Thyme is a Mediterranean herb that is used to warm and dry conditions. Because thyme is so used to harsher conditions, it should come as no surprise that thyme can grow in a wide range of conditions. Thyme is not very picky about what kind of soil it’s planted in as long as it’s not receiving too much moisture. Still, thyme will grow better in certain soils over others, so it’s goo to know which the best soil for Thyme is.
Below, I cover whether it’s best to grow thyme in pots or the garden and the criteria to use when picking the best soil for thyme. I then cover what to avoid in thyme soil and the best choices for your soil whether you plant thyme in the garden or in pots.
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Why Grow Thyme?
Thyme is one of the most popular herbs used for cooking. It has a sweet, minty taste that goes well with meats, sauces, and stews. Most people that grow thyme do it so that the leaves can be used in their cooking.
Growing and harvesting your own thyme is cheaper and more efficient than purchasing it fresh at the store.
Another good reason to grow thyme is because it looks nice and will spruce up your garden. The leaves are a lovely dark green, and in the summer, white, purple, or pink flowers will bloom on the plant.
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Should You Grow Thyme In Pots Vs Garden
Whether you grow thyme in a pot or in your garden is really up to you, neither way is necessarily better.
When in the garden, thyme has more room to spread out. It will also deter pests from eating away at your other plants, and it will attract pollinators.
When grown inside, your thyme will grow throughout the whole year without slowing down. You can harvest the plant whenever you like without sacrificing smell or flavor. You can also keep a better eye on it.
Criteria For The Best Potting Soil For Thyme
The soil in the Mediterranean regions in which thyme grows is very well-draining. Thyme is tolerant and can be grown in lots of soils, but the one criteria it has is that the soil must be well-draining and not hold onto water. As long as that is true, thyme can withstand a variety of conditions.
What To Avoid In Thyme Soil
Thyme needs water to survive, of course — all plants do — but it won’t do well when it’s oversaturated. It’s easy to overwater thyme, which is why experts say it’s actually better to underwater than overwater it. Thyme is considerably drought-tolerant, so it will take a long time without water to kill it.
If you overwater thyme, or select a soil that retains moisture, your thyme won’t fare well. You’ll notice your plant start to wilt, and if it is overwatered for too long, its roots will begin to rot.
Having well-draining soil for your thyme is a must, and sandy or loamy soil is your best option.
Best Soil For Thyme In Pots
We’ve established that the best kind of soil for thyme is well-draining sandy or loamy soil. But, which is the best soil for growing thyme?
It seems that there are two options that are most popular.
Cactus & Succulent Mix for Growing Thyme
Some gardeners will use a cactus and succulent mix. These mixes are extremely well-draining and will keep your thyme’s roots as dry as possible. These mixes don’t need to be modified because they already drain a lot of water.
If you choose this option, just be careful of which succulent mix you choose. You want to pick one that has plenty of organic nutrients to keep your thyme healthy.
Even if you choose one that has plenty of nutrients, it likely still won’t be enough. To keep your thyme growing healthy and at its best, you should use nutrient-rich fertilizers whenever you use succulent mixes.
Modified Potting Soil for Growing Thyme
These gardeners choose to use regular potting soil that they have modified so that it doesn’t retain so much moisture.
One of the best soils to use for modifications is “FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil“. This soil is great because the pH is neutral, between 6.3-6.8. The texture is light and airy, allowing the roots to easily anchor into the soil while the water drains away.
The problem with this soil is that it drains just a bit too slowly for thyme to be happy. The slower draining of this soil is due to the organic materials in the soil. The organic materials are great nutrients for your thyme, but they also retain too much moisture.
Fortunately, it’s really easy to make modified soil that drains well. You’ll simply mix the potting mix with a bit of perlite or horticultural sand. These materials will help any excess moisture in the soil to keep moving.
The ideal amount of each is about 1/3 perlite or sand with 2/3 potting soil.
Choosing The Right pH in soil for Thyme
There is another important thing to keep in mind when choosing thyme soil: pH. Thyme is very adaptable and can withstand a wide range of pH’s.
Still, it should have a pH between 6 and 8. Thyme doesn’t like soil that is acidic or alkaline like many other plants do. Instead, it prefers soil that is more neutral in its pH. Ideally, you’ll choose a soil with a pH between 6 and 7.
The Verdict: The Best Soil For Growing Thyme in Pots
Either option really works well. I will always recommend the modified potting soil mixture so that you can ensure your thyme isn’t being underwatered.
However, because pots allow you to keep a better eye on your plants, the succulent mix can work well too. You’ll just need to be concious of your plant and make sure it’s not being underwatered.
Should You Change The Soil When Growing Thyme In Pots?
When you keep plants in pots, you do need to change out the soil on a regular basis. After keeping a plant in the same soil for a period of time, the plant will deplete the soil of all its nutrients.
If you leave the plant in this nutrient-depleted soil for too long, your plant is going to suffer, and could potentially die.
You’ll need to keep an eye on your thyme for any signs that it is depleted of nutrients. This could include wilting as well as browning or yellowing of the leaves. If you notice this, and you haven’t been overwatering or underwatering your plant, it’s probably time to change out the soil.
Thyme should be repotted into new soil once every few months. This doesn’t mean you need to change the pot itself, just the soil.
Besides losing nutrients, as soil gets old, its texture also changes. A change in texture could mean that the soil is starting to retain more water than it used to.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on the soil when you’ve just planted your thyme.
The soil should still be rich in nutrients, so you shouldn’t be noticing any wilting, yellowing, or browning— unless of course, you’re overwatering or underwatering it.
However, if you do notice these symptoms shortly after planting your thyme into new soil, it means that you need to change up your soil. The soil may not be draining well enough, so you might need to add more perlite, sand, or even potting soil.
Best Soil For Thyme In The Garden
When growing thyme in the garden, I wouldn’t recommend using the succulent mix simply because it dries too quickly. Thyme needs well-draining soil, but it doesn’t need to be as dry as succulents and cactuses.
If you use this kind of soil in your garden, you might find that your thyme is getting too dry. Thyme needs 6-10 hours of full sunlight a day. That much sunlight combined with very well-draining soil could potentially be a problem.
I recommend, instead, sticking with the modified potting soil mix. This mix is still well-draining, but won’t cause your thyme to become parched under the hot summer sun.
Other Tips for Growing Thyme
Plants that are growing in the garden will lose nutrients just like plants kept in pots. The difference is that plants in pots can be re-potted with new soil. It’s not as easy to do this with plants growing in the ground.
Your best bet is to start with a soil that is rich in nutrients to begin with. This way, your thyme should be good for several months before you have to do anything with its soil. Once you notice your thyme start to suffer, it’s time to pick up some fertilizer.
Using a nutrient-rich fertilizer on your thyme plants is a great way to help your plant continue growing healthy and strong. The problem with thyme is that too much fertilizer can cause a problem.
If you use too much fertilizer, your thyme will grow an overabundance of foliage. This excess foliage will cause the smell and taste of your thyme to be subdued.
To prevent this, simply dilute the fertilizer. You can add water to the fertilizer so that it’s at half-strength. This will help keep your thyme healthy without overdoing it.
One of the best fertilizers you can use for thyme is “Vermicompost“. Vermicompost is a natural fertilizer made from worm castings, and is high in nitrogen. Nitrogen helps thyme and other plants to grow, so it’s an important part of any fertilizer.
Final Words on the Best Soil for Thyme
Thyme is a really easy plant to grow because it can survive in a variety of different situation. The main thing that thyme requires is that it has well-draining soil. Thyme doesn’t do well when it’s planted in soil that collects too much water. There are other things you can do to help your thyme grow. Provide it with fertilizer, repot it every few months, purchase only the best-quality fertilizer. Still, just remember the most important thing: thyme needs well-draining soil.
Want to learn more? Click here to find out which companion plans work best with thyme and here for when to plant creeping thyme. You can also find all my guides to growing thyme here.
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