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Thymus vulgaris is often confused with:
Thymus serpyllum Flowers
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Salvia rosmarinus Rosmarinus officinalis
Allium hollandicum
Allium Alllium

Thyme Thymus vulgaris

Other Common Name(s):

Other plants called Thyme:

Phonetic Spelling
THY-mus vul-GAIR-iss
Description

Thymus vulgaris, commonly referred to as common thyme, is an herbaceous perennial that is primarily grown for culinary use. It is categorized as a subshrub due to its bushy form and semi-woody base. Growing up to 12 inches tall and 16 inches wide, common thyme has small purple to white flowers that appear in late spring to early summer. It is native to southern Europe and northern Africa where it prefers full sun and well-drained soils. 

Common thyme is a low-maintenance herb but has a tendency to spread. To reduce woody growth, it should be cut back in early spring. Even when pruned it may become woody after a number of years. Thyme also transplants fairly easily and should be done so in early spring. Thymus vulgaris makes a great addition to a pollinator garden as its flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects. In the landscape, common thyme works well for herb gardens, rock gardens, and as an aromatic groundcover. 

The genus Thymus is derived from the Greek word thyo meaning to perfume. In Latin, vulgaris means common or usual. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Linear leaves are ¼”-½” long, have fine hairs, and are very fragrant

  • Small purple/white pedicellate flowers that occur along a raceme

  • Bushy subshrub with a woody base, growing up to 1 foot tall

Pests, Insects, and Other Plant Problems: Overwatering can lead to botrytis and root rot, especially in soils with low drainage such as clay.

 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Herb & Flower Cottage Garden Pollinator and Culinary Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Clean Gold'
'Clean Gold'
Tags:
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Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Clean Gold'
'Clean Gold'
Tags:
#dried#small shrub#non-toxic for horses#herbaceous perennial#sun#dry soil#edible shrub#summer flowers#edible fruits#full sun#shrub border#perennial flowers#shade intolerance#full sun flowers#herbaceous#dried herb#dry soils tolerant#small groups#spreads#dried arrangements#children's garden#well-drained soil#flowering#cut leaves#border#ebh#houseplant#subshrub#flowering shrub#moist#rocky soils tolerant#walkways#containers#small group plantings#flowers#spreading#winter garden#house plant#edible leaves#wildlife plant#showy flowers#moist soil#houseplants#full sunlight#herb garden#summer interest#naturalized area#edible flowers#borders#perennials#aromatic#groundcover#walkway planting#sun tolerant#cpp#childrens garden#flower#ebh-vh#perennial#flowering houseplant#small flowers#sunshine#sandy soil#edible landscaping#fine texture#low maintenance#fragrant flowers#showy#cutting garden#herb#winter interest#fragrant#purple flowers#pollinators#bees#container#rock gardens#broadleaf evergreen#non-toxic for dogs#fragrant leaves#pollinator plant#playground#nectar plant#bee friendly#pollinator garden#edible plant#edible#edible fruit#white flowers#butterfly friendly#sandy soils tolerant#spring interest#salt tolerant#small group#drought tolerant#non-toxic for cats#edible garden#attractive foliage#shrub#pollen plant#butterflies#spring flowers
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Thymus
    Species:
    vulgaris
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Thymus vulgaris has been cultivated since ancient times for religious, medicinal, and culinary purposes.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southern Europe and Northern Africa
    Wildlife Value:
    Nectar from the flowers attracts bees and butterflies.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Edibility:
    Leaves in tea, as flavoring
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 4 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Ground Cover
    Herb
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Small white to purple flowers that appear in late spring to early summer. Tubular petals and protruding stamens occur on the racemes. Flowers are zygomorphic, bilaterally symmetrical.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Good Dried
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Linear
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Small linear to ovate leaves, set at tight right angles to each other, 1/4"-1/2" in length. Leaves are very fragrant and have fine hairs.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Description:
    Stems are semi-woody.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Naturalized Area
    Recreational Play Area
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Cutting Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Small groups
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Salt