Real thyme - care and harvest


Thyme is not only used as a spice in the kitchen, but also in natural medicine. We have a few tips for cultivation and care for you.

© Madeleine Steinbach / stock.adobe.com

The real thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is one of the labiate plants. It is a species-rich genus that is used as a medicinal and aromatic plant. Thyme, originally from the Mediterranean, is now also widespread in Asia or North Africa.

In the Middle Ages, the real thyme found its way across the Alps to our monastery gardens. Today, the intensely fragrant perennials are a must in any herb bed. Thyme spreads Mediterranean flair and is a popular bee pasture.

Small plant description

Real thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Height:10 - 30 cm
Bloom:May - October
Plant spacing:25 cm planting distance
Use:Herbal bed, herb pots, windowsill, terrace
Ground:dry, well-drained, low nutrient requirement
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The real thyme grows as a shrub or subshrub, reaching stature heights of between 20 and 40 centimeters. The plants can branch and wood heavily. The home of the real thyme lies on the western Mediterranean.

The plants only appear wild in warm regions such as the southern side of the Alps. The warmth-loving thyme was also naturalized in some climatically favored regions of Germany. The small white, red or purple flowers become visible between May and October. Round nut fruits are formed.

Use and benefit

Thyme is a popular spice, which is used in Mediterranean cuisine for the refinement of meat and fish dishes, soups and sauces. The real thyme is rich in essential oils and is important in folk medicine as an antispasmodic for diseases of the upper respiratory tract.

Inflammation in the mouth and throat can be alleviated by a garlic solution with thyme. The essential oils of the real thyme can also be helpful for indigestion and skin problems.

Plant real thyme

Find the right location

© prystai / stock.adobe.com

The Mediterranean plant loves a warm and sunny location. The real thyme likes to be protected, for example in the shadow of a house wall. The plant is also an asset as a path limitation or in herb spirals. On the other hand, the sun thyme will not get along well in shady locations.

Choose the ideal substrate

The real thyme can also adapt to rather unfavorable soil conditions. The soil may be rocky and dry. Poor soils are ideal for the robust plant. The permeability of the soil is important because thyme forms a taproot that extends far into the ground. As a result, the plants have adapted to their natural environment and ensure the supply of moisture and nutrients.

Thyme can also cope with prolonged drought. Heavy or particularly loamy soils are of less benefit to the plant. These should be loosened up before planting and made more permeable by adding grit or sand. This also allows the water to drain better. The biggest enemy of the real thyme is waterlogging. A permeable floor allows the water to drain away better.

If you want to be on the safe side, you should check the pH of the soil. Appropriate tests are available in hardware stores. Thyme prefers a neutral to basic soil. A pH between 7 and 8 is ideal. An acidic soil is not optimal.

Tip: If the floor is covered with moss, this indicates a moist and usually acidic environment.

Planting instructions - step by step

1. Select location
2. Prepare the soil
3. Dig out the planting hole
4. Insert the plant
5. Close the planting hole
6. Press on the earth
7. Water the plant

Thyme grown in a pot can be planted between spring and autumn on all frost-free days. Thyme plants should be placed at a planting distance of 25 centimeters. The plants are placed as deep in the soil as they were in the planter in advance.

Tip: Thyme is compatible with all Mediterranean herbs, but should not receive marjoram as a direct plant neighbor.

The real thyme can also be easily cultivated in a planter on a balcony or terrace. There should also be a sunny location here. In the planter, special care must be taken to ensure that the soil is sufficiently permeable and that there is no waterlogging. Commercial herbal soil usually offers the right conditions.

An overview of the most important planting tips

Determine location
  • sunny
  • warm
  • protected
Prepare the soil
  • nutrients
  • permeable
  • calcareous
Make planting
  • Keep planting distance
  • do not plant next to marjoram
  • Pot culture possible

Experience biodiversity

Thyme is a species-rich plant. In addition to the real thyme, there are more than 200 other species. Differences in growth, shape and color of the leaves and also in taste become clear. If you rely on different types of thyme, you can bring variety to the herb garden.

Here are three examples for you:

Lemon thyme (Thymus Citriodorus) © sloone / stock.adobe.com
The lemon thyme is characterized by an intense lemon aroma. There are different subspecies. The decorative shape has green-yellow spotted leaves. Lemon thyme grows slightly lower than the real thyme, but also forms shoots more than 30 centimeters long. Upright growing forms are as common as ground cover. Winter protection is necessary in our latitudes for the lemon thyme.

Field thyme (Thymus pulegioides) © vodolej / stock.adobe.com
This is a wild growing upholstery. The field thyme grows about ten centimeters tall and has smooth green-gray leaves. The purple flowers can be admired until September. Field thyme is robust and hardy, but its aroma lags behind the real thyme.

Cascade thyme (Thymus Longicaulisssp.Odoratus) © Eberhard / stock.adobe.com
This variety grows particularly quickly. The shoots can sprout about 25 centimeters long. The plant, often referred to as boletus thyme, forms dense carpets and blooms between May and July. Due to the drooping shoots, this type of thyme is particularly suitable for planting balcony boxes.

Maintain real thyme

Pour real thyme properly

Thyme can easily survive longer dry periods. Since water is continuously evaporated through the leaves, thyme should not dry out if possible. Water is occasional on hot summer days.

Tip: The plant should not dry out even in winter. Therefore, watering is occasionally carried out on frost-free days.

If the real thyme loses its leaves, this is an indication of watering errors. Then either too little or too much was poured.

Fertilize real thyme properly

Regular fertilization is not necessary for the frugal thyme. It is sufficient to incorporate some compost or horn shavings into the soil when planting. As a rule, the natural nature of the soil is sufficient for thyme plants.

Does the real thyme need to be cut?

Cutting measures in spring can stimulate the growth pleasure of the real thyme. For this, the plant is shortened by about a third. After flowering, the shoot tips should be cut.

The ideal cutting time coincides with the harvest, which should be done shortly before flowering. The pruning takes place down to the old wood. Some buds should remain on the stems so that the plant can sprout again.

There should be no more pruning in autumn. The plant cannot then close the wounds in time and frost damage is imminent.

Tip: Thyme should be cut regularly. Otherwise the plant threatens to go bald.

The most important care tips at a glance:

to water
  • water occasionally
  • tolerates longer drought
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • low nutrient requirements
  • Spring compost
  • Incorporate horn shavings into the soil
To cut
  • Pruning in spring
  • Cut back to the old wood
  • regular cut protects against baldness

Properly multiply real thyme

Hobby gardeners have several options for propagating the real thyme:

Propagate by sowing

Many types of thyme make this easy for you because they sow themselves. Raising seeds is easy. It is recommended to plant the plants on the windowsill in pots. This can happen from March.

Direct sowing is more problematic because the particularly fine seeds of the thyme could easily be carried away by the wind. Since they are light germs, the seeds are not covered with earth, but only lightly pressed on.

The seeds germinate after about ten days. From May, the seedlings will be separated to 20 by 20 centimeters. If frosts are no longer expected from mid-May, the plants can move into the herb bed.

Multiplication by division

This type of propagation is done in a few simple steps and immediately gives the hobby gardener a healthy and vigorous plant.

How to proceed with the division:

  • Take the mother plant out of the ground
  • Check the mother plant for pests or diseases
  • Divide mother plant
  • Plant new plants separately

A sufficiently developed mother plant is a prerequisite for division. The division means an intervention that young and weak plants cannot cope with. When dividing, make sure that there is sufficient root system on both plants.

Tip: A division should take place approximately every three years.

Propagation by cuttings

The propagation of cuttings can be started in early summer. About ten centimeters long, woody side shoots are cut off from the well-developed plants.

The side shoots must be removed so that the cuttings put their strength into the formation of the roots. The prepared cuttings are placed in a permeable, sandy substrate.

By covering the plant pots with a foil, the root formation is accelerated. Successful propagation can be assumed when the first shoots appear on the cutting.

Identifying diseases and pests on the real thyme

The real thyme is a healthy and robust plant. Diseases rarely occur. An infestation with mildew is occasionally observed. Mostly caused by maintenance mistakes, aphids occur every now and then.

Aphids can usually be removed with a hard water jet. In the case of mildew, treatment with horsetail broth has proven itself.

Hibernate the real thyme properly

© Martina / stock.adobe.com

The real thyme is frost hardy and therefore does not necessarily need winter protection. With a cover made of brushwood or leaves, the plants are protected against frost. Unprotected plants react with falling leaves.

If the real thyme is cultivated in a bucket, the planters should move to a bright and frost-free winter area in the house.

Harvest real thyme

Thyme can be harvested at any time. Ideally, one combines the harvest with the annual pruning in early summer. Thyme can be frozen very well. For drying, the shoots are cut off and laid out side by side in boxes.

For drying, the shoots can also be tied together and hung upside down. Drying should be done in a shady and dry place, preferably in attics or in garages.

Tip: For quick drying, simply place the sprigs of thyme in the oven and dry at a temperature of 50 degrees for about two hours.