Thyme – Thymus vulgaris

Common Thyme is one of the most popular kitchen herbs. Not only is it a decorative and attractive plant, but its leaves add a very distinctive flavour to cooking. You can use them all year, fresh, dried or frozen.

Native to the Mediterranean region, Common Thyme is a shrubby perennial and evergreen plant that belongs to a group of over 300 species. Many of them are used in cooking or herbal drinks, and make delightful ground cover for rockeries or patio paving stones.

Common Thyme has tiny dark green leaves and twiggy branches.

Small tubular mauve flowers appear in June.

Growth and size

Thyme is a low-growing rather compact plant. Some species have creeping, spreading growth patterns. In general thyme grows to 23cm (9in).

Colours and varieties Thyme - Thymus vulgaris

There are many different thymes. They vary in leaf texture, colour and fragrance. Flower colours, too, may vary, from pink to mauve, and also white.

Worth growing is Lemon Thyme, Tx. Citriodorus. As its name suggests it has a tangy lemon scent. It has a creeping habit and its leaves are a fresh, bright green.

Also popular is Golden Lemon Thyme, Tx c. ‘Aureus’. Its leaves are bright greenish-gold. Caraway Thyme, T. vulgaris ‘Herba barona’, has bright green leaves that smell of caraway. Wild Thyme, T. praecox arcticus, is a particularly useful mat-forming plant for a rockery or patio.

Display ideas

A collection of thymes makes an attractive feature planted in a container.



1. In spring divide mature plants by prising them apart using 2 handforks.

2. Replant the divisions in a well-drained soil-based compost.


1. In May or June take cuttings 5-8cm (2-3in) long with a heel or spur attached from a lateral stem.

2. Put the cuttings in a small pot of an equal parts mixture of peat and sand. Keep the cut- tings outdoors in a protected position or a cold frame. Plant them up in August or September the following year.

Use the leaves of thyme fresh at any time of year, or harvest them and dry or freeze. Cut sprigs for drying up until the end of August. Place them on trays and keep them in a dry and warm place with good air circulation. Store the dried sprigs in sealed containers.

Freezing thyme

Strip the leaves off the twigs or snip twigs up into small sections. Fill an ice cube tray with the leaves and add water. Place in the freezer. When frozen remove herby ice cubes from the ice tray and keep in a freezer bag. Use in casseroles.

Fresh thyme

Sprigs of fresh thyme are essential for bouquet garni and in many soups and casseroles. Thyme is commonly associated with stuffing for poultry. It is also useful as an addition to savoury scone mixes.

Medicinal Uses

Thyme tea is useful in relieving coughs and colds and, mixed with other herbs, thyme makes a good infusion to drink at bedtime.


This is a very easy plant to grow. It will need very little attention.

  • Potting: Use a soil-based potting compost with up to one-third added coarse sand or grit to improve drainage. Divide large clumps every couple of years and repot in spring, if necessary.
  • Water moderately in summer allowing a little drying out between applications of water. In winter water sparingly, barely moistening the compost.
  • Feeding: Apply a diluted liquid fertlizer once or twice during the spring. Do not feed during winter.


  • Light: Thyme enjoys full sun and will flourish by a sunny window or on a warm patio.
  • Temperature: Indoors your plant will grow well in average room temperatures. Outdoors, on patios, it will survive frost.

Buying Tips

  • Buy thyme in spring from nurseries and garden centres as well as direct or by mail-order from specialist growers.
  • Choose plants with plenty of fresh leafy growth on all stems.
  • Any leggy or spindly plants with bare stems or mats of roots coming out of the base of the pot should be avoided.

Your plant will last for many years, but large clumps should be divided to give them new vigour.

Wild Thyme is very attractive tumbling over the edge of a patio bed. Its flowers can be red, pink or white.

Thyme has long been popular both as a decorative plant and as a useful culinary herb. It can be grown in containers on balconies and patios, outdoors in the garden or in a pot in the kitchen.

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