Thyme, a taste of French Provence

White-flowered thyme blooming

Thyme is both a cute little perennial and a fabulous herb.

Top Thyme facts

Family – Lamiaceae
Type – condiment

Height – 8 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – light, well-drained

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – spring

Harvest – January to December

Pruning and caring for it help ensure that your thyme grows well.

Sowing and planting thyme

It is possible to sow thyme from seeds, and to plant it from young plants purchased in nursery pots. Since it is resilient to drought and resists heat, it is very easy to grow.

Sowing thyme

To prepare seedlings, you must sow in a nursery in spring.

  • First of all, sow your thyme seeds with special seedling soil mix.
  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil mix.
  • After that, sprinkle water over lightly to keep the substrate a bit moist.
  • Sprouting usually happens 2 to 3 weeks after sowing.
  • Finally, you can transplant the seedlings in the ground 5 to 6 weeks after sprouting.

How to plant thyme

Once the young plants are well developed, or if you’ve purchased young plants directly in nursery pots, transplant them ideally in spring, preferably in light and well-draining soil.

  • Most important to remember is that thyme needs sun to develop well.
  • It can tolerate any type of soil, even rocky and poor soil.
  • Regular watering is recommended during the first year after planting, but not too much and only if it doesn’t rain.

Multiplying thyme

Thyme can be propagated through crown division at the beginning of spring. This technique helps boost thyme production, and it also serves to regenerate old bunches.

Pruning and caring for thyme

Thyme is a plant that is easy to grow and care for.

You can cut stems off your thyme whenever you need some all year round.

It is best to cut stems from recent growth to stimulate appearance of new shoots.
It is best to select the younger stems and collect them in the morning before dawn, which is when flavors are most concentrated.

  • Remove dead branches at the beginning of spring.

Help your slow-growing thyme by weeding around it to stifle out competition.

To maintain its dense, compact shape, wait for the end of the blooming season to prune it delicately.

However, if you are growing thyme in order to harvest it, it is best to prune it before flowering.

Diseases and parasites that attack thyme

Very resistant to virtually all diseases, thyme’s main enemy is a type of fungus that makes it rot.

  • Thyme starts to whither and dies off, starting with the roots.

Thyme is generally an excellent companion plant in the vegetable patch, where it tends to fend off fungus and insects. For instance, it repels “large white“, the butterfly responsible for devastating cabbage harvests.

Species and varieties of thyme

There are over 350 species of thyme! Thymus x citriodorus is much appreciated for its lemon-like smell.

Certain varieties are favored for their gold, mottled or silver colored leaves.

Keeping thyme

Harvesting thyme

Thyme can be harvested all year long, but its flavors are most concentrated when it is blooming.

Its flowers are always a welcome decoration in summer dishes and salads.

  • Avoid cutting the stem at its base.
  • It is best to harvest thyme from soft wood that is still green.

Keeping thyme

There are two ways to keep it. It’s possible to either dry the leaves or store them in a freezer.

In the first case, place collected stems in a dry and ventilated place until they are completely dry. After that, they can be ground and kept in a jar for several months.

Freezing has the advantage of preserving their flavor, and thyme can keep this way for several months.

Learn more about thyme

Native to the Mediterranean area, thyme is very fragrant and is famous for seasoning grilled meat and fish.

It is often used in infusions for its digestion-supporting properties, and also in cooking to flavor sauces and soups.

It is a rather hardy plant that resists temperatures below freezing and diseases very well.

Thyme, with scientific name Thymus officinalis, has certain beneficial medicinal properties, for example it eases digestion and relaxes the body.

Smart tip about thyme

No need to water, thyme will be perfectly happy with poor and dry soil. It grows naturally in desolate arid places.

Thyme shrub in full growth

Thyme on social media

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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Thyme with bee (also on social media) by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work
Thyme in great health by photosforyou under Pixabay license
Carpet of blooming thyme (also on social media) by Shonna Clark under license