Thyme is a Mediterranean herb that has long been used in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Historically it is known for its preservative and disinfectant properties. It is very desirable to use in garden designs, as a ground cover, and especially in edible landscaping. The flavor of the leaves blends well with other culinary herbs, especially those that also originate in the Mediterranean region. The strong aroma is also attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Being a hardy perennial, growing thyme requires less care than many plants. Most varieties handle both winter cold and summer heat very well. All varieties require very well drained soil, and prefer a sunny location, but a few struggle in the Texas sun and heat, and may require afternoon shade.
Standing water or excessive moisture will cause thyme to rot. When the plant is new and the roots are becoming established, it should not be allowed to dry out for more than a day, so water accordingly.
Spring and summer blooms come in shades of purple, pink, and white, depending on the variety. Thyme is generally low growing and woody, and spreads or cascades over a pot or wall. Depending on the variety, the height can range from about 2 to 14 inches tall and can spread from 12 to 18 inches wide. While nothing can be totally deer and rabbit resistant, it is said that these animals avoid this herb.
Here are some of the various kinds of thyme carried here at Maas Nursery. Please call ahead to check and see if they are available:
French Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): The leaves are more gray and sweeter than the English variety, and the blooms are lavender. It also tends to be more sturdy and more woody than other varieties of thyme. It is primarily a culinary herb. It grows 14 to 18 inches tall and it takes the Texas summer heat extremely well. It can also be called “Summer Thyme” or “Narrow Leaf Thyme”.
English Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): This plant has white to light pink flowers blooming in the spring. Plants can grow to about 10 to 12 inches tall, and 12 to 18 inches wide. While it prefers plenty of sunlight, this variety may struggle in the full blast Texas summer afternoon sun. It has a sweet and spicy fragrance and is used for culinary and landscaping purposes.
Provencal Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): From Provence, France. It is a more upright growing variety reaching 14 inches in height and spreading out to about 24 inches. The leaves have a gray-green color and the stems are intertwining. Provencal thyme has a strong scent and strong flavor for cooking. Its fragrant, long, and twisting branches are good for use in arrangements.
Mother of Thyme (Thymus pulegioides): This variety blooms in late spring with pink flowers. It can grow 4 to 6 inches tall. Mother of Thyme is more of an ornamental plant, and works well as a ground cover in rock and herb gardens. This variety may not be as tolerant of our Texas summer heat.
Golden Lemon or Varigated Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citriodorius ‘Aureus’): This variety has pink blooms, grows to about 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide. It is sun loving but does not tolerate our Texas heat very well, needing to be planted where it would only get morning sun. It has a scent of lemon and and the leaves’ edges become lined with yellow during the growing season. Its uses are both culinary and aromatic.
Lime Thyme (Thymus citriodorus ‘Lime’): This variety reaches 4 to 6 inches tall and 14 inches wide. The leaves are a bright lime green with a citrus scent, and is wonderful for cooking and as a ground cover.
Elfin Thyme (Thymus serpyllum ‘Elfin’): This plant grows to 2 inches tall and 4 to 8 inches wide. It has evergreen leaves and purple flowers that bloom in the late spring or summer. While it is a favorite for rock gardens, between stepping stones, and for ground cover, some use it for culinary purposes. If used as ground cover, it releases its beautiful aroma when stepped on.
Caraway Thyme (Thymus Herba Barona): This is a red stemmed, lavender flowering, creeping variety that grows 2 to 4 inches high and spreads up to 14 inches wide. It does have a caraway like scent, and can be used as a caraway substitute. It is a favorite for culinary use as its botanical name “herba barona” comes from medieval times when it was used to freshen barons of beef (a particular cut of beef).
Creeping Lemon Thyme (Thymus serpyllum): This plant has typical tiny leaved, spreading foliage, but has the most color of any variety. Blooming pink to purple, its low branches have a variegated look, ranging from shades of dark green to bright yellow. It definitely catches the eye, and adds a lemon citrus flavor to cooking. It doesn’t grow more than 4 inches high and spreads between 8 and 12 inches wide.