- Author: Linda Lewis Griffith
- Editor: Noni Todd
by Linda Lewis Griffith UCCE Master Gardener
Common Name: Common Thyme
Planting Zone: Sunset zones 1-24
Size: To 1 ft. high, 2 ft. wide
Bloom Season: Late spring, early summer
Exposure: Full sun; light shade in hot inland climates
Pruning Needs: Cut back to keep compact; trim as needed for culinary purposes
Water Needs: Low supplemental water once established; needs a little more watering inland
Narrative: This member of the mint family is a low-growing, shrubby perennial from the Mediterranean region. It is a welcome addition to any herb garden. Its tiny, aromatic leaves can be used both dry and fresh, and make tasty additions to Thanksgiving stuffing, soups, seafood and vegetable dishes. Masses of diminutive, white to lilac flowers bloom in late spring and early summer that are attractive to bees and other pollinators. ‘Argenteus,' called silver thyme, has silvery, variegated leaves. ‘Hi-Ho' has even more silver variegation and compact growth. ‘Italian Oregano Thyme' has a strong aroma of oregano. ‘Orange Blossom Thyme' has slim leaves that smell like orange. Common thyme is frequently planted in borders around flower and vegetable gardens; it is also ideal in rock gardens and containers.
The name thymus is derived from the Greek word for smoke or fumigate. Sprigs of the herb were reportedly burned indoors to cleanse the air in hopes of offering protection from the plague. Thyme can be readily propagated in late summer, after flowering. Select a vigorous, mature plant. Lift from the soil with a garden fork, taking care not to damage the roots. Shake off loose dirt and remove any dead leaves and stems. Clean the roots in a bucket of water or with a garden hose. If the parent plant has ample top growth, trim back to 4 inches to minimize moisture loss through the leaves. Divide the plant into smaller pieces, ensuring each segment has a strong root system and foliage. Cut with clean, sharp clippers or pull apart by hand. Replant divisions at the same depth as before, spacing them sufficiently far apart to allow for new growth. Firm the soil and water thoroughly.