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How to Grow a Thyme Plant Indoors (Step-by-Step Guide)

Lovely little evergreen leaves of the thyme plant

Introducing the Thyme Plant!

Thymus vulgaris, or better known as garden thyme or common thyme, is one of those essential herbs that nearly every cook will have in their pantry or herb garden.

Part of the lamiaceae (mint) botanical family, thyme is one of the easiest herbs to cultivate either indoors or outdoors. They have a super long standing history in culinary practices, medicinal practices, and in ornamental gardens too!

Every gardener should know how to grow thyme indoors so that they can have this essential fresh herb on hand at any time. It can easily be grown alongside lemon balm, chives, basil, and oregano. Read on to learn all you need to know about growing thyme!

What do Thyme Plants Look Like?

Thyme is a low growing perennial herb. It grows on woody and upright stems that only grow to be 6-12 inches in height depending on the variety or the growing location.

These woody stems are going to be covered in those characteristic thyme leaves. Thyme leaves are evergreen, meaning that they will remain green and persist on the plant all year long (before they are harvested that is!) why is part of the reason why they’re also planted ornamentally.

Tiny leaves that are gray/green will be accompanied by tiny flowers that are tubular in shape and appear in spring and summer. Flowers are going to be either white, pink, or lavender, and attract all sorts of beneficial insects to the area.

How is Thyme Used?

Wooden spoon filled with thyme sitting next to thyme oil

Culinary – both fresh thyme and dried thyme are likely to be present in nearly all kitchens across the world depending on the culture and cooking practices.

Thyme is an essential herb that is known for having a delicate aroma and gentle grassy spice to it. Thyme is very often used in savory dishes to help bring a level of freshness and robustness of flavor.

One of the great things about growing herbs indoors is easy access to fresh herbs. An indoor herb garden is not complete without parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!

Medicinal – not everyone knows this, but thyme is also a great natural remedy for certain issues! It is known for having natural compounds called biocides which destroy harmful bacteria.

Thyme is known for being antibacterial, insecticidal, and antifungal, and can help skin issues like acne, it can help with high blood pressure and it’s even known to help prevent certain types of cancers! What!

Historical – thyme is believed to have first been cultivated by humans in Ancient Egypt and used for embalming, it was used in bundles for burning along with other herbs, and used to add a fresh scent to baths as well. In Medieval times it was placed under pillows to ward off nightmares.

Ornamental – gardeners also like to plant thyme for ornamental purposes! Though they do hold place in an herb garden, the fact that they are evergreen, they’re drought tolerant, and they have flowers that attract pollinators means they’re all around great ornamental plant, too.

Companion Planting – another great part about planting thyme is the fact that it makes a great companion plant. Plants with fragrant foliage do a great job of repelling pesky pests both large and small, and attracting beneficial insects instead!

Where does Thyme Come From?

Thyme is originally a Mediterranean herb but has become naturalized in regions with similar climates all around the world, and they can exist happily outdoors in USDA growing zones 2 through 10!

When growing wild thyme can be found mostly in locations that are sunny with well draining soil, which is mostly in mountain highlands and dry slopes. They are superbly drought tolerant and can also handle deep freezes and winter weather with ease.

How do you Grow Thyme Indoors?

Small white pot holding a young growing thyme plant

Now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for: growing thyme indoors! Don’t be intimidated, growing thyme can easily be done 3 different ways: by sowing seed, growing cuttings, or by dividing root sections of an existing plant.

Whichever method you choose, just know that thyme wants to grow. It is one of the easiest herbs to propagate. There are a few things that you will need to get started:

  1. potting mix
  2. clay planter
  3. thyme seeds/cuttings
  4. liquid fertilizer
  5. grow lights (potentially)

Soil Type – there is a specific type of soil that will help a thyme plant perform it’s absolute best, and it is essential that the soil type is very well draining.

The best potting mix for a thyme plant is going to be potting soil, sand, peat moss, and perlite. This is because the sand and perlite helps with drainage, and the peat moss achieves the right level of acidity.

Potting – the best type of pot for thyme is going to be terracotta. This is because a terracotta pot has excellent drainage qualities (often with a drainage hole in the bottom) which ensures that the soil will be able to dry out all the way between waterings.

Thyme will also need to given a bigger pot as the plant grows, and this plant grows quickly. It will usually grow out of its pot every 2/3 seasons. You’ll be able to tell that it’s time once the roots start to poke out of the drainage hole.

Watering – watering a thyme plant is very simple. Though it is very drought tolerant, it is not at all tolerant to having wet feet as this can quickly turn into root rot. So always remember, under watering is better than over watering.

Simply allow the soil to dry out completely before watering your plant again. To check the soil moisture, just dip your finger in to see the moisture level a couple of inches below the surface. To keep soil moist but not wet, use a gentle watering can.

Fertilizer – since thyme is used to living in pretty poor soil in the wild, it by no means needs to be fertilized if it is living on your windowsill.

That being said, some gardeners have noticed that it responds quite well to a diluted fish fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season and again every 2 weeks during its growing season.

Sun Exposure – thyme is a sun loving creature and will perform its absolute best in a full sun exposure location (after all, it is a Mediterranean herb).

If you happen to have a south facing window with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, the plant will be happy there. If you don’t have this type of exposure, you will need to purchase a grow light.

Place your grow light a good 5 inches above the top of the thyme plant and set the timer for around 10 hours every day. This should be equivalent to 6 hours of bright light from the sun.

Harvesting – thyme is a pretty robust plant, so harvesting thyme can happen at pretty much any time of year. You can harvest thyme by snipping away an entire stem, since the leaves are so tiny.

Windowsill herb garden holidng thyme rosemary sage and parsley

FAQs

Are thyme plants deer resistant?

Thyme plants are wonderful for the fact that they are resistant to grazing from larger pests like deer, rabbits, and squirrels, because of its very fragrant foliage.

What are the damaging agents to thyme plants?

Thyme plants are rather susceptible to root rot, so always remember not to over water your plant.

Are thyme plants perennials?

Thyme is a perennial herb, meaning that it will grow and continue to produce flower blossoms year after year as long as their ideal growing conditions are met and maintained.

What is lemon thyme?

Lemon thyme (thymus citriodorus) is a species of thyme is an evergreen plant with a mat forming growth habit. This type of plant differs from common thyme in the way that the foliage has a unique lemon-citrus flavor and scent to it.

What USDA growing zone can thyme plants grow in?

Thyme is originally a Mediterranean herb but has become naturalized in regions with similar climates all around the world, and they can exist happily outdoors in USDA growing zones 2 through 10!

When growing wild thyme can be found mostly in locations that are sunny with well draining soil, which is mostly in mountain highlands and dry slopes. They are superbly drought tolerant and can also handle deep freezes and winter weather with ease.

How often should a thyme plant be watered?

Watering a thyme plant is very simple. Though it is very drought tolerant, it is not at all tolerant to having wet feet as this can quickly turn into root rot. So always remember, under watering is better than over watering.

Simply allow the soil to dry out completely before watering your plant again. To check the soil moisture, just dip your finger in to see the moisture level a couple of inches below the surface. To keep soil moist but not wet, use a gentle watering can.

Should a thyme plant be pruned?

The way to prune a thyme plant is to basically harvest it. Thyme is a pretty robust plant, so harvesting thyme can happen at pretty much any time of year. You can harvest thyme by snipping away an entire stem, since the leaves are so tiny.

Can thyme be grown in a container?

If you are looking to grow mint as an indoor plant alongside another herb plant, pick some perennial herbs like lemon balm, basil, oregano, and chives! All of these herbs are great at growing indoors and can be perfectly happy in a large container.

Do thyme plants prefer full sun or partial shade?

Thyme is a sun loving creature and will perform its absolute best in a full sun exposure location (after all, it is a Mediterranean herb).

If you happen to have a south facing window with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, the plant will be happy there. If you don’t have this type of exposure, you will need to purchase a grow light.

Place your grow light a good 5 inches above the top of the thyme plant and set the timer for around 10 hours every day. This should be equivalent to 6 hours of bright light from the sun.

Where can I buy thyme seeds?

Thyme seeds can easily be found in any garden centre or nursery, or you can order them online.

What is the ideal soil type for a thyme plant?

There is a specific type of soil that will help a thyme plant perform it’s absolute best, and it is essential that the soil type is very well draining.

The best potting mix for a thyme plant is going to be potting soil, sand, peat moss, and perlite. This is because the sand and perlite helps with drainage, and the peat moss achieves the right level of acidity.

What is the easiest way to propagate a thyme plant?

Thyme plants can easily be intimidated either through sowing seed, planting cuttings, or by dividing an existing plant into different pots.

How tall do thyme plants get?

Thyme is a low growing perennial herb. It grows on woody and upright stems that only grow to be 6-12 inches in height depending on the variety or the growing location.