Thyme is one of the most diverse, hardy and widely grown herbs. There are over 400 species and many more cultivars of the genus Thymus. All share the common name thyme, but with such diversity, it is important to know what cultivar or species you are dealing with, particularly if you are growing the plants for a culinary or edible purpose.
Thymes come from a variety of climates, but mainly Europe and Western Asia, and are generally very hardy once established
Extremes of wet or dry are best avoided
Full or filtered sunlight preferred
Propagate by cuttings or division
Cut when flowering and air dry. Flowers and leaves can be powdered or chopped...discard coarse stems. Two or three harvests in a season can normally be made
Thyme oil is produced commercially from the flowering tops of several Thymus varieties, mainly in Spain.
Prostrate, mat forming, flower stems 1.5 to 3cm tall, hairy.
Leaves in dense tufts, linear to narrowly oblanceolate, to almost 1cm long.
Flowers purplish pink to white.
Small shrub 10 to 25cm high, leaves triangular ovate, 2 4mm long, white underneath.
Flowers terminal, about 1cm long, purplish to rose.
Thymus citriodorus "Aureus" (Variegated Lemon Thyme)
Thymus citriodorus = T. pulegioides x T.vulgaris.
To 0.3m tall, pink flowers and variegated leaves. Leaves used fresh or dry to add lemon flavor to fish, meats and vegetables. Can be shorter lived than some other thymes.
Thymus Herba barona (Caraway Thyme)
Sub shrub 4 to 10 cm tall. Leaves ovate lanceolate to 4cm long.
Rose coloured flowers.
Foliage has caraway scent when crushed.
Creeping, long, woody. Leaves nearly leathery, obovate to nearly orbicular with prominent lateral veins.
Spreading, bushy shrub 8 to 25cm tall.
Leaves ovate, lanceolate or elliptic; veins raised beneath.
Flowers typically mauve.
Thymus Serpyllum (Lemon Thyme)
Mat forming, roots form at nodes. Flowers stand erect to 8cm tall.
Leaves linear to elliptic. Flowers purple.
Thymus vulgaris. (Garden Thyme or Common Thyme)
Shrub 12 30cm tall, woody. Leaves 3mm 9mm long, revolute, tomentose, not ciliate. Dense, large numbers of flowers, whitish to lilac.
A low growing woody plant (to 0.3m tall), becoming relatively hardy once established. Prefers indirect sun, and a well drained but moist soil (responds to mulching). Water regularly in warm weather.
Propagated by cuttings or division.
Leaves are used in vinegars, herb butters, herbal teas or to flavour meat or vegetable dishes.
HOW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THYME
If you want to learn more about thymes, or any other herbs, start by ensuring you understand the subtle differences that can occur between the different types.
This can begin with a basic understanding of plant taxonomy, then an appreciation of herbal chemistry.
Two very useful courses can be our Plant Taxonomy and Medicinal Plants short courses