Growing & Pruning Thyme
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Ruth Roy
Posted on: January 17, 2006

Given that your catalog has informed & inspired me for years, it occurs to me that you’d be the best source to solve my dilemma about maintaining healthy thyme plants. Obviously, if using some sprigs for a meal, you’d snip off enough for that purpose; but in the longer view, including if one sells thyme plants and needs to maintain their lush look for several months while they remain in a pot, is the proper technique to snip from the lower branches?

In my herb garden, I typically end up with leggy, woody thyme plants, even though they produce lush growth (and flowers if I allow them). I’ve had some of these plants for a decade and don’t want to lose them, but they just don’t seem as well-formed from the base up as should be.

The general rule is that you harvest from plants by sort of giving them a haircut, by cutting off anything that is taller than ten centimeters. This will prevent the leggy look. But if you want a rounded look, by all means cut some outside branches lower down, but they then may die down. Eventually the plant will die in the winter, since the woody bases do not over-winter as well as young growth. I found that if I allow my times to sprawl and root where they touch the soil, they become more or less immortal since only the old growth will winter kill, but I always have freshly rooted young pieces to take over in spring. The plant of course does not stay in the same spot using this method, but it is so large by now, that any bit harvested makes no dent in the over-all appearance of the cushion-like mat.

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