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Propagating thyme is something I learnt at a very young age. Watching my expert gardening parents perform this task for some reason, always “turned me on”. In an educational way.
My dad in particular was amazing at propagating not just thyme, but all types of different herbs and plants.
He owned and ran a couple of medium-sized vineyards and probating vines was something he did all the time. There was always a set of vine cutting wrapped in a hessian cover laying around the yard.
And he was particularly expert at grafting one variety of vine into another. But that’s a story for another time.
As Italian immigrants to Australia, they brought their gardening skills with them. Soup and pasta sauce were a big part of our diets.
And both of these benefitted from the addition of thyme.
So propagating thyme and other plants was a constant in their lives.
Thyme is particularly slow-growing from seeds so using propagating techniques made much more sense. You can use soil or water. I prefer water but this is up to you.
In this article, I want to run through several steps to propagating thyme. This is not a difficult process so don’t worry. And at the end, how to harvest thyme.
How To Propagate Thyme
I assume you know what thyme is. I didn’t want this to be a learning lesson about thyme in respects to what it is and does.
What I will tell you is that thyme, other than adding flavor to your food, is also great as a recovery aid following the flu or a simple cold. Keep that in mind.
The fact you’re here to learn how to propagate it tells me you are well versed in what it is. So let’s look at the steps required to propagate thyme.
Do You Have Thyme?
The first step is naturally getting hold of some thyme. Your local garden store will help and if they can’t, just go online. I have bought thyme cutting online. It’s cheap and they arrived in good condition.
If you have thyme already growing, cut several sprigs or twigs from it. Remove any foliage from the bottom. I prefer at least two inches of bare stem
I like my sprigs to be at least four inches in length.
Propagating Thyme In Soil
1. Place the cuttings into a pot filled with moistened potting mix. Water the cuttings well. Cover the pots with plastic wrap. Keep the pots in a warm place such as a garage or greenhouse. In warmer climates, keep the pots outside during the day.
2. After a few days, check your pots. Look for signs of roots growing out of the bottom of the pot. When roots start to form, carefully transplant the cuttings into individual containers with potting mix.
3. Water the cuttings lightly again. Thyme doesn’t really require a lot of water so avoid making the soil soggy. I think a light watering every seven days or so should do. Or use your judgement. If it’s dry, sprinkle it with water.
4. Once the cuttings have rooted, trim off the leaves around the base of the stem. This helps prevent the stems from drying out too quickly. Then put the cuttings in full sun.
5. Feed the plants regularly. Use a fertilizer designed specifically for houseplants. Don’t use fertilizers that contain high levels of nitrogen because thyme needs less nitrogen than many other types of flowers and vegetables. Also, don’t overfeed. A small amount every week is fine.
6. Watch for pests. Check your thyme frequently for aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, mealybugs and thrips. These insects cause damage to thyme by sucking sap from the leaves. Remove infested plants immediately.
Grow Thyme In Water
Many people will not have the space to grow thyme outdoors. That’s easily fixed.
Actually, a glass of water is all the space you need in propagating thyme. Seriously.
Think of the cuttings you have, either home grown or bought and make sure the bottom couple of inches is bare.
Simply submerge this in the water. Just keep an eye on it and within a month, you should start to see roots sprouting. Once this occurs, you can go ahead and plant the thyme in soil as per the steps above.
This is not rocket science and thyme is a herb that will virtually grow without a lot of assistance. Yes it sounds like a lot of steps but once you “get the hang” of this it will come naturally. No more notes to refer to right!
The following video will make it seem a lot clearer.
There are many ways to harvest thyme. Some people prefer to wait until the plants flower, while others cut the leaves just before flowering. But there’s another way to go about it. You can simply let the plant grow for a few months, then harvest the leaves as needed.
The best time to harvest thyme is when the plants are still young and green. Make sure they are dry. This allows you to pick the leaves without damaging the plant.
If you want to preserve the flavor and aroma of thyme, wait until the flowers bloom. Then, once the flowers fade away, you’ll know the season is over.
Cutting the stems too soon will cause the plant to wilt and die. And don’t worry about cutting the stem too close to the base of the leaf. This won’t harm the plant.
If you live somewhere where temperatures drop below freezing during wintertime, you might want to consider growing thyme indoors. You can start seeds inside in early spring, transplant outside later in the summer, and keep them growing throughout fall and winter.
Also, avoid cutting or harvesting thyme at least a month before frost is set to be a factor.
Conclusion: Propagating Thyme
Thyme is one of the most popular herbs used in cooking around the world. Its flavor is often described as sweet, minty, lemon, earthy, citrus. Once, I heard it even described as camphor-like, although I don’t see it.
I’ve also heard it referred to as the “the queen of herbs” by a gardening attendant at a gardening store. I like it.
Whatever you think it is, thyme is a popular addition to your cooking menu. I like it in soups and sauces but it can be used in several other dishes.
If you feel like sharing either your best propagating thyme techniques or cooking techniques, feel free to write in the comments below.