Fresh herbs are a wonderful addition to any meal, and an absolute delight for any home chef. One very versatile herb any aspiring gardener can grow is thyme. Thyme is an excellent herb to grow indoors as it is both easy to grow and used in a variety of dishes. Take a peek at our tips for growing thyme indoors and start growing this delicious herb today.
On another positive note, thyme is also shown to keep mosquitoes away. It’s also very fragrant and can add some very appealing scents to the area where it’s grown. With all these benefits, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular herb to grow!
Choosing The Container
An important thing to keep in mind when growing thyme is not to over-water. Therefore, when picking a pot go with something that naturally has good drainage. This is often the biggest issue for new gardeners, which is why we’re focusing on it right away.
A common choice is simple clay pots. Due to the pot’s natural ability to absorb water, you lessen the risk of sitting water and root rot. These also often come with drainage holes in the bottom which helps with overwatering. They’re also cheap and readily available at most garden centers which makes them our top choice for thyme.
You can also choose a variety of other pots, just make sure they have proper drainage. A few small holes along the bottom and on the sides should be enough to allow the water to flow freely. From there choosing the right soil is the next important step.
Soil For Thyme
Going with a loose, well-draining potting soil will also help ensure that the plant isn’t overwatered. Most store bought potting soil will do the trick; look for ones that mention perlite as this is a typical ingredient of a well-draining soil.
There are also a wide variety of potting soils specifically geared towards herbs which will also work just as well if not better. These are a great choice and give an easy way to start, but aren’t strictly necessary.
There are generally two ways to plant thyme, either through cuttings/propagation or through seeds. We’ll talk more about propagating below, but this is an easy way to use existing thyme to start a new plant. This is by far the most popular way to grow thyme as they have a slow germination period. You can usually find thyme at garden stores, but even the fresh sprigs at a grocery store can often be planted.
Thyme seeds are another good option, albeit a bit slower than propagation. Follow the direction on your seed packet for the best results and be patient. Thyme takes up to 28 days to germinate, so don’t fret if you don’t see sprouts for a few weeks.
Thyme generally requires 6+ hours of bright sunlight per day. Keeping them near a bright window is usually the best choice. A southern facing window is generally a safe bet, and usually provides enough light for the plant to grow.
Thyme is also perfectly able to thrive in non-southern exposure if the light is still fairly bright. This includes areas that are brightly lit, but not necessarily from direct light. This makes it perfect for a well lit counter in a kitchen or other areas of indirect light.
In absence of that, most types of standard grow lights are also fine to use. Depending on the location, it may be necessary to add an hour or two of additional lighting in the winter due to reduced intensity in sunlight. If you’re noticing leggy or slow growth consider a grow light. Otherwise, natural light is best.
Watering & Feeding
Like many other plants, you’ll want to water thyme when the soil becomes dry. Check the top inch of the soil and water when it feels dry to the touch. Be careful not to overwater as this can cause root rot. Thyme is naturally drought resistant, so it’s better to under rather than over water.
When watering, thoroughly soak the soil, but then wait until the soil is completely dry before watering again. Overwatering is the biggest issue when growing thyme indoors, so err on the side of caution when watering. As noted above, thyme is naturally able to resist droughts so less is more when it comes to watering.
For fertilizing, use a weak liquid based fertilizer. A lot of gardeners further dilute the strength to about half. You can feed the plant every 1-2 months or so and pause doing so during the winter. Controlled-release pellets are also another good option here that will provide nutrients for an entire growing season. It should be noted that thyme is not a very nutrient hungry plant, so many gardeners opt to not fertilize at all.
Thyme tends to lose flavor as it cooks so it's often used at the end of the cooking process. This helps it impart the maximum flavor. Thyme is very versatile and goes well in stews, with fish, or on meats, just to name a few. Thyme has a very distinct woody flavor, and you can control this to some extent, as noted above, by controlling cooking time.
Harvesting thyme couldn’t be easier. Simply clip the stems once they begin to produce leaves. Both the leaves and the stems hold the plant’s flavor, so depending on your needs, nearly the entire plant can be used.
Even if you’re not planning on using the thyme, spending some time every few weeks to clip back the stems will promote healthy growth. You’ll notice that as you clip the plant it will often grow back larger and fuller in the recently pruned areas.
Temperature and Humidity
Thyme is a Mediterranean herb and will do best in an environment similar to that. This means a relatively high temperature and low humidity. Keep the humidity as low as possible and keep the temperature in the 65-75°F range. That said, thyme is especially hardy and will do just fine if the temperature gets too high/low for brief periods.
Thyme takes well to repotting and can be separated easily to produce more thyme plants. This makes it very easy to get a large amount growing rather quickly.
To propagate thyme, take an existing sprig of about 4-6” in length. Strip the bottom 2” or so of leaves, and then place this into a pot. Stick that pot in a sunny location, water generously, and then follow up with normal care as noted above. That’s all there is to it; it couldn’t be any easier! Done correctly, you can have a constant supply of new thyme plants and an endless amount of herbs to cook with.
It’s also very easy to move outdoors during the summer if desired. Start by exposing it to a partially shaded area and gradually move it into full sun to help it acclimate to the new environment. This process usually takes about a week or two.
Make sure to move it back indoors before the first frost! Thyme is pretty resistant to colder temperatures, but it’s always better not to risk it.
Growing Thyme Indoors
Thyme is an excellent choice for growing indoors. Not only does it have a beautiful aroma, but it’s also a wonderful herb to cook with. Check out this awesome video of chef Gordon Ramsey using thyme on his steak! Just one example of the benefits of growing thyme indoors!
Is Thyme Good For Beginners?
Absolutely. Thyme is quite easy to grow, and very resilient. This makes it a great choice for any level of gardener.
My Thyme Looks Sickly, What Can I Do?
One of the most common problems when growing thyme is overwatering. Thyme is naturally very drought resistant, and doesn’t need to be watered all that often. Try giving it a good amount of water, and then let it sit until the soil is dry before watering again.
Should I Harvest My Thyme Even If I Don’t Plan On Using it?
Yes, clipping back the stems helps encourage healthy growth. Once a week, take some time and clip it back. Your thyme will quickly grow back larger and more fuller than before.