Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is a small, perennial, evergreen shrub in the family Lamiaceae grown primarily for its leaves which are used as a herb. The thyme plant has an erect or ascending growth habit and possesses many woody, branching stems. The leaves of the thyme plant are linear or elliptical and are arranged alternately on the stems. The leaves are densely covered in minute hairs and have numerous red-brown oil glands on the surface which take the appearance of small dots. The leaves can be green or variegated. The plant produces whorls of tiny pink, lilac or pale purple flowers on a terminal spike and tiny brown fruits, each with one seed. Thyme can reach a height of up to 50 cm (20 in) and can be grown as an annual or a perennial. Thyme may also be referred to as common or garden thyme and originates from the Mediterranean.


Thyme leaves and flowers can be used fresh or dried as a herb in cooking. Bees which collect nectar from thyme flowers produce a high quality honey. Essential oil can be extracted from the leaves and is commonly used in the manufacture of perfume or as flavoring in toothpastes.


Thyme grows best in warm, sunny climates in well draining sands or sandy loam. It can be grown at temperatures between 4 and 28°C (39.2–82.4°F) but will grow best at 16°C (60.8°F) in a slightly alkaline soil. Thyme is propagated from seed and can be direct seeded or used to produce transplants. Seed should be covered with a thin layer of soil to prevent them from drying out while they germinate. Individual plants should be spaced 10–15 cm (4–6 in) apart allowing 20–25 cm (8–10 in) between rows.

Common Pests and Diseases

Alternaria blight Alternaria brassicicola

Small, round, yellow, brown or black spots with concentric rings which appear first on lower shaded leaves; holes in leaves caused by lesions drying and dropping out; leaves dropping; death of plant
Spread by infected seed; use wide plant spacing to promote air circulation
Remove and destroy infected leaves; use wide plant spacing to promote air circulation around foliage