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While thyme can be grown to add color to your garden, most folks plant thyme to use as an herb for cooking. This tough and rugged perennial often forms dense mats of foliage that are topped with attractive blossoms. There are also some wonderful filler varieties that can be planted between rocks and paths, and some varieties can even be used as a lawn substitute. Consider planting thyme near paths, they release a delightful fragrance when brushed. Many cooks plant thyme near the kitchen so they can easily snip a stem or two when cooking.
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Under 6 inches to 12 inches
Up to 18 inches
Blossoms of the thyme plant come in many colors such as white, pink, and even red. The small blossoms are much loved by honeybees and other pollinators, so plant thyme near fruit and vegetable plants to maximize pollinator activity. While their flowers are attractive, thyme is grown for its foliage. Typically green, the foliage can also come in shades of gold, silver and gray. There are also some ornamental varieties that are grown for their fuzzy and wooly foliage.
Thyme Care Must-Knows
This tough Mediterranean herb is native to areas with rocky, poor soil and needs extremely well-drained soil to thrive because it is prone to rot in soil that is too moist. Once established, thyme is a drought-tolerant plant and will not require much supplemental watering. Because thyme prefers dry conditions, it makes a superb choice for a rock or container garden.
In order to grow the most impressive thyme plant, be sure to plant it in full sun, which creates the most intense flavor. As your thyme grows, some rejuvenating pruning will be needed as the plant becomes woody with age. This pruning can be done after it blooms: Cut it back by about 1/3 to encourage a new flush of fresh growth.
The best time to harvest thyme is in the morning, just after the dew has dried. When using thyme in dishes, it is best to use only the leaves because the stems are generally too woody and tough.
If you are planning on drying thyme for use in winter months, it is best to cut and hang the stems upside down in small bunches. Dry thyme in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area; throughout the drying process check on plants and ensure they are fully dry. Then store it in an airtight container.
More Varieties of Thyme
Thymus praecox is a low-growing creeping thyme that resembles wooly thyme with greener foliage. It grows 2-3 inches tall and 8-12 inches wide. It requires full sun and excellent drainage to perform well in the garden. In late spring, it is covered with hot pink blooms that age to soft pink. Zones 4-9.
This variety of Thymus forms a tight mat of fine foliage that tolerates occasional foot traffic, making it a perfect solution for planting between flagstones. It grows just 1-2 inches tall and gradually spreads to 8-12 inches wide. Lilac-purple flowers are produced in early summer. Zones 4-9.