Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme is a small, prostrate culinary herb from the Mediterranean and other parts of Europe and is part of the mint family. Its small dark green, oval leaves are widely used in cooking where it is often teamed with tomato. It can also be dried to use year-round.

It is one of the herbs included in a ‘bouquet garni’ along with bay and parsley, which is tied together in. It can be grown in the ground in well-drained soil or in containers such as a pot, trough or even a hanging basket. It grows happily in among paving stones or to edge steps and can spread 1m across. Flowers are seen mainly in summer and are usually pinky purple and are highly attractive to beneficial insects. Plants may die back in areas with cold winters but will resprout in spring.

There are many varieties of thyme available, so check out the local hardware or garden centre for varieties that will suit your garden. If you are unsure of a selection, check with horticultural staff who can give you great advice. Some varieties including:

  • Lemon thyme (T. citriodora), which also comes with lime or orange flavour and has a variegated form.
  • Pizza thyme which is great to sprinkle on a homemade pizza.
  • Caraway thyme (T. herba-barona) which has a strong caraway flavour.

New plants can be grown from division of an established plant, cuttings taken in summer, or seed sown in spring.

Growing conditions

Aspect Thyme needs a bright, sunny location with sun all day. Not only does sun encourage good growth, but also brings out this herb’s aromatic flavour.

Soil Thyme needs good drainage but is not fussy about soil type and thrives in poor soils. If you want to improve the soil apply a no-dig options such as Seasol Liquid Compost. In areas with poor drainage, grow this herb in raised garden beds (raised at least 30cm) or in pots using a premium potting mix such as Seasol Advance Potting Mix.

Climate As thyme grows naturally in the Mediterranean region, it does best in climates with low humidity. In more humid zones it can be short lived.

How to grow and look after thyme for a bumper crop of fragrant thyme

General care

Watering Water while plants are establishing. Once established thyme is drought hardy. Water more frequently if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions or growing in containers.

Feeding and mulching Thyme plants are not heavy feeders so feed plants with a controlled release fertiliser such as PowerFeed Controlled Release All Purpose including Natives every season. They can also be liquid fed monthly with PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives while they are growing.

Mulch around plants with fine gravel or eucalyptus mulch.

Pruning Pick sprigs regularly for cooking to keep plants compact. Its leaves develop their best flavour in spring and summer before flowering. Regular light pruning prolongs leafiness and stops plants becoming woody and unproductive.

Watch out Thyme has few pest problems, but the leaves may occasionally be attacked by caterpillars (remove by hand). Plants in highly humid locations or that are not well drained may die back. Old plants may become woody so replant every four to five years.