Thyme: planting, growing, caring for and harvesting

The common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a sub-shrub that forms a tuft not exceeding 30 cm in height. This aromatic plant and condiment from the family of Lamiaceae Grows very well in the garden as well as in pots, provided that a particularly sunny and warm place is reserved for it. Widely used in cooking, thyme is also a medicinal plant. It would therefore be a real shame to do without it, especially since it is harvested throughout the year … And the icing on the cake, because of its powerful fragrance, it repels certain unwanted insects and at the same time protects many plants. Let’s take a look at growing thyme and the low maintenance it needs.

Plant thyme

Planting takes place as soon as it is hot enough. So there is no need to rush, especially if you live in an area where frosts and heavy rains are quite frequent. in spring. Planting thyme is very easy since it suffices:

  • To dig a small hole in a well-drained and very light soil, even stony because it is satisfied with any type of soil.
  • To sink the thyme plant only a few centimeters, without hurting the roots.
  • To fill with earth.
  • To water.

In its natural environment, thyme flowers from the beginning of March, but if it is grown in the garden, flowering is much later since it only takes place between May and July. The small thyme flowers are white to pink or purple in color. They give birth to seeds which, carried away by the wind, reseed themselves spontaneously. The germination power of thyme seeds is relatively long, in the order of 30 to 36 months.

It is therefore possible to sow thyme from one foot, by simply covering the seeds with a little fine, light soil, whether in a pot or in the garden. For seeds sown in pots, it is necessary transplant the seedlings which have three or four leaves, in place, about twenty centimeters apart or in pots or a planter.

Growing thyme

Thyme likes light soils, poor even stony, dry, and necessarily well drained because it hates having the roots in water. Rustic, it supports without flinching very chilly temperatures, of the order of -14 ° C, provided the soil is dry.

Thyme can be installed anywhere, in a rock garden, in the vegetable garden, in the orchard under fruit trees, in a bed reserved for aromatic herbs or even in flower beds and beds of flowering plants. In a pot or planter, it is installed on the terrace, balcony or window sill. The condition to be respected is that there very hot. We therefore opt for a very sunny situation and if possible a southern exposure.

Maintain the thyme

Renowned for its ease of cultivation due to the fact that it is satisfied with very little care, it must nevertheless be admitted that thyme is quite temperamental, especially in terms of watering. You can leave it to reseed itself in a rockery for example, and only think of it when you want to remove a few branches to decorate a cooking recipe … Some gardeners only succeed with thyme in pots. If this is the only solution to always have it on hand, why not!

It is indeed quite difficult to successfully cultivate thyme in the ground in clay soil which is very cold and humid in winter and retains excess water in spring then becomes dry and too hard in summer … Under these conditions, we are content to install the thyme in a pot in a light substrate, or else we modify the structure of the earth by adding a shovelful of sand and / or gravel and pebbles.


We recommend watering the thyme moderately but regularly if it is very dry. during the first year after planting. Once the plant is well rooted and sufficiently robust, watering is no longer absolutely essential except in the event of severe drought.

Thyme in a pot, placed on the window sill of the kitchen exposed to direct sunlight, needs moderate watering and it is important not to leave a saucer under the pot.


Common thyme forms a clump quite quickly. Its branches of at least 12 months are more and more twisted with time. As to stems of the year they are herbaceous. Its evergreen foliage is made up of tiny aromatic gray-green leaves with silver reflections. You just have to crumple them between your fingers to appreciate all the evocative scent of Provence.

Warning, you never cut the old thyme wood, that is, old branches that strangely resemble trunks, as this compromises the formation of new shoots. We therefore only prune the young stems of the year. This keeps the compact shape of the sub-shrub and eliminates dead wood if necessary.

You have to have a light hand and only carry out one annual pruning, after flowering. We avoid severe pruning. If you want to see the thyme plants multiply spontaneously in the garden, you can wait until the seeds have had time to disperse, knowing however that you do not prune the thyme in autumn or winter.


To avoid competition, it is necessary to hoe under the thyme in order to regularly eliminate weeds and decompact the soil.

Parasites and diseases

Insensitive to pests and diseases, thyme especially fears excess humidity which causes root rot and promotes the occurrence of fungal diseases.

Harvest the thyme

What a pleasure to harvest a few branches of farigoule (this is how thyme is called in the garrigue)… There is no particular period for picking, but it is more aromatic during flowering. It is also preferable to pick it at this time (around June, therefore) if you want to keep the thyme for several months.

It is advisable to bring a shears and cut only half their length young twigs the most vigorous, which are then grouped into bouquets to hang in a cool and dry place. Air-dried or oven-dried thyme at a maximum of 50 ° C can also be stored in a wooden box or jar. Finally, just after harvest, a few twigs of fresh thyme can be immersed in olive oil where they will macerate. A deliciously scented oil is thus obtained.