Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Grow Thyme Plants Indoors

updated Jun 6, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

There’s nothing like fresh thyme to signal the beginning of the warmer months. Thyme is one of those herbs that is multi-faceted—you can cook with it, make cocktails, use it dried or fresh, or simply enjoy it growing in pots. This Mediterranean herb has been bringing its earthy flavor to drinks and dishes all over the world for centuries. It’s zesty, fragrant and all around tasty. It’s also one of those common herbs that’s easy to find if you want to grow it. In spring, you should be able to walk into any nursery and pick up multiple varieties of it. Whether you’re growing thyme to use or are growing it just to look at, there are some guidelines to follow in order to promote healthy growth for your plant.

About thyme, and choosing a variety

There are hundreds of varieties of thyme, and each is different. Some varieties, such as lemon and french thyme, are better suited for cooking while others like creeping thyme make great additions to garden pathways and ledges. If you’re looking for a certain flavor profile it will pay to do your research before showing up at the garden center. Though, I will admit, I’ve been known to nibble on some potential herbs while shopping, just to make sure I like them! 

How do you pot thyme plants?

While you’re planting up your new plant babies, remember that thyme needs room to grow, and will actually grow quite quickly. Because of this, it’s best to just put one plant per adequately sized pot. Overcrowding will cause plants to compete with each other for water and nutrients, which will lead to a crummy crop.  

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

How dry should your thyme plant be?

If you’re planting your thyme outside in a garden bed, make sure the soil is a bit on the sandier side for good drainage. If you have a garden that has dense, peaty soil just add some sand while planting! If you’re creating a container garden or planting inside, pots with drainage holes are a must. Thyme will not grow well if planted in an environment where its roots are constantly wet. Your plant will rot. I’ve found that terra cotta pots are the best option for growing any kind of herb in a container. 

Along the same lines, make sure you thyme plants have dried out before you water them again. Soggy plants are sad plants. While you’re at it, rotate your pots every time you water to ensure your plants grow equally on all sides. This also helps prevent scorching if you’re growing indoors. Remember that glass fractures light and can burn plants! 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

How much light does your thyme plant need?

Like most herbs, thyme needs bright light to flourish. When growing outdoors your plants will need up to 10 hours of direct sun during the day. When you’re growing an herb garden indoors thyme will need as much bright, direct light as you can give it. Low light will make your plant grow leggy stems that won’t look or taste right. Just remember, brighter is better when it comes to thyme. 

Will thyme flower?

Yes, thyme will flower! You might know that some herbs, like basil, change flavor once the plants flower and should not be allowed to do so. Well, if you’re a lazy gardener, you’re in luck. It doesn’t matter much if thyme is allowed to flower or not! However, if you want to pinch back the flowers it will promote a faster growth pattern. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

How do you harvest thyme?

You can harvest thyme as you need it, but it’s also good practice to take large cuttings three or four times each growing season. Try drying it and storing it for later. Remember not to harvest more than one third of the plant at a time; cutting too much will put the plant into shock. You will find that the more you harvest, the more it will grow. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Should you fertilize your thyme plant?

You might not think that a little herb plant is worthy of some fertilizer, but it would behoove you to give your thyme a little boost. This will help your plant grow faster and fuller. If you’re growing an organic garden, remember to use an organic fertilizer to maintain the organic status of your crop.