Today we’ll look at everything involved with growing thyme from cuttings.
The thyme plant is a perennial with woody stems that produce robust and flavorful leaflets.
You’ve likely used this herb while cooking before, or at least ate a dish that included thyme. Thyme is often used in dishes such as a seasoning for sauces or soups. It can also be used in other ways in the kitchen, such as paired with other herbs in potato or poultry dishes.
Like many other herbs, thyme can easily be grown in many growing zones in the United States and throughout the world! Thyme is a great addition to any herb garden, with a beautiful green (thyme green!) color and the reward of fresh thyme for your kitchen!
But how do you start?
While growing thyme from seed is certainly an option, growing thyme from cuttings can be an interesting experience and doesn’t even require you to own a thyme plant!
Can thyme be grown from cuttings?
Yes, thyme can be grown cuttings, also known as propagating thyme. Propagating simply means producing a plant that is identical (genetically speaking) to its parent by means of dividing, taking cuttings, etc.
Some plants are more difficult to propagate than others, but with thyme, a little patience and plant care will result in your very own thyme plant.
Let’s dive into how you can grow thyme from cuttings.
How to grow thyme from cuttings
To grow thyme from cuttings, you’ll need:
- A small pot (3″ size with good drainage) or growing area with some potting soil
- Rooting hormone (optional)
Before we get into the specific steps, it should be noted that growing thyme from cuttings is a lengthy process. Depending on the strategy taken, it could take as long as a year until you can harvest and eat from your new thyme plant.
Step-by-step on how to propagate thyme
Here’s a rundown of everything involved with growing thyme from cuttings.
1. Get a hold of some thyme!
To start, you’ll need some thyme cuttings of course.
If you are growing your own thyme, simply cutting off some healthy, non-flowering sprigs of thyme will do — sprigs that are 4-6″ long will be great! You can take cuttings any time throughout the growing season, but the best time is during its active growth season, which is any time between spring and fall.
If you aren’t currently growing thyme and don’t know of anyone who is willing to share theirs, most grocery stores or farmers markets sell packs or bunches of fresh thyme. While its certainly more preferable to cut sprigs straight from a plant, some fresh sprigs of thyme that is purchased should be fine to get started.
So, when is the best time to plant? While the answer will vary depending on where you are growing, generally early fall is optimimal.
This is because the plants’ stems become more sturdy (even woody at their base), which make your cutting more sturdy for propagating!
2. Strip leaves off bottom 2″ of the thyme sprig
Once you have a thyme sprig, strip off the leaves on the lower end of the stem — you’ll want about 2″ of bare stem, which will serve as the base for future roots!
If you are ready to propagate the sprig right away, cut the tip of the sprig at a 45-degree angle. This will ensure some fresh exposure to the center of the sprig.
If you aren’t ready to propagate, you can store the sprigs in your fridge, wrapped in a plastic bag.
3. [Optional] Dip the stem into a growth hormone
At this point, you have the option of dipping the sprig’s bare stem into a rooting hormone.
Using a growth hormone is optional, especially when it comes to a thyme, which you’ll likely be consuming down the road. In some cases, it may be necessary for healthier roots, but in many cases you can get by without it.
If you do want to use a growth hormone for a faster and healthier root system, you can purchase either the powder or gel form at your local garden center. Then, simply dip your stem into some water and and tip into the growth hormone.
When propagating thyme with a rooting hormone, keep in mind that most hormones (whether in powder or gel form) will require you waiting until a full year before consuming any part of the plant.
4. Start the root structure
If you chose to start the plant with a growth hormone, you can plant the stem in a potting soil mix to ensure that is has good draining. Since these are just little sprigs at this point, planting them in a small pack or pot is preferable. This will allow you to move the plant around, if needed.
If you aren’t using a growth hormone, you’ll want to establish a root structure before planting in soil. To do this, you can place your thyme plant in a glass of water, with the 2″ of bare stem fully submerged. After a 3-4 weeks you should start seeing roots sprouting out of the stem!
Once you have some mature roots, the plant is ready to planted in potting soil! Make sure the sprig’s stem has good contact with the soil so that the root system can grow immediately into the soil.
Do this when soil temperature is between 60-70 degrees Ferineheit. If you plant too early the sprigs may not take root and planting too late may result in a plant that struggles to take off due to the heat.
5. Wait 6-8 weeks for maturing plant
Depending on what time you are propagating, the time it will take to root up and growing will vary. Typically, after 6-8 weeks you’ll start seeing some indicators of growth.
It’s best to store your thyme plant in a warm, humid area. If you have a greenhouse, this climate is perfect! If not, you can achieve the same effect by putting a plastic bag over the plant and container. Depending on the outside climate that you are growing in, keeping the plant outside may be good enough.
If you notice that the leaves start to turn yellow after a few weeks, it may be due to transplant shock (much like us humans, plants don’t like sudden change). In this case, simply trim off the yellow leaves and prepare for more growth.
6. Care for your new thyme plant!
Now that you have your plant started, its time to start treating it like any young plant you would purchase at a greenhouse or growing center. Make sure the thyme plant gets plenty of sunlight, water (keeping the top level of soil damp is great!) and care is going to be crucial.
Eventually, the thyme plant will outgrow its original pot and you can plant this perennial directly in the ground for thyme for years to come!
Summary: growing thyme from cuttings
To summarize, thyme is a great herb to try growing from cuttings! To propagate your thyme, you can follow these steps:
- Get a hold of some thyme (either from an existing plant or from your grocery store)
- Strip off leaves from each stems’ bottom 2″
- Dip the stem in a growth hormone and plant in potting soil OR
- Place the stem in a glass of water for a few weeks until mature roots have grown before planting
- Store the stem and pot in a humid climate and water occasionally for 6-8 weeks
- Care for your new thyme plant!