How to Grow Thyme: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Of the dozens of varieties of thyme that are available, the one most often grown for culinary use is so-called “common” or “English” thyme (Thymus vulgaris).  Thyme is a 15 to 25-centimetre-tall shrubby perennial, hardy to Zone 4. It is grown for its small aromatic leaves used fresh or dried in a wide variety of dishes. Its pink or purple flowers are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Cultivation: Grow thyme from seed or from cuttings in light, very well-drained soil.  Plant in full sun, where it is fairly drought tolerant. It may rot in the winter if grown in poorly drained soil. Thyme can be grown in containers for the summer and brought indoors to a well-lit spot for the winter. Trim the plant in spring and summer to keep it neat and avoid too much woody growth. Mulching in winter is recommended in areas of Ontario with cold winters and little snow cover.

Harvest the entire plant by cutting it to five centimetres from the ground in summer and again at the end of the season. Remove individual sprigs as needed.

Popular varieties include silver thyme (Thymus vulgaris var ‘Argenteus’), with the same flavour as English thyme and attractive silver edged leaves, and lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus), which has a distinctive lemon flavour.

Jamaican Thyme (Plectranthus amboinicus) also known as Broadleaf thyme, is not a true thyme and is not hardy. It has large fleshy lemon-oregano scented leaves that are used in Jamaican dishes. It can be grown in a container with well-drained soil in full sun. Move it indoors when the weather cools.

Disclaimer: Toronto Master Gardeners does not advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. Any information in the recommended resources should be regarded as being for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.

For more information:

National Gardening Association Learning Library https://garden.org/learn/articles/view/1245/

Purdue University https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/med-aro/factsheets/THYME.html

Richters Herbs 1 https://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?product=X6450&show=all&prodclass=&cart_id=6835423.684

Richters Herbs 2 https://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?searchterm=silver+thyme&search_catalogue_button=Go

Richters Herbs 3https://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?product=X6478&show=all&prodclass=&cart_id=6835423.6841

RHS Grow Your Own Herbs: Thyme https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/herbs/thyme

University of Maryland Extension  https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/thyme

University of Nebraska- Lincoln, Nebraska extension in Lincoln county https://lancaster.unl.edu/hort/articles/2011/InsideHerbs.shtml

Date revised: December 2021

Prepared by the Toronto Master Gardeners, these Gardening Guides provide introductory information on a variety of gardening topics.  Toronto Master Gardeners are part of a large, international volunteer community committed to providing the public with horticultural information, education and inspiration.  Our goal is to help Toronto residents use safe, effective, proven and sustainable horticultural practices to create gardens, landscapes and communities that are both vibrant and healthy.

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