Your Ultimate Guide to Growing Thyme Indoors
Growing thyme indoors is really quite easy and very worthwhile given the many uses of thyme, particularly as a cooking ingredient.
In this guide, I’ll show you how to grow thyme indoors plus give you an idea of the many uses for thyme. including culinary, health and beauty.
The secret to growing thyme indoors comes from understanding the origins of this very popular herb.
Thyme originates from Greece with its warm, sunny Mediterranean climate.
This explains thyme’s love of warmth and sunshine. It also explains thyme’s tolerance to drought conditions, however when potted, never let the plant completely dry out during hot weather.
There are two main categories of thyme, both with many different varieties. The first group are the upright, shrubby types like common thyme Thymus vulgaris.
The second category includes the ground-hugging, prostrate types like Thymus serpyllum.
Whether upright or prostrate, thyme has tiny leaves that range in color from glossy dark green to silver or variegated green,
Leaves are held on wire like stems, with tiny star-like flowers in shades of pink and white appearing in summer.
Indoors, thyme varies in height but never usually grows beyond 6-10 inches (15-25cm).
Many culinary experts believe that the English or French varieties, Thymus vulgaris, and Lemon thyme, Thymus citriodora, are the best varieties of thyme for cooking.
So, with this background in mind, let’s begin.
How to Grow Thyme Indoors
As previously mentioned, thyme originates from Greece in the sunny Mediterranean, so it loves lots of direct sunlight.
Place your potted thyme by a south facing window, allowing for at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight each day.
If your thyme plant is not getting enough sunlight, you might like to supplement with a grow light.
If you’re just starting out as an indoor herb gardener, you might like to check out indoor herb starter kits that come complete with grow lights.
When thyme is grown indoors, temperature shouldn’t really be an issue.
In winter however, particularly in severe winters, don’t place your plant too close to the window and try to avoid drafts.
Watering Thyme Indoors
Thyme is a very hardy and drought resilient plant.
However, when potted, it’s important not to let your plant dry out during the warmer summer months.
You can reduce watering during winter, but don’t let the soil completely dry out due to heating and air conditioning.
Placing your potted thyme on a tray of moist pebbles can help the plant in conditions of low humidity.
As with most herbs, be careful not to over water thyme, as it is prone to root rot and other fungal diseases.
In winter, place your potted thyme on pot feet to allow any excess moisture to drain away and avoid root rot.
When watering thyme, try to water only the soil and avoid wetting the leaves, to reduce the risk of mold.
Thyme does best in a well- draining, loam- based soil mix that’s kept evenly moist.
It’s a good idea to create a collar of grit or gravel around the plant to protect the leaves from resting on the soil when damp.
Fertilize your thyme plant with a balanced liquid feed once flowering has finished.
Once the plant has finished flowering, you can prune it into your desired shape.
Pruning thyme is more important for outdoor plants where manageability can be more of an issue.
Prune thyme with a pair of sharp, clean shears.
I prefer to buy fully grown herbs such as thyme because you can harvest the leaves faster and get a larger plant quicker.
However, you can propagate thyme from cuttings, by layering and from seed (probably the most challenging).
Propagating thyme is best done in spring when the weather gets warmer.
Propagating Thyme from Cuttings
Cut three inches off the end of a shoot, dip the end in rooting hormone and then plant into sand or vermiculite until roots form in about 6 weeks.
Then transfer to a pot with soil mix and the root ball will fully form, at which time you can carefully transplant your thyme plant into a larger pot.
Propagating Thyme from Layering
Layering is a bit different. Pin a long thyme stem to the soil using wire, leaving 4 inches above the soil.
Make sure that the pinned part is touching the soil or this method won’t work.
After about a month, roots should begin to form on the stem and then you can cut the new plant away and transplant it into its own pot.
Propagating Thyme from Seed
Growing thyme indoors from seed can be challenging and the reason why most people prefer to propagate thyme from a cutting or by layering.
Begin by scattering a few seeds on the surface of a small pot.
Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sieved compost or vermiculite and gently water.
Leave in a warm space or propagator to germinate. Once the seedlings are big enough to handle safely, they can be transferred to individual pots.
You can grow seedlings to maturity in a 6inch pot.
Snip leaves as needed when plants are in full growth.
Thyme is easily dried by hanging stems or placing them on herb drying racks.
Like most herbs, the best time for harvesting thyme is during the warmer months between May and September.
Types of Thyme
The following types of thyme are most preferred for culinary use.
English and French Thyme Thymus vulgaris
English ‘winter’ Thyme
English or winter thyme is the hardiest and most popular cooking thyme whereas French or summer thyme has finer gray leaves, tastes sweeter and is less robust than English thyme.
Either one is perfect for tomato-based dishes, pizzas, focaccia, and fresh vegetables.
Lemon Thyme Thymus citriodorus
A spreading shrub, lemon thyme has a habit of mounting and can reach 8 – 10 inches when grown indoors.
This fast- growing thyme has deep-green leaves that emit a sweet lemony fragrance.
People take advantage of the growth characteristics of this variety by placing it in a hanging basket by the kitchen window, for both decoration and convenience.
Lemon thyme is the perfect herb for fish, poultry (including stuffing) and desserts.
It also makes a beautiful lemony herbal tea.
Silver Posie Thyme Thymus Vulgaris ‘Argenteus’
Silver Posie Thyme
A beautiful variegated, upright thyme with delightful white – edged gray-green leaves.
The tips of the foliage take on a pink hue when located in a room with lower temperatures.
This variety of thyme reaches 6 -12 inches when grown indoors
It’s an ideal cooking herb
Thyme Health Benefits
Thyme contains ursolic acid, lutein, beta-sitosterol and oleanolic acid.
Research indicates that these compounds can have a positive effect in treating certain cancers, atherosclerosis (a form of cardiovascular disease) as well as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Thyme also contains carvacrol and thymol, both anti- inflammatory compounds that can help reduce the pain associated with gout and arthritis.
With high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A, thyme can have a positive effect on eyesight as well as the immune system.
Thyme Benefits for Beauty
Thyme has strong anti-fungal and antibacterial properties which means that it can help to protect your skin from infections.
Thyme oil can work to reduce acne, scars, cuts and sores, even relieving burns and rashes.
By combining thyme oil with witch hazel, you can create a great anti acne wash.
Being high in anti-oxidants, thyme can help to keep your skin looking younger, slowing the effects of ageing.
Mixing thyme and lavender oil together in a hair wash can help promote hair growth.
Trouble Shooting- Common Thyme Plant Care Issues
Growing thyme indoors generally means little or no problems with pests and diseases.
The most common disease related issues such as mold and root rot, generally result from over watering.
Pests may get inside through open doors and windows, or when attached to store bought or gifted plants.
Here are some of the most common issues faced when growing thyme indoors;
Problem: Black sooty appearance on leaves
Cause: Mealy bugs
Solution: Wipe off the with a damp cloth and then spray with neem oil
Problem: Stunted growth, lacking color
Cause: Fungus gnat larvae attacking roots
Solution: Drench soil with neem oil or specially formulated fertiliser. Spray parent gnats with neem oil
Problem: Looking dry and colorless
Cause: Not enough water
Solution: Keep up your watering, especially in summer
Lemon Thyme Chicken Salad
This is a delicious recipe that can be enjoyed all year round.
- 4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts ( cut into strips)
- 1 garlic clove (crushed)
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 small red onion (halved and thinly sliced)
- 5oz / 150g mixed salad leaves
- 3 tablespoons oil
- Several sprigs of fresh lemon thyme ( or common thyme)
- Handful of black olives
- Add the chicken, thyme and lemon zest to a bowl, season well and mix thoroughly
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and fry the chicken for 10 minutes until evenly cooked
- Spread the onion and salad on a serving platter
- Add the olives and garlic to the pan and cook for a further minute
- Remove from the heat
- Add the remaining oil and lemon juice to the pan, stirring well
- Arrange the chicken and dressing over the salad leaves and serve
Thyme tea is not only a deliciously refreshing herbal tea, it’s packed with anti-oxidants for a healthy alternative to coffee and a handy ally during the winter cold and flu season.
The good news is that making thyme tea is very easy. You can use either fresh or dried thyme.
I prefer to use dried thyme as it retains its flavor really well and you can conveniently store it in a jar after a few days of drying sprigs on a clean board.
Simply steep a few sprigs of thyme into a pot with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. A couple of minutes should do, depending on how strong you like your thyme tea.
If you have a tea ball infuser, you can chop the sprigs before steeping.
Thyme tea tastes delicious on its own but you can try infusing it with some sliced fruit such as lemon, peach or apple for added flavor..
How to Grow Herbs Indoors – The Series
Mint: how-to grow-mint-indoors
Rosemary: how-to grow-rosemary-indoors