Thyme is a very hardy plant that many people grow in their gardens. It’s incredibly useful for cooking with, and it smells good and looks nice too. English Thyme is most commonly used for cooking, but there are actually about 60 kinds of thyme that are used in cooking. Being such a popular herb for cooking with, it’s no wonder that so many people like to keep it in their garden. But how easy is it to grow? How tall does thyme grow? How much space does it need?
Most of us have heard how quickly mint can spread and take over a garden…do you have to worry about that with thyme?Below, I cover how tall thyme gets including creeping thyme. I also discuss how long thyme takes to grow and tips to help it grow as big as possible. I also describe when and how to harvest thyme and how to keep it small if that’s what you want.
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Why Grow Thyme?
Growing your own thyme is a great idea. So many people use thyme in their cooking: it’s a nice herb that adds a lot of flavor to different dishes. But, all cooks know that buying fresh herbs all the time can get expensive. If you have your own thyme plant at home, you’ll never have to worry about that cost again.
Thyme will usually continue to grow a few leaves throughout winter, so you can just harvest the sprigs as you need them. Or, if you like to be prepared, you can do a large harvest. The leaves from the larger harvest can then be dried or frozen to be used for later.
Even better, thyme is a very hardy plant. Just make sure you have the correct conditions for your thyme, plant it, and then leave it alone. Prune it a few times a year and it will be more than happy. Anyone can take care of thyme.
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How Tall Does Thyme Get?
Fortunately, thyme is a pretty small shrub, so you don’t have to worry about it taking up too much space in your garden.
Generally, thyme can grow between 2-15 inches in height, depending on which kind of thyme you purchase. Still, the usual height for thyme is between 6-15 inches.
Regular thyme spreads about as much as it grows vertically. Most varieties will grow about 6-12 inches long. Thyme will continue to spread as long as you allow it, but it is a slow grower. It takes about one year for thyme to completely establish itself, and you’re not likely to see any spreading until the second year.
So, do you have to worry about out-of-control spreading like you do with mint? The answer is no. If your thyme begins to get too big for your liking, just trim it back.
How Tall Does Creeping Thyme Grow?
Creeping thyme is a bit different than other kinds of thyme. It will usually only grow to about 1-4 inches tall. It grows sideways more than it grows vertically, and can grow to 24 inches across or more.
How Long Does Thyme Take To Grow?
As I said above, thyme is a slow grower. It will take about a year for the plant to completely establish itself. You also won’t see much growth until the second year.
As far as propagation goes, it will take between 14-28 days for the seed to germinate. This is significantly slower than most herbs.
Tips To Help Thyme Grow As Big As Possible
Thyme, while hardy, tends to be fussy when you mess with it too much. It actually does best if you leave it alone.
Because of this, you’re going to want to be careful about how and where you plant it.
Make sure that you plant your thyme in a suitable place, and then leave it alone for the most part. If you do this, your plant should be happy and will grow well for you.
Sunlight Requirements to Grow Thyme
Thyme is a Mediterranean plant and likes a lot of sun. It does best when it’s planted directly in full sunlight.
To make the plant happy, choose a location that is constantly sunny and exposed. If you don’t have a spot like this, then you should probably keep it in a pot so that you can move it around during the day.
Indoors, thyme will do best in a sunroom or by a window. Just make sure that your thyme is receiving a full 8 hours of sunshine everyday. If for some reason your plant can’t get this inside naturally, you might need to purchase a grow light.
Soil Requirements to Grow Thyme
Contrary to what you would think would be best for a plant, thyme does best in less-than-hospitable soil. If you put it into well-nourished, moist soil, it’ll likely develop root rot and die.
Instead, you’ll choose a soil that is loamy or sandy. It does best in dry soil, and can even live in rocks and gravel. The soil should be well-draining because thyme is particularly vulnerable to overwatering and root rot.
I really recommend sticking with sand, but if you’d like to use soil, you can. There’s a strategy to using soil with thyme: layering. Break up the soil with layers of sand or gravel. This will help the water to move through the soil more quickly and will prevent the thyme from receiving too much water.
As far as pH goes, thyme does best in a pH between 6.0-8.0.
Spacing Requirements to Grow Thyme
Thyme spreads out more than it grows vertically. Because of this, you should provide plenty of space between your thyme plant and any other plants in your garden. At least 1 foot of space is ideal.
If you’re growing in a pot, I suggest getting a large pot so that your thyme can grow. A clay pot is the best thing for your thyme because it will absorb any excess moisture that your thyme doesn’t need.
Watering Requirements to Grow Thyme
Clearly, thyme doesn’t like very much water, but it still needs some to survive. You should water thyme only very occasionally. Once every other week is more than enough. Some people only water their thyme once a month.
Exactly how often you’re going to want to water will depend on your climate: how hot it is, how humid it is, and how much it rains.
As a general rule, you only want to water your thyme after the soil has become completely dry. When you notice the water is completely dry, you’ll then saturate the soil completely. Repeat this process after the soil has dried out again.
If you’re worried you’re not giving your thyme enough water, don’t. Thyme is naturally drought resistant and will do better with underwatering than it will with overwatering.
Temperature Requirements to Grow Thyme
Thyme is not very picky about temperature. It can thrive in almost any temperature as long as it’s not freezing and there is no frost. It can grow in USDA hardiness zones 5-9. Some species can also survive in zone 4.
However, it is happiest in climates that are hot and dry. It is a Mediterranean herb, after all. Thyme will grow best while in temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Humidity Requirements to Grow Thyme
Like the temperature, thyme is not picky about humidity. It can grow in almost every climate as long as there is not frost.
However, thyme prefers a dry climate with little to no humidity. If it’s growing outside in a climate that is humid, it will more than likely be fine.
But if you’re growing it inside a humid house, you might want to invest in a dehumidifier. Also, avoid placing your plant in rooms that are naturally humid, like kitchens and bathrooms.
Fertilizer Requirements to Grow Thyme
Fertilizer is great for thyme and will help it grow more leaves and flowers. For the best results, you should use a fertilizer at the start of each spring. Just make sure not to use a full-strength fertilizer or you may find that the plant grows too much foliage. Instead, dilute the fertilizer to half-strength with water.
However, if you don’t want to use fertilizer, that’s fine too. Thyme naturally lives in nutrient-depleted conditions, so it will not suffer by not receiving extra nutrients.
Potting Guidance for Growing Thyme
Thyme is a fairly small plant, but you’ll still need to repot it as it grows. Initially, you’re okay to keep your young plant in a pot with about a 4-inch diameter. As the plant grows, though, you’ll need to upgrade it.
Thyme will give you a few warning signs when it needs to be planted into a larger container. You’ll begin to notice the stems are becoming woodier, and there will be less of the softer leaves and stems.
When you repot, you’ll also want to replace the soil. The thyme will have already depleted all the nutrients from the first batch of soil.
You should also consider what you plant near thyme. Read my guide to the best companion plants for thyme here.
When To Harvest Thyme
The best time to harvest thyme is just before the plant flowers. However, the leaves still stay good after flowering, so really, you can harvest at any time of the year.
When you go to harvest, you can either clip sprigs as needed, or you can harvest all at once.
It’s really good to keep up on your thyme and harvest it often to keep it growing. The more you trim and harvest it, the more it’s going to grow.
How To Harvest Thyme
Harvesting thyme is really easy. As I said, you can clip the sprigs as needed, or you can do large harvests a few times a year. If you choose to harvest your thyme all at once, be sure not to prune more than 1/3 of the plant. Pruning more than that can permanently damage the plant and prevent it from growing back properly the next year.
When you’re ready to harvest, you’re going to use pruning shears to cut. You can take what you like, but make sure you leave the stems at least 5 inches long. These portions will usually be tougher and woodier anyway. You only need to harvest the portions with leaves.
How To Best Keep Your Thyme Plant Small
Thyme really isn’t a very big plant to begin with, so you shouldn’t have to worry about size too much. However, the main things you can do to keep size down is to keep it in a smaller pot, and keep up with trimmings.
If you keep your thyme in a smaller pot, it’s overall health might suffer a bit, but it will be fine overall. The plant can only grow to the size of the pot, so this is a good way to keep the size down.
The best way to keep the plant’s size down is simply by keeping up on your pruning. Thyme will continue to spread as long as you allow it, so the only real way to keep it small is to prune it.
Now, pruning will encourage growth, but this new growth helps to keep your plant healthy. Sure, you’ll need to keep on top of it, but isn’t it worth it to have a healthy plant?
With some plants, people will provide them with less-than-ideal conditions. While not healthy, this is usually effective at keeping the plants smaller. This probably won’t work with thyme, though, because it’s already used to growing in harsh conditions.
Final Words on How Big Thyme Grows
Thyme is a very popular plant used in cooking all around the world. It’s a pretty, useful plant that stays on the smaller side. Thyme is a spreader more than anything, but it is slow growing, so you don’t need to worry about it taking over your garden. It’s also incredibly hardy, so you can pretty much plant it and leave it alone. Simply prune it a few times a year and you will have a happy plant that’s ready to produce for you.
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