Thyme - Thymus vulgaris

Thymus general characteristics

Thyme is an extremely widespread perennial aromatic plant. It grows spontaneously in different Mediterranean countries or is cultivated in the garden or in the garden very easily. It prefers light, calcareous and well-drained, or even arid and rocky soils, and a warm and sunny climate, but can withstand even harsh temperatures for short periods.
Thyme belongs to the Lamiaceae family, such as basil, mint or lavender. It is a perennial shrub that forms dense and compact bushes, and can reach 20-30 cm in height. The stems are thin, woody and fragile, and the persistent leaves are narrow, elongated and very fragrant, with a more or less intense green color and gray shades.
It blooms from May to July, depending on the species. The flowers are a pinkish white color, and very rich in nectar, so they are extremely sought after by bees. In fact, the thyme is a melliferous plant, and the thyme honey is very valuable.


Thymus vulgaris comes from the Mediterranean area. It is an aromatic plant with spontaneous growth both in the flat lands and in the mountainous areas of the Mediterranean area.
It is an aromatic plant with very fragrant leaves, very used in cooking, especially for flavoring stewed meat and fish. During the winter the thyme completely loses its leaves.
It is a perennial variety that reaches 40/50 cm and forms bushes quite thick and compact.
It has narrow, green lance-shaped leaves with gray shades that are covered with down. In the spring and summer seasons it has a prolonged flowering of white flowers with pink shades.

The thyme in a nutshell


Gender Thymus
Type of plant Aromatic and medicinal
Origin Mediterranean area
leaves persistent
Habit Bushy, slightly prostrate
Use Balcony or terrace, ground cover, rock garden, driveway borders
Height at maturity From 20 to 30 cm
Growth rate Average
Diseases and pests Root rot
Temperature It prefers warm, but also resists the harsh climate for short periods

Timo variety

Thyme is a genus that has about 350 species. In addition to common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), we quote the thyme citriodorus, much loved for its characteristic lemon scent, and the thyme serpyllum also known as serpillo, wild thyme or cedar thyme.


All varieties of thyme enjoy exposure to sunlight throughout the year. Thymus vulgaris is a rustic plant that grows more luxuriantly in temperate climate areas. Given its rusticity, it can also withstand periods of short duration in which there are rather harsh temperatures, even up to -15 ° C. If the harsh climate lasts longer, it is necessary to cover the Thymus vulgaris plants with a protective cloth, or, if they are grown in pots, they should be transferred to a protected place.
Thyme is a plant that loves the sun, but also bears cold temperatures, and can withstand short periods at temperatures of -10o / -150 degrees.


For better growth, the thymus needs rich, dry and well-drained soils with a predominance of limestone. Being a rustic variety, however, it can easily develop even when the soil does not have ideal characteristics.
It does not need particular watering, even if it grows more vigorously if they are regular, with the foresight, however, to verify that the soil allows the correct drainage and does not allow the formation of water stagnations that can compromise the health of this kind of plant. The excessive humidity, in fact, can cause radical rot and serious health problems of this kind of plant.

How to grow thyme

In pots, in planters or in the open ground, the thyme is transplanted in spring: choose a sunny position and water regularly, without exaggerating.
If you grow it in pots, mix it with the compost and sand soil. At the bottom of the pot put some gravel to favor the outflow of water, place the soil prepared previously on the gravel and rest the plant on it. Fill the jar with earth and water a little. Place the vase in a sunny position.
If you plant it in the ground, put the plants at a distance of 20-30 cm from each other, press the soil around the plants and water without soaking the soil, as the thyme does not like the stagnation of water. Planting thyme in the vegetable garden is very useful as it keeps pests and pests away.
Thyme needs no treatment: it can withstand both heat and cold, and only fears too much moisture. But it is advisable to eliminate the weeds that would threaten the plant, and the dry or damaged twigs to avoid the spread of diseases.
Especially in cold and wet climates, plants must be renewed periodically (every 3-4 years) to prevent them from becoming woody, and the leaves lose their typical aroma.

Thyme cultivation


Maintenance Simple
Exposure In full sun all year
Ground Light, poor and well drained
Cleaning / Pruning Spring
Water needs poor
Soil moisture Not tolerated
Composting Very limited or absent
Multiplication Seed, cutting, division of the heads

Pests and diseases

This type of plant may be subject to attack by pests and diseases, but given the use made of it, which appears to be culinary, it is not advisable to intervene in any way with the use of insecticidal chemicals that would compromise the healthiness of the plant. It is more convenient, given the low cost of the seedlings, to proceed with their replacement. It is good to pay attention to the onset of radical rots, which are caused by the excessive presence of water or humidity.
Thyme is a resistant plant and not subject to disease. The main enemy is a fungus that causes the plant to die: at first the roots are damaged, as the plant withers and eventually dies. To prevent the roots from rotting, add to the soil of the gravel whether you plant it in a vase or in the ground.
In case of illness it is however advisable not to use insecticides or chemical products that would make the leaves and flowers of thyme inedible.


To obtain new thyme specimens it is possible to proceed by dividing the tufts (in spring), by cutting (in May-June) or by seed (in March-April).
Proceeding with sowing there is the disadvantage of not knowing whether the new specimens will have the same genetic characteristics as the mother plant, given the high variability of the components involved; this does not occur with reproduction by cuttings or division of the tufts.
This aromatic plant is planted in October or March.


Both the flowering tops and the leaves are harvested of these plants.
the branches of thyme can be harvested from spring to autumn. They can also be stored dried. Thyme plants are not very long-lived, and must be replaced every 3-4 years.
During the first year it is good to proceed with caution with the harvest, to avoid weakening the plant too much.
Harvesting can take place at any time of the year, as required. But before flowering or at the beginning of flowering, the ends of the twigs and leaves are more fragrant.
Cutting the twigs will contribute to regrowth and make the bush denser and thicker. The twigs should not be cut low, but 5 cm from the ground in the morning.
After collecting them, tie them into bunches.

The thyme calendar


March, April, May, September, October
Planting March April
Flowering March, April, May, June, July, August
Collection March, April, May, June, September

Thyme citriodorus, lemon thyme or citrus

Thyme citriodorus is a small shrub that can reach 30 cm in height. It has oval leaves, larger than the other species, and rich in essential oils that give this plant a pleasant lemon fragrance. The leaves are characterized by yellow or green shades depending on the hybrid species.
It adapts to any soil, provided it is well drained since it does not tolerate water stagnation. The thyme plant must be placed in a sunny place and sheltered from the cold in winter because it fears frost.
The flowering thyme or the leaves harvested before the beginning of flowering are used for the lemon thyme. Due to the intense lemon flavor it is suitable for flavoring meat, fish or salad dishes, but it is also used to season vegetables.
Infusions are made with dried leaves and flowers against coughs, colds and digestive problems.

Thyme serpyllum, serpillo or wild thyme

Thymus serpyllum is a variety that resists even in areas with cold climate. Very common in the countryside, in meadows or pastures, or in the mountains; it grows spontaneously even on arid and calcareous soils, or on low walls and rocks up to 2500 m. Unlike other species, it manages to survive in damp soils.
It has a creeping habit and rarely exceeds 10/15 cm in height. The leaves are oval and thin, and have an intense green color.
The snake flowers repeatedly from June to September, and the purple flowers transform the bush into a colored cloud that almost completely covers the dark green leaves.
The flowering thyme is also used for wild thyme, which must be harvested on dry and sunny days. While the leaves must be harvested before flowering.
The scent of the snake is less intense than the common thyme, and for this reason it is often preferred in the kitchen to season meat, fish and legume dishes.


The thyme plant does not need frequent watering, but in the hottest periods it can be watered regularly. Always check the humidity of the soil and avoid water stagnation, which could jeopardize the survival of the plant due to radical rot. Therefore, water only if the soil is dry, and in winter reduce watering to a minimum, especially in areas where sunny days are rare.

Thyme fertilization

Fertilization is not necessary, since the thymus loves poor soil. Above all, it is not recommended to supply fertilizer in the summer. To promote growth it is possible to administer slow release fertilizer at the beginning of spring.

Pruning of Thyme

For the thyme it is not correct to speak of a pruning operation proper, but only of elimination of all the ruined and dry branches at the beginning of spring.
It is also possible to shorten the twigs to preserve the compact appearance and favor the development of new branches and new leaves. It is advisable to shorten the stems at the time of flowering: recover the twigs to preserve them and use them in the kitchen.

Propagate Thyme

Thymus propagation can take place by seed, by cuttings or by division of the tufts.
By seed
Seed reproduction takes place in spring (in March if it is sown indoors and in May outside). Prepare the soil with sand, arrange the seeds and cover with a little soil as the seeds need light. Water lightly with a nebulizer only to keep the soil moist. You will see the first seedlings tick after two or three weeks, but you will have to wait at least five or six weeks before planting them.
For cutting
The reproduction by cutting can be carried out in the period April-May, in August or in September-October. For the cuttings, branches already lignified that can be planted directly or after having them rooted in a vase are taken.
By division
At the beginning of spring or autumn, choose a wide bush and divide it with a hoe paying attention to the roots. After having taken a part of the head, gently water the roots in order to compact the earth and promote regrowth. Perform the normal planting of the new plant and water it regularly.

Tips for storing thyme

Thyme can be stored dried or frozen. If you prefer to dry it, after having collected it, rinse it to remove the dust, drain it and tie the twigs in bunches. Hang the bunches upside down in a warm, dry and ventilated place, but with little light. When it is dry, store it in a glass jar or in an airtight container. It keeps well for a period of about a year, as the perfume gradually becomes less intense.
Also the freezing allows to preserve unchanged the scent of the thyme, you can arrange to freeze it in small sachets from which it is easier to take the necessary quantity.

Thyme - Thymus vulgaris: Therapeutic use and properties

Thyme can be used leaves and flowers to dress legumes and salads, or grilled meat and fish dishes. Thyme has antiseptic, digestive, depurative, carminative and expectorant properties.
Thyme-based herbal teas are particularly recommended for problems with the upper respiratory tract (cough, sore throat ...).