Thymus thyme

(thii' muss)

Common name: Thyme

Family: Lamiaceae, Mint

Height x width: 6-12" x 12-18"

Growth rate: moderate

Foliage: opposite, linear to elliptic, ¼" long, slightly tomentose; usually green but some variegated cultivars; highly aromatic

Flowers: lilac to pink, summer, tubular 1/8" long in dense terminal clusters

Hardiness: perennial, zones 4-7 to 9

Soil: well-drained, tolerates dry well

Light: sun, tolerates part shade

Pests and problems: fungal leaf spots and stem rots in wet soil, aphids and spider mites indoors

Landscape habit, uses: edging, between pavers and as groundcover, rock gardens, herb gardens, bee gardens, containers, indoors.

Culinary--leaves best when picked during bloom; dry leaves; add in most cooking, using sparingly when fresh and most pungent; used to aid in digestion of fatty meats

Household--used for bees for honey; used as decoction for household disinfectant; potpourris

Cosmetic--decoction used to stimulate circulation; used in baths and facial steams; used as antiseptic in toothpastes and mouthwashes; infused with rosemary as a hair rinse to deter dandruff

Medicinal--English Wild Thyme used primarily, infused as a tea to aid digestion and for hangovers, tea sweetened with honey for coughs and sore throats; may aid in resisting infection

Aromatherapy--infused oil used as a massage for headaches

Other interest: native to Eurasia; name from Greek thymon for courage, refering to traditional use by Greeks and Romans; used by Greeks in massage oil after baths and by Romans for vigor; tea used in Scottish highlands for vigor; ancient Egyptians used it in embalming as antiseptic as is currently used in embalming fluid; sprigs carried in Middle Ages to ward off diseases and odors.

Other culture: cut back to new growth in spring, may need to replace culinary plants when they become woody and less bushy in 3 years; prune frequently to encourage new growth

Propagation: seed (125,000 seeds per ounce), spring division, tip cuttings of new growth


caespititius (cess-pi-ti' she-us)(azoricus)--Dwarf Thyme, cold hardy to zone 7, creeping to 2" tall, pink flowers, narrow leaves, pine scent, native to western Mediterranean

carnosus (car-no' sus)--Portugese Thyme, upright to 15" tall, leaves ovate in clusters, flowers white, lilac or pink, cold hardy to zone 7, native to Portugal

x citriodorus (ci-tree-o-door' us)--Lemon Thyme, pulegioides and vulgaris hybrid, erect to 12" tall, cold hardy to zone 5, pale lilac flowers, lemon scent, of garden origins

doerfleri (door' fleur-ii)--Dwarf Thyme, cold hardy to zone 5, creeping to 3" tall, mauve flowers, gray leaves clustered; native to eastern Europe

herba-barona (er-ba bare-o' nah)--Caraway Thyme, creeping to 4" tall, arching branches, pink flowers, caraway scent; tough and often used in lawns; cold hardy to zone 6, native to Mediterranean

odoratissimus (o-door-ah-tiss' i-muss)--stems erect or trailing to 6" tall, leaves clustered in axils, flowers greenish purple; citrus scent; cold hardy to zone 6, native to southern Russia

pallasianus (pal-laa-see-aa' nuss)--like odoratissimus only leaves glabrous and slightly wider; pale pink flowers; citrus scent; cold hardy to zone 7, native to southern Russia

polytrichus (pol-ee-tree' cus)(praecox)--English Wild Thyme, mat-forming to 3" tall, cold hardy to zone 5, mauve to purple flowers; native to central Europe; subsp. britannicus is like species only with pubescent stems and slightly longer flowers


praecox subsp. articus: polytrichus subsp. britannicus

pseudolanuginosus (sue-dough-la-nue-gi-no' sus)--Woolly Thyme, prostrate, elliptic and pubescent leaves, few pale pink axillary flowers, cold hardy to zone 6, unknown origin

pulegioides (pew-lee-gee-oy'dees)--Broad Leaf Thyme, large and rounded leaves, mauve-pink flowers, bushy shrub to 15" tall; cold hardy to zone 5, native to Europe

richardii (ri-car' dee-ii)(nitidus)--Creeping Thyme, pale lilac flowers, 6" tall; cold hardy to zone 7, native to Eastern Europe

serphyllum (sir-phil' lum)--Wild Thyme, dwarf prostrate shrub to 4" tall, pink or purple flowers whorled in rounded heads, cold hardy to zone 5, native to northern Europe

thracicus (thraa' ki-cuss)--Lavender Thyme, similar to praecox only to 4" tall, basal clusters of small leaves,mauve to purple flowers, cold hardy to zone 8, native to Balkans

vulgaris (vul-gair' iss)--French/Common Thyme, common cooking species, to 1' tall; cold hardy to zone 7, native to western Mediterranean

Cultivars, other taxa species flowers leaves
'Albus' polytrichus britannicus white  
'Annie Hall' serphyllum pale pink prostrate
'Archer's Gold' x citriodorus pink pungent, remains golden
'Argenteus' x citriodorus purple silver edged
'Aureus' x citriodorus pink golden 
subsp. aureus vulgaris rosy golden yellow
'Bressingham' doerfleri clear pink gray green 
'Coconut' -- pink slight coconut scent
'Coccineus' serphyllum crimson slight scent
'Doone Valley' -- pale purple green, gold splashes, lemony
'Dorothy Klaber' polytrichus dark pink dense, low mat
'Fragrantissimus' x citriodorus pale lilac fruity scent, blue green
'Golden Queen' x citriodorus pale lilac light gold variegated
'Goldstream' serphyllum lilac yellow variegated
'Hall's Variety' pseudolanuginosus pink soft woolly 
'Lemon Carpet' herba-barona pink lemony, wiry stems, very low
'Lemon Curd' serphyllum pink long branches, narrow leaves
'Lime' -- pink lime scent
'Longwood' -- pale pink gray silver, vigorous
'Minus' polytrichus britannicus pink tiny 
'Orange Balsam' vulgaris white pine and citrus scent
'Orange Spice' -- pink orange spicy scent, dense mat
'Oregano' -- pink creeping, oregano scent
'Pink Chintz' serphyllum salmon woolly, dark green
'Silver Needle' -- pink silver gray, needle-like
'Silver Posie' vulgaris pink white edged, tiny, pink stems
'Silver Queen' x citriodorus pale pink silver-splashed green, lemony
'Snowdrift' serphyllum white small, faint scent

(cultivar and species photos courtesy Missouri botanical gardens plantfinder)

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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