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Thymus

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Cephalotos
  • Mastichina
  • Serpyllum
Phonetic Spelling
THY-mus
Description

The genus, Thymus, is a member of the Lamiaceae or Mint family and has about 350 different species of perennial herbaceous plants and evergreen shrubs. The species has various sizes and growth habits. Thyme has been cultivated for centuries as an ornamental or for culinary use. They are native to Greenland, the temperate and subtropical areas of Euroasia, and Northeast Tropical Africa.

Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is often used in cooking to flavor soups, stews, sauces, and meats. Different species have a variety of flavors and fragrances that include caraway, lemon, nutmeg, orange, and oregano. Some species, such as Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum), are used primarily as groundcovers. Other species, such as Wooly Thyme (Thymus praecox), may be used as lawn substitutes. The essential oils of the thyme leaves have been used to make perfumes, antiseptics, expectorants, and deodorants.

The origin of the word, "thyme," is from the Greek word, thumos, which means "courage." During Medieval times thyme was thought to be an emblem of bravery, strength, and courage. The word thyme may also have been derived from the Greek word, thymos, meaning "perfume."

Thyme grows best in full sun and dry, sandy, or rocky soils. They can tolerate very alkaline soils. They prefer well-drained soils and can tolerate drought once they are established. They are intolerant to wet soils or poor drainage. 

The plant is low maintenance, but it should be trimmed when it gets leggy. When using thyme for culinary purposes, it is best to harvest the leaves just before flowering when the essential oils are at their peak.

The common method of propagation is by stem cuttings, division, and seeds. Due to erratic germination, some species of thyme are difficult to propagate from seeds.

The stems of the thyme plants are thin, wiry, and woody. The leaves are tiny, fragrant, and their colors vary from green to silver, depending on the species. The flowers are tiny, tubular, and colors vary from white, pink, to purple. The fruits are tiny schizocarps.

The flowers of thyme are rich in nectar and attractive to bees and butterflies. Thyme is an excellent plant for pollinator gardens, rock gardens, or herb gardens. Some species are primarily ornamental and due to their creeping habit may be used between stepping stones, rocks, ledges, or walls. They may also be used as a border plant. Thyme is typically deer and rabbit resistant.

There are many species and cultivars available to add color and fragrance to your landscape.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:

This genus has no serious insect or disease problems. Although, it may be susceptible to root rot if soils are wet or poorly drained.

 

 

 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#purple#fragrant#showy flowers#full sun tolerant#purple flowers#fragrant leaves#low maintenance#summer flowers#groundcover#pollinator plant#edible garden#stepping stones#subshrub#walkway planting#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#early childhood#woody perennial
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#purple#fragrant#showy flowers#full sun tolerant#purple flowers#fragrant leaves#low maintenance#summer flowers#groundcover#pollinator plant#edible garden#stepping stones#subshrub#walkway planting#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#early childhood#woody perennial
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Thymus
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Thyme has been cultivated for centuries for religious, medicinal, and culinary purposes. Reportedly, soldiers sewed sprigs of thyme into their clothes before going into battle. Thyme was often used as a symbol of bravery and courage.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Greenland, Temperate and Subtropical Eurasia, NE Tropical Africa
    Distribution:
    Native: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Central European Russia, China North-Central, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, Egypt, Etiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Greenland, Hungry, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lebanon-Syria, Libya, Manchuria, Mongolia, Nepal, Netherlands, North European Russia, Northwest European Russia, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sicilia, South European Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, West Himalaya, West Siberia, Xinjiang, and Yugoslavia. Introduced: Canda--Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec; Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Leeward Islands, New Zealand South, Puerto Rico, and the USA--CT, DE, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, NH, NY, OR, PA, VT, VA, and WA
    Wildlife Value:
    The nectar of the flowers attracts bees and butterflies.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Edibility:
    Many plants of this genus are used as flavorings in soups, vegetable, or meat dishes.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Creeping
    Dense
    Erect
    Mounding
    Prostrate
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    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:
    Schizocarp
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits of this genus are schizocarps. They are ovoid, smooth, and have 4 locules or small separate cavities which contain the seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers range in color from white, pink, lavender, or purple, depending on the species or cultivar. The corolla is two-lipped, four-lobed, and tubular. Each bloom has four stamens.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Variegated
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Good Dried
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are small and usually 1/4 inch or less in diameter. They may be lanceolate, linear, oblong, or ovate, depending on the species. Their color range from green, dark green, bluish-green, grayish-silver, or variegated, depending on the species or cultivar.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are pubescent, thin, and wiry. The stem colors can range from green to brown.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Hanging Baskets
    Patio
    Rock Wall
    Slope/Bank
    Small Space
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Edible Garden
    Fairy Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Pollution
    Poor Soil
    Rabbits