Types of thyme plants: Thyme varieties for the garden

Any time is good to grow thyme. That’s true. There are more than 300 varieties of thyme in the Lamiaceae family, of which thyme is a member. All of them have been appreciated for centuries for their fragrance, taste and ornamental habitat. Thanks to this astonishing variety of thyme, there is a possible specimen for almost every climate and landscape. Learn more about the types of thyme you can grow.

How to take care of different types of thyme

Most varieties of thyme are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9, but tend not to like hot, humid summers or excessively wet conditions. In addition, most thyme varieties prefer full sun and well-drained soil. However, with a little research and even under unfavorable conditions, it is certain that there are several types of thyme plants that are suitable for growing in these areas.

Avoid fertilizing thyme varieties, as they tend to be layered and weak. Thyme varieties grown for culinary use should be replaced about every three years to avoid woody stems and to promote the desirable production of tender leaves. Most varieties of thyme are sensitive to over-watering, and many thyme varieties tolerate or even thrive in the midst of moderate to severe pruning.

All thyme varieties are easy to multiply by cutting, dividing and seeding. With its low growth (less than 15 cm high), this semi-persistent is suitable for ground cover or cultivation in

an herb garden, a flowerpot or flower pots. Many varieties of thyme have the beautiful habit of spreading and will also look good looking through cobblestones or stones in a courtyard or on a driveway or stone wall, while tolerating pedestrian traffic. Others grow more vertically and behave well as isolated specimens in the garden or in pots, alone or mixed with other plants or herbs.

Uses of different types of thyme

Very aromatic, with tiny leaves and tubular-shaped flowers that form in dense clusters, all the different kinds of thyme are attractive to bees and the honey produced by bees that feed on thyme flowers rivals the finest lavender honey.

Of course, thyme varieties are sought after for cooking and are classically used in «boquet garni» in stews, soups, meat, fish, compound butter, eggs, salad dressings and vegetable dishes. Thyme pairs are deliciously mixed with lemon, garlic and basil and can be used either fresh or dried in any of these preparations, or stranded in oil or vinegar to infuse the flavour. The essential oil of many varieties of thyme is used in colonies, soaps, lotions and even candles. Dried thyme is delicious in sachets.

Thyme leaves can be harvested before or after flowering. It is one of the few herbs whose use of dried or fresh seems to have little importance in the taste of food. However, as it is slow to release its oils, it should be added earlier in the cooking process.

Types of thyme plants

Although there are many varieties of thyme, here is a list of the most common:

  • Common thyme ( T. vulgaris ) – Prostrate shape, yellow and variegated foliage available, used in the kitchen
  • Lemon thyme ( T. x. citriodorus ) – upright shape, available gold and silver variegated foliage, strong lemon aroma.
  • Woolly thyme ( T. pseudolanuginosus ) – prostrate form, grey pubic stems and leaves, good for rockeries.
  • Crawling thyme ( T. praecox ) – sometimes called the mother of the family, is carpet-shaped, grows only two or three centimeters high, cultivars of purple, white and crimson flowers are available.
  • Wild thyme ( T. serpyllum ) – prostrate and erect forms, growers provide flowers in colors ranging from red to purple, the foliage can be green, golden or variegated.
  • Thyme elf ( T. serpyllum Elfin) – creeping variety not exceeding 1 to 2 cm high with fragrant leaves and small purple or pink flowers, good rockery and between paving stones or bricks.

And the list goes on: Red Compact, Lemon Thyme, Lemon Frost Thyme, Pennsylvania Dutch Tea (yes, good for tea), Orange Balsam Thyme, Caraway Thyme (with a caraway scent), Pink Chintz or Reiter Creeping Thyme.

Go to your local nursery and ask which varieties of thyme are recommended in your area, then play with their texture and growth habits to create interesting niches in your garden.

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