets leggy.

  • Fresh thyme should be stored refrigerated and wrapped lightly in plastic; it should last one to two weeks

  • To dry thyme, hang the sprigs in a dark, well-ventilated, warm area. You can also just dry the leaves by placing them on a tray. Once dried, store them in an airtight container. Crush just before using. Under good conditions herbs, will retain maximum flavor for two years.

  • Freezing is another method of storage.


Propagating Thyme


Thyme is rather difficult to propagate from seeds, so the more common method is to take stem cuttings and root them.


Clip off a stem tip that is about 3 inches in length—preferably one that is well established but not too woody. The stems should have plenty of new green growth, but the lower part of the stem can be more mature.


Remove all but two or three sets of leaves. You can use a rooting hormone to help boost success if you prefer, but it's not necessary. Plant the cutting in a container filled with ordinary potting soil mixed with sand or perlite. Do not cover the pot with a bag, as thyme needs good airflow.


Set the container in a location with bright indirect light and keep the soil moist until new growth begins. After six weeks or so, the cutting will develop a root system sufficient enough to allow it to be transplanted into a larger container or into the garden.


Pests and Plant Diseases


Thyme has no serious problems, but it can develop root rot if planted into soil that holds too much moisture. Avoid planting thyme in soil that is too dense or too rich.


Benefits of Thyme


Helps improve eyesight


Thyme oil is rich in Vitamin A, which is a fat-soluble vitamin and an antioxidant. It is essential for promoting and maintaining a healthy mucus membranes and skin. Thus, thyme helps promote better vision. Consume thyme tea or use oil its for dry eye problem.


Thyme treats colds, coughs and sore throat


Thyme herb has antiseptic and antibiotic properties, making it a great remedy for colds and coughs. Thyme is also used in the treatment of bronchitis. Thyme oil is one of the strongest natural antimicrobials, which is why it is used extensively in the treatment of sore throats. Its carvacrol content is a major reason why it’s one of the top essential oils for sore throat relief.


Thyme for acne and scars problems


Thyme has excellent antibacterial properties, which is why it is very effective in fighting off acne-causing bacteria. Thyme helps in maintaining skin health by eliminating the bacteria that is responsible for causing various skin problems. Thyme essential oil can be diluted with water and used as a toner to tighten mature skin.


Thyme promotes hair growth


Delivery of nutrients to the hair follicles is vital for hair growth. Thyme helps with hair growth by improving blood circulation to the scalp. Applying thyme essential oil, or a mixture containing thyme in it helps facilitate delivery of essential nutrients to the scalp, thus encouraging hair growth.

Thyme oil also prevents hairfall and thinning of hair, and is also effective in the treatment of dandruff, due to its antibacterial properties.


Thyme treat respiratory disorders


The antiseptic and antibiotic properties of thyme plant make it an effective remedy for respiratory conditions like coughs and bronchitis as well as cold and sore throat. Thyme has been proven to be very effective in treating bronchitis.


Thyme keeps your bones healthy


Thyme is an excellent source of Vitamin K and a great source of iron, calcium and manganese.

These minerals of thyme play a crucial role in bone health, promoting proper bone growth and development, and reducing the risk of bone disorders. Thus, thyme helps in sustaining powerful, healthy bones and preventing bone diseases.


Thyme prevent cardiovascular disease


The combination of thyme’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties helps in the prevention of chronic inflammation, which is the primary cause of cardiovascular diseases. Thyme oil, in particular, is known for its anti-spasmodic properties, which subsequently promotes cardiac health. It enables proper functioning of the cardiac valves and relaxes the veins and arteries, reducing blood pressure and strengthening the heart.


Thyme helps in controlling blood pressure


Thyme leaves are rich in potassium, which is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps in controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Thyme extracts have also been known to help reduce blood pressure in situations involving hypertension.


Thyme treats muscle cramps


Thyme has excellent anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it very effective in the treatment of menstrual cramps, and any other forms of spasms in the body. Thyme tea has often been recommended in the treatment of PMS in women.


Thyme has excellent anti-bacterial properties


Thyme has anti-bacterial properties, which is why it is often used to fight infections and diseases caused by bacteria and fungi, for example, E.coli. Studies have found that thyme essential oil has the power to fight against antibiotic resistant strains of different types of bacteria. It can kill off bacteria both inside and outside the body. Additionally, thyme tea is also used for disinfecting skin and other surfaces.


Thyme herb for anemia


Thyme is a very good source of iron. Iron is vital for the growth and development of red blood cells in the body. Since iron deficiency can cause anemia, incorporating thyme in your daily diet can help prevent anemia.


Uses


Fresh thyme leaves are mostly used for cooking purposes, as well as for making teas. Thyme is also often used for protection against insects by placing the thyme leaves between layers of linen, to prevent the fabric from insect attacks. Thyme oil has a wide range of uses, for example, as an ingredient in deodorants and scented soaps.


Thyme works very well as an antiseptic, and has also often been used in meat and vegetable preservation. While the fresh leaves of thyme are edible, the essential oil that is extracted from it is not, and when used on the skin, it should always be diluted with a carrier oil, or water.


For medicinal purposes, thyme is used in the prevention and treatment of diseases such as diarrhea, stomach ache, colic, sore throat, whooping cough and arthritis. It is also often used as a diuretic.

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