When To Plant Thyme: What You Need To Know

Thyme is a hardy herb that many people like to grow in their homes and gardens. It adds lots of flavor to your cooking, and it simply makes your garden look nicer as well.

If you’ve never grown thyme before, you might not know when the best time is to grow it is. When should you plant thyme?

If you’ve never grown thyme before and need some guidance, keep reading.

I’m going to cover everything you need to know to get your thyme planted, growing, and thriving including when to grow thyme, whether you can plant it at other times and tips for planting it so your thyme is as healthy as possible.

Why Grow Thyme?

Most people grow thyme because they like to use it in their cooking. Thyme is one of the most common herbs used in cooking, so it’s simply easiest when you’re growing it in your own garden.

Anyone that cooks frequently will tell you that purchasing herbs on a regular basis can get expensive. Fresh herbs are pricey to begin with, and usually the bunches are too large. You can’t use all the herb before it goes to waste.

When you grow your own herbs, you can prevent this waste and save some money. Many people only harvest thyme when they need it. Thyme is a very easy herb to do this with because it will often continue to grow even throughout winter.

Others will harvest in bulk and then preserve the leftovers. You can freeze fresh thyme for later use. You can also dry it. Either way, you’re saving money and product that you would be wasting by purchasing it at the store.

There are several species of thyme that aren’t used for cooking. Many people purchase these varieties simply because of their aesthetic. In the spring and summer months, these plants will grow white, pink, or purple colored flowers that will add a nice look to any garden.

Thyme plant
Thyme

Thyme: When To Plant

When is the best time to plant thyme?

The best time to plant thyme is in the spring after the last frost of the season. In spring, it is warm, but not scorching hot. There is also more rain, so the herb will get more moisture during this time.

Overall, springtime is just the best answer to when do you plant thyme.

Can You Plant Thyme At Other Times Of The Year?

However, thyme is a very hardy plant, so it can be planted throughout the summer and early fall as well.

Thyme is incredibly cold-hardy, but it doesn’t handle frost well. If you’re going to plant it, just ensure that you do so after the last frost of spring and 3 months before the first frost of fall. 3 months before the first frost will give your thyme plenty of time to grow and establish itself before the cold settles in.

If, instead of planting your thyme outside, you’d rather plant it inside, you can grow your thyme at any time of the year.

Thyme grows best at temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, so growing it inside is often the ideal place to grow it. Many people like growing their herbs inside because they can provide them with ideal conditions year round.

Some people like to start seeds inside, but like to move the seedlings outside later. You may be wondering when to start thyme seeds indoors. It takes seeds about 7-21 days to germinate, so you’ll want to start growing seeds a few weeks before the last predicted frost.

So when to grow time is basically that it can work anytime it’s not frosty.

Will Thyme Survive Winter?

Thyme is a very cold-hardy plant that can survive in USDA hardiness zones 5-9, down to temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Some varieties of thyme can survive in zone 4 as well, down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

For most varieties, if you live below zone 5, you’ll need to bring your thyme inside if you want it to survive. If you live in zone 5, your thyme can survive, but it’s still a good idea to provide it with extra protection to help it get through the winter months.

The best way to protect thyme over winter is to place mulch over the roots. As the temperature begins to drop, you should place 2-3 inches of mulch overtop of the roots. The mulch will help keep the soil warm and will prevent the roots from freezing.

To learn more about protecting your thyme over winter, check out our full article.

How Long Does Thyme Take To Grow?

If you’re growing thyme from a seed, it will take about 7-21 days for the seed to germinate. From there, thyme is a somewhat slow-growing plant.

It will take about a year for the plant to fully establish itself. It grows slowly enough that you can cut it back as it grows so that it won’t overtake your garden.

Tips For Planting Thyme

Thyme is a very hardy herb, and it actually does best when it’s left alone. Of course, thyme needs to be provided for properly, and there are things you can do to help it grow it’s best.

However, too much handling is actually bad for thyme and will cause it to suffer.

Temperature

Thyme is a very hardy plant and can survive in most temperatures. It can even survive in temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit as long as the roots have been given ample protection.

Still, thyme is going to grow best in temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants prefer cooler temperatures, but not temperatures that are overly cold.

Humidity

Similar to temperature, thyme can survive in almost any humidity. Still, thyme grows naturally in places with a warm and dry climate. Because of this, it’s going to grow best in places with low to moderate humidity. Higher humidity may slow down the growth rate.

Water

Thyme is a plant that needs lots of sunlight and well-draining soil. Of course, it needs water to survive, but it won’t do well if you water it too much.

Thyme is very sensitive to overwatering. If you water it too much, the roots may begin to rot. You’ll also notice the plant beginning to turn brown, and you may notice some wilting.

To prevent this, make sure that you only water your thyme when you need to. The soil should be completely dry to the touch before you water it again.

Once the soil has completely dried out, saturate the soil. Then, wait for it to dry out before watering again. This will give your thyme a chance to soak up what water it needs without getting too much water.

Sunlight

One of the most important things you can do for your thyme is ensure that it’s getting enough sunlight. To be happiest, thyme needs full sun for about 6-10 hours a day. If it’s getting less than this, or even more than this, it can suffer and not grow as well as it should.

If you don’t have an area of full sunlight available, it will survive in partial shade as well. You just won’t see as much growth from your plants in partial shade.

Soil

Another extremely important thing to remember about thyme is to have the proper kind of soil. Thyme is used to growing in areas that are dry and warm. So, oddly enough, thyme grows best in less-than-hospitable conditions.

For your thyme to be happy, you’re going to need to provide it with sandy or loamy, well-draining soil. Thyme is so hardy in these harsher conditions that it can even grow in gravel.

On the other hand, if you provide it with moist soil, your thyme is going to suffer. Thyme is very sensitive to over watering, and too much moisture in the soil can cause the roots to rot.

Spacing

If you’re planting your thyme with other plants, make sure to keep them at least 1 foot away from each other.

Thyme is a low-growing plant that spreads, so it will need space to grow.

Fertilizer

Because thyme is so used to growing in soil that is nutrient-deprived, fertilizer is not usually necessary. But, if you’d like your thyme to grow a bit faster, you can use a bit of fertilizer. Just make sure that you dilute the fertilizer to half-strength with water.

Too much fertilizer can actually cause the plant to produce more foliage. This should be a good thing, right? It is, to an extent. But, too much foliage will dilute the essential oils in the plants. This is not good, especially if you use the leaves and flowers for cooking.

Diluting the fertilizer to half strength will help you get extra foliage without getting too much.

TemperatureHumidityWaterSunlightSoilSpacingFertilizer
60-80 degrees FahrenheitLow to ModerateMinimalFull SunSandy or Loamy
Well-Draining
>1 footLittle to None
Best Growing Conditions For Thyme

When To Harvest Thyme

If your thyme is under a year old, you’ll want to be very cautious about harvesting it. Young plants don’t handle harvesting well. Taking too much from a young plant may hinder the plant’s ability to grow properly in the future. You can harvest if you’d like, just keep the pruning to a minimum.

The best time to harvest a mature plant is in the spring and summer months. This is the growing season, when the plant is growing at its healthiest and fastest. This is when you’ll be able to harvest the most leaves, and it’s when the leaves will taste best as well.

You’ll want to make sure that you trim your plant before the flowers begin to bloom. After the flowers bloom, the thyme leaves begin to lose a bit of their flavor.

It’s also best to harvest thyme in the morning when it’s sunny. The leaves are more flavorful and fragrant in the morning. Harvesting on a sunny day also prevents the leaves from retaining any extra moisture.

Final Words

Thyme is a hardy and cold-tolerant plant that can be grown throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. However, if you want it to grow its best, the best answer to when should I plant thyme is in the spring after the last frost of the season.

Don’t baby your thyme too much either, it does best when left alone. Just make sure you provide your thyme with plenty of sunlight and well-draining soil, and leave it alone.

If you do this, your thyme will be growing great in no time.

Want to learn more? Click here to learn when to plant creeping thyme or here for how much sun thyme needs. You can find all my guides to growing thyme here.