How Much Space Does Thyme Need to Grow: A Gardener’s Guide

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Growing your own herbs is a rewarding and practical approach to gardening, and thyme is no exception. Thyme, a versatile and aromatic herb, is popular in various culinary dishes and requires minimal maintenance. When it comes to planting thyme, it’s essential to know the appropriate amount of space it needs to thrive and spread.

A low-growing perennial herb, thyme can be grown in gardens or containers with proper spacing. With plants typically spreading up to 12 inches, it’s recommended to space thyme plants 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on the specific variety (Almanac, Bonnie Plants). By providing the correct spacing, you ensure that the plants have adequate room to grow and develop, allowing them to contribute their delightful flavor and aroma to your culinary creations.

Understanding Thyme

Thyme Varieties

There are numerous varieties of thyme, each with its own unique characteristics and flavors. Some popular varieties include:

  • Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus)
  • Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
  • Woolly Thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus)
  • Orange Thyme (Thymus fragrantissimus)

Growing Conditions

Thyme is a low-growing perennial herb that thrives in sunny, well-draining soil conditions. To ensure proper growth, it is important to consider the following factors:

Soil: Thyme prefers well-draining, slightly alkaline soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 8.0. You can improve soil conditions by adding compost, sand, or perlite to enhance drainage.

Spacing: To prevent overcrowding, plant thyme 12 to 24 inches apart, as these plants tend to grow vigorously. Providing adequate space allows for proper air circulation and prevents the spread of diseases.

Watering: Thyme is drought tolerant and prefers a slightly dry environment. Established plants rarely need watering, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other issues. Water thyme only during prolonged dry spells, allowing soil to dry out between waterings.

Temperature: Plant thyme when ground temperatures reach 70°F, which is typically 2-3 weeks before the last spring frost. Thyme can withstand light frost, but it is best to protect young plants from cold temperatures to prevent damage.

Spacing Requirements

Plant Spacing

When growing thyme, it’s essential to provide adequate space between plants to ensure healthy growth. A good practice is to space thyme plants anywhere from 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on the specific variety. This will enable the plants to spread and receive enough sunlight and air circulation.

Row Spacing

Considering the row spacing for thyme, it’s recommended to have rows 16 to 24 inches apart. This will ensure that each plant has plenty of room to grow and allow for easy access when harvesting or pruning your thyme plants.

Pot and Container Size

Thyme can be successfully grown in pots and containers, making it a great option for balconies, patios, or limited space gardens. The appropriate container size depends on the plant’s size, but generally, a pot between 10 and 18 inches in diameter is suitable. Thyme thrives alongside other sun-loving herbs like rosemary, which have similar watering requirements.

Here are some helpful tips for growing thyme in containers:

  • Ensure the container has proper drainage to prevent root rot.
  • Choose well-draining soil that is not overly rich or moist.
  • Place the container in an area that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight daily.
  • Water the thyme plant occasionally, letting the soil dry completely between waterings.

Planting Thyme

Preparing the Soil

Thyme is a Mediterranean herb that thrives in well-draining soil with a neutral pH. Before planting, loosen the soil to a depth of about 8-12 inches, and mix in some organic matter, such as compost, to improve drainage and provide essential nutrients to the plants. Make sure to choose a location that receives at least six to eight hours of full sunlight daily, as thyme loves the sun.

Transplanting or Direct Seeding

You have the option to either transplant young thyme plants or directly sow seeds in your garden. When transplanting, space young plants 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on the specific variety, as thyme is a vigorous grower and requires adequate space to spread out [source].

If you choose to direct seed, sow the seeds in the prepared soil about 1/4 inch deep and gently cover them with a thin layer of soil. Keep the soil moist, but not overly wet, until the seeds germinate, usually within two to three weeks.

Once the seedlings are about 1-2 inches tall and have developed a few sets of true leaves, thin them out to a spacing of 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on the variety [source].

As thyme plants grow, they should reach a height of 6 to 12 inches. Regular pruning will help maintain their size and shape, as well as encourage bushy growth and keep the plants healthy.

Caring for Thyme

Keeping your thyme plants healthy and productive involves regular maintenance, such as proper watering, pruning, and pest and disease management. In this section, we’ll cover these important aspects of caring for thyme plants.


Thyme thrives in well-drained soil and doesn’t require excessive watering. In fact, over-watering can lead to root rot and other problems. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, and then water deeply to ensure that the plant receives sufficient moisture. Keeping the soil moist but not soggy is crucial for healthy thyme growth. If you’re growing thyme in containers, make sure they have drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.


Regular pruning is essential to encourage bushy growth and maintain the plant’s size and shape. Trim back thyme plants in early spring, removing about a third of the growth. You can continue to lightly prune the plants throughout the growing season, especially after flowering, to promote new growth and maintain a compact appearance. Consistently taking cuttings from your plants also helps keep your thyme plant population robust, as older plants may decline in growth and fragrance over time according to The Spruce.

Pest and Disease Management

Thyme is generally resistant to pests, but it can be susceptible to certain diseases, particularly in overly damp conditions. To minimize the risk of disease:

  • Space your thyme plants 12 to 24 inches apart to ensure good air circulation, as recommended by The Kitchn.
  • Monitor the soil moisture closely and avoid over-watering.
  • Keep the area around your thyme plants free of weeds and debris that can harbor pests and diseases.

If you do encounter pest issues, such as aphids, spider mites, or whiteflies, you can use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control them. Regular inspections and early intervention are key to preventing infestations from becoming severe.

Harvesting Thyme

Thyme is a versatile herb that can be harvested throughout its growing season. Knowing when to harvest, how to preserve and store the herb is essential to make the most out of your thyme plants.

When to Harvest

The best time to harvest thyme is right before the plant starts to flower, as this is when the flavors and aromas are at their peak. You can harvest thyme throughout the growing season, but keep in mind that the flavors may vary depending on the time of year. It is ideal to harvest thyme in the morning, after the dew has dried, but before the sun becomes too hot.

Preserving and Storing

Once you’ve harvested your thyme, there are several ways to preserve and store it for future use:

  • Drying: Tie the thyme sprigs together in small bundles and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated, dark, and dry place. It may take a week or two for the thyme to fully dry. Once dried, store the dried thyme in an airtight container away from direct sunlight.
  • Freezing: Wash and pat the thyme dry before arranging the sprigs on a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper. Place the tray in the freezer until the thyme is frozen, then transfer the frozen sprigs to a sealed plastic bag or container for long-term storage.
  • Storing in oil or vinegar: Thyme can be preserved by submerging the sprigs in olive oil or vinegar. This not only preserves the herb, but also imparts its flavor into the oil or vinegar for use in cooking or salad dressings.

By understanding the best practices for harvesting, preserving, and storing thyme, you can ensure that you make the most of this wonderfully versatile herb and enjoy its flavors in your favorite dishes throughout the year.

Helpful Video on Thyme Spacing

To get an in-depth look at thyme spacing and growing thyme properly check out this video below…