Fragrant and delicious, thyme plants make a lovely addition to your herb garden. If you’re wondering how to plant thyme, I’ve put together a straightforward guide to answer all your questions.
From starting thyme seeds to choosing a planting location to how much you should water, this guide has it all. I can’t make any promises, but there may even be a few thyme puns! Let’s get started.
Different Kinds of Thyme
There are two main varieties of thyme:
Common Thyme is used as a culinary herb for cooking and eating and medicinal purposes. Common thyme includes varieties like French Thyme and Winter Thyme. These plants grow 6-12 inches tall and have lots of branches with small leaves that are easy to harvest.
Creeping thyme, also known as wild thyme, is used most often as a ground cover. It only grows 2-3 inches tall and spreads wide with lots of small blooms. The pretty purple or pink flowers attract bees and butterflies.
Creeping thyme can be used in place of grass for your lawn, as an ornamental, or as a walkway between garden beds. It’s also edible and sometimes used medicinally.
Since common thyme is what most people grow in their gardens, this article focuses on how to plant common thyme.
Why Should I Grow Thyme?
Like many herbs, thyme is easy to grow even from seed. Fresh thyme has a wonderful fragrance that is fresh, woodsy, and slightly spicy. The flavor is rich and herbaceous. Thyme leaves make a wonderful addition to many types of recipes.
If that’s not enough reason to start growing thyme, here are some more reasons to give it a try!
Thyme is Perennial
Thyme is perennial in zones 4-9. That means you can leave it outside during the winter, and it will come back again the next spring.
If you’re not sure what zone you live in, you can find out quickly and easily with the USDA plant hardiness zone map. Just type your zip code into the bar at the top of the page to see your color-coded zone.
Perennial herbs like thyme are some of my favorites to grow because you only have to plant them once to get years of fresh herbs.
Thyme is Pollinator Friendly
Bees and butterflies love thyme, especially the creeping varieties that have lots of flowers.
Even culinary thyme blooms annually in late spring to early summer. The flowers are pink, white, and purple with a lovely fragrance.
Most culinary thyme plants won’t bloom until their second season. But since thyme is perennial, it comes back and offers fresh blooms year after year.
Where to Plant Thyme
Thyme can be planted both indoors and outdoors, as long as the location is suitable. If starting thyme indoors, choose a location in a sunny window or use a grow light to make sure your plant has plenty of light.
Thyme needs well-draining soil. It doesn’t tolerate wet soils very well so if your soil is not well-draining, you may want to amend it.
Adding sand, a soil conditioner, or plenty of organic matter like crushed leaves or compost can help improve drainage.
Soil pH should be between 6-8. Thyme prefers soil that is not overly fertile. When planting thyme in containers, choose a potting soil that doesn’t have added fertilizer like Epsoma Organic Potting Mix.
Thyme thrives in full sun. Your plants should get at least 6-8 hours of full sun a day.
If growing indoors, place your thyme plant in a sunny window that gets plenty of direct sunlight during the day. If you don’t have a location that works, you can use a grow light to grow thyme indoors.
Temperature and Humidity
Warm and dry are the best growing conditions for thyme. The plants go dormant during cold winters and may slow down during very hot summers.
Thyme doesn’t love humidity, but you can still grow thyme even if you live in a humid climate. Make sure your plants have good air circulation to keep them healthy and avoid problems like mold.
Once thyme is established, it usually doesn’t require much watering, if at all.
Young seedlings should be kept moist, but older plants are drought-tolerant and can be left to dry out before watering. Once the soil is dry, water thoroughly then allow it to completely dry out before watering again.
Depending on your climate and how much rain you get, this could mean weeks or even months without watering. Didn’t I say growing thyme was easy?
Thyme plants usually don’t need much fertilizer. If you’d like, you can fertilize thyme with a balanced fertilizer like Hoss all-in-one Vegetable Fertilizer once a year at the start of the spring growing season.
Too much fertilizer can lead to excessive growth and diminished flavor so avoid over-fertilizing your thyme plants.
How to Plant Thyme
Planting thyme is simple and rewarding. The time spent pays off (pun intended!) You can start thyme seeds indoors or direct sow them in your garden.
Thyme seedlings can be purchased from a garden center or nursery.
How to Start Thyme Indoors
Starting thyme from seed indoors is a good way to save money and get a head start on the growing season. Seeds are inexpensive and can be planted much sooner indoors than seeds started outdoors.
Starting thyme seeds requires some basic seed-starting equipment. Good equipment can be used over and over again and is well worth the investment if you plan on starting more plants from seed.
If you’re not planning on growing other plants from seed, you can start thyme seeds with just a few basics. At the minimum, you’ll need a container or seed tray, seed starting mix, and seeds. I recommend a good pair of gardening gloves and a spray bottle as well. If you don’t have a sunny window you’ll also need a grow light.
Of course, thyme seeds are the other thing you’ll need and Hoss Tools is known for its high-quality seed selection!
Plant the Seeds
Using gardening gloves and a shovel, fill your seed tray or container with a good seed starting mix. Sprinkle a few thyme seeds on top and cover them by adding more mix to a depth of 1/4 inch. Gently press everything down and water it with a spray bottle.
Thyme seeds are tiny and easily displaced. A spray bottle allows you to add water gently so the seeds aren’t disturbed.
Planting Thyme Seeds Outdoors
Direct sow thyme outdoors in spring or fall. In spring, wait until 2-3 weeks before the last frost. In fall, you can plant thyme all the way up until 8 weeks before the first frost.
Prepare a suitable planting location and direct sow seeds on top of the soil. Using gloves, gently cover the seeds with soil to 1/4 inch depth.
Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist until seeds emerge.
Planting Thyme Seedlings
Whether you started them from seed or purchased them at the store, at some point those little thyme plants need to be moved to their permanent growing location.
Thyme can be planted outdoors in spring 2-3 weeks before the last frost. In summer, high heat can stress young seedlings so it’s best to wait until temperatures cool down a bit.
Moving Seedlings Outdoors
If you started seeds indoors, make sure to harden off the plants before transplanting them to the garden. Most nursery plants are kept outdoors so they’ll be ready to transplant right away.
Choose a suitable location and loosen the soil to a depth twice as deep as the container the plant is currently in. Dig a hole to fit the seedling. Gently remove the plant from its container and place it in the soil, filling in with soil all around the plant. Water thoroughly and you’re done!
Growing Thyme in Containers
Thyme can be grown in containers both indoors and outdoors. Choose a container that is at least 6-8 inches deep so your plant has room to grow.
Fill the container with potting soil, dig a hole for your plant, and gently place it in the container. Fill in around the plant with soil and water thoroughly.
Whether growing indoors or outdoors, make sure your container gets plenty of light!
How to Harvest Thyme
Thyme started from seed will be ready to harvest after 2-3 months.
Use sharp scissors to trim off a few sprigs at a time when you’re ready to use them. If you’d like, you can do a larger pruning to harvest a lot of leaves at once.
Harvesting encourages the plant to continue growing so don’t be shy about harvesting a lot at once! You can preserve large amounts of thyme to use later by drying or freezing.
Planting Thyme is a Must for Your Herb Garden!
With this information on how to plant thyme, you’ll be ready to enjoy fresh and fragrant herbs in no “thyme”. I told you there would be puns!
To learn how to plant more herbs, visit the Seed Starting page on the website. We have growing guides for all kinds of herbs, flowers, and vegetables for your garden.
You’ll also find seed-starting tips and tricks, product recommendations, and much more to help you get an early start and make the most of your garden this year.