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Thymus

Thyme diagram

Thymus - Thyme

Thymus species number more than 300, most are perennials, and those that are commonly cultivated have a number of different cultivars which can be propagated sometimes from seed or more often from cuttings. Thymus species have been cultivated for many centuries for there culinary and medicinal properties. They are currently grown for there fragrance, flavor, and ornamental value. The ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming and the ancient Greeks used it in baths and burnt it as incense. The use of thyme spread threw-out Europe with the Romans as it was used to purify rooms and for cooking; were it was most often used to flavor cheeses and liqueurs. During the Middle Ages, thymes were placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. Thyme leaves, it was believed, bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals.

A few thyme species are used as landscape ornamentals and Creeping thyme will tolerate occasional foot traffic and can be used between stepping-stones. Thyme species can be used as an edging or border plant in gardens or on rock walls.

Thymes are used with lemon, garlic, and basil in the cooking and flavoring of marinades, meat dishes, casseroles, stews, herb butters, and vegetable dishes. The dried leaves and flowers of thyme are used in sachets. The scent is due to its content of thymol and as an essential oil, thymol is used in making colognes, soaps, and lotions.

Thymus species are often a semi-evergreen ground-cover, usually growing less than 15 inches tall. Some are prostrate and others have an upright habit. Older stems often become woody with age. Thymes have small, oval to oblong in shape leaves that are less than an inch wide. Most species are scented and some are highly aromatic with each species having a slightly different odor to them. The tubular-shaped flowers occur in dense, terminal clusters or sometimes arising from the leaf axils of the stems. Blooming is in summer. Flowers usually are lavender, red, or white depending on the species and cultivars. The flowers are very attractive to bees and other nectar feeding insects. Honey produced from bees that have feed mostly from thyme is considered a culinary delicacy.

All species of thyme prefer full sun and well-drained soils and most grow best in coarse, gritty soils such as used in rock gardens. Under wet conditions or when the air is very humid for a few weeks, thymes can develop root rot and fungal diseases. When grown in very rich soils or they are over-fertilized they will become tall, spindly, and weak; making them more prone to rot and fungal attack. Plants used for culinary purposes are best replaced every few years with newly started plants from seed or cuttings because of the development of woody stems that limit production of the desirable fresh new growth. Thyme species are hardy in 5-9, and a few are hardy in zone 4, but all tend to "melt out" and decline during hot, humid summers. Cutting plants back promotes new growth and tidies up the mats of stems. In colder area the prostrate forms tend to be easer to over winter; they can also be covered with dry mulch over winter. Thyme species are easy to propagate from seed, cuttings, and division. The seeds are moderately small but easy to sow. The seeds should be surface sown because light is needed for best germination. Use F 65 with germination in 5-20 days.

Code Name Image Price  
4TH6-A7 Thymus fragrantissimus Thymus fragrantissimus $2.55
THMA-A7 Thymus mastichina   $2.95
TH09-A9 Thymus pulegioides   $1.35
HG85-A3 Thymus serpyllum 'Hort'   $2.65
TH99-A2 Thymus serpyllum 'Magic Carpet' Thymus serpyllum 'Magic Carpet' $2.45
97TH-A3 Thymus vulgaris   $1.85
THYST Thymus vulgaris 'Summer Thyme'   $1.45
THYSW Thymus vulgaris 'Standard Winter'   $2.00
THY1 Thymus longiflorus   $2.95