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10 Best Thyme Varieties for Your Herb Garden

by Jack Grover
green colored plant in garden
Reading time: 16 min Prefer to listen?

Thyme is an excellent option to add some flavor and beauty to your herb garden. With over 300 varieties to choose from, there’s a thyme plant perfect for any goal you want to achieve.

Whether you’re a culinary enthusiast or simply want to enhance the aesthetics of your outdoor space, thyme is a versatile herb that fits the bill.

In the culinary world, common thyme is a go-to choice for its wide range of uses and adaptability to different climates.

If you’re looking for something with a citrusy twist, lemon thyme adds a delightful zing to fish, poultry, sauces, and desserts.

And if you’re in need of ground cover for paths or lawns, creeping thyme is the ideal choice.

Get ready to elevate your gardening game with these top 10 thyme varieties for your herb garden!

Culinary Thyme Varieties

herbs beside wooden pot

Thyme is a well-renowned herb, highly esteemed for its culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses.

At the forefront of its culinary varieties is the Common Thyme or Thymus vulgaris. This one is easily recognizable with its pungent, earthy scent and gray-green leaves. It’s the go-to variety for most cooks due to its robust flavor, which pairs well with stews, roasts, and soups.

In sharp contrast to the Common Thyme, Lemon Thyme breaks away from the pack with formidable grace. Identified by its citrusy smell and zesty flavor, this variety is ideal for light dishes such as fish or chicken.

Let’s review some of the most popular thyme varieties used in cooking.

German Thyme

German thyme, also known as winter thyme, is an ideal herb for your garden. It’s cold-hardy and has a robust flavor that adds depth and complexity to dishes.

Here are four reasons why you should consider adding German thyme to your garden.

  1. First, it’s cold-tolerant. German thyme can withstand frost and lower temperatures, making it an excellent choice for colder climates.
  1. Second, it has a robust flavor. German thyme’s strong flavor complements many dishes, including beef and lamb.
  1. Third, it’s incredibly versatile. This type of thyme can be used in a variety of recipes, from soups and stews to marinades and sauces.
  1. Finally, it’s low-maintenance. German thyme requires minimal watering and pruning, and it’s a reliable herb that will continue to grow year after year.

Golden Lemon Thyme

Golden lemon thyme is a flavorful and attractive addition to any garden or outdoor space. Its golden foliage brings a unique ornamental touch, while its flavor profile offers a bright and tangy twist to various dishes.

This hardy variety is suitable for cooking and as a fragrant ground cover or accent plant.

Golden lemon thyme has a similar flavor to lemon thyme, with notes of citrus and a fresh aroma. It can be used to enhance the flavor of fish, poultry, sauces, and desserts.

This versatile herb is also known to thrive in colder climates up to Zone 4a, making it a perfect choice for any environment.

Common Thyme

Common thyme, also known as garden or English thyme, is a popular herb that’s used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Its sharp, distinct flavor enhances dishes from meats to desserts, and its ease of growth makes it a great choice for herb gardens.

Here’s why common thyme is a must for any garden enthusiast:

  1. First, common thyme has an exceptional flavor that can really bring out the taste of your dishes. Its unique taste can be used to add depth and texture to a wide range of meals.
  1. Second, common thyme is easy to grow and requires minimal maintenance. Whether you have limited space or are just getting started with gardening, common thyme is a great choice.
  1. Lastly, common thyme also has medicinal benefits. It can help to aid digestion, soothe headaches, and provide relief for sore throats when used as an herbal remedy.

Caraway Thyme

Caraway thyme is an ideal addition to any herb collection, offering a unique flavor to your culinary creations. With its narrow green leaves and light pink flowers, this low-growing variety of thyme adds a hint of caraway flavor to your dishes.

It’s hardy in zones 4-8, making it suitable for various climates.

Traditionally, caraway thyme has been used to flavor barons of beef, but its uses extend far beyond that. Both experienced chefs and those just starting out in the kitchen can appreciate this flavorful herb.

It’s an exceptional choice for enhancing the flavor of your favorite recipes, from beef to vegetables to soups and more.

Lemon Thyme

Lemon thyme is a unique and versatile herb with a zesty lemon flavor and citrusy aroma. It adds a refreshing twist to any recipe, from fish dishes to desserts.

Here are some reasons why it’s a must-have in your herb garden:

  • Seafood: The bright citrus notes of lemon thyme pair perfectly with the delicate flavors of fish and shellfish. Sprinkle it over grilled or baked seafood dishes for a delicious, zesty flavor.
  • Poultry: This herb adds a tangy kick to chicken and turkey recipes. Whether you’re roasting, grilling, or sautéing poultry, lemon thyme will enhance the flavor.
  • Creamy Sauces: Lemon thyme is the perfect addition to creamy sauces like béchamel or hollandaise. Its aromatic essence cuts through richness, creating a flavorful and fresh dish.

Ornamental Thyme Varieties

Ornamental Thyme

If you’re looking to add some beauty and charm to your garden, consider planting ornamental thyme varieties. Some of the best options include Creeping Thyme, Wooly Thyme, Mother of Thyme, Juniper Thyme, and Minus.

Let’s examine each of these plants in-depth below.

Creeping Thyme

Also known as Breckland or wild thyme, creeping thyme is a subshrub that thrives in a variety of climates. Its small, oval green leaves grow in pairs along the stems and are topped with beautiful clusters of lilac, pinkish-purple, magenta, or white flowers between July and August.

One of the best features of creeping thyme is its versatility. This aromatic herb can be used as a ground cover or filler between stones and rocks. The low branches of the plant allow it to sprawl over rocks or pathways, creating a stunning display.

Additionally, its fragrant blooms attract honey bees to your garden, offering a bounty of nectar for them to feed on.

Wooly Thyme

Wooly thyme is an outstanding addition to any herb garden because of its velvety foliage and delicate pink flowers, which add a touch of texture and visual interest.

Here are four reasons why you should consider planting it in your outdoor oasis:

  • Low maintenance: Wooly thyme is a hardy and drought-tolerant plant that requires minimal care. It can thrive in poor soil conditions and doesn’t need frequent watering.
  • Ground cover: With its low-growing habit, it’s perfect for filling in gaps between stepping stones or as a ground cover in rock gardens. Its tiny grayish leaves create a lush carpet-like effect.
  • Fragrance: When brushed against or crushed, the wooly leaves release a pleasant herbal aroma that can add a delightful scent to your garden.
  • Pollinators: The small pink flowers of wooly thyme attract bees and butterflies, making it an excellent option for pollinator-friendly gardens.

Mother of Thyme

If you’re looking to spruce up your herb garden, Mother of Thyme is a must-have! This evergreen shrub is both edible and ornamental.

The plant’s tiny green leaves and delicate stems create a low-growing carpet of greenery, perfect for rock gardens or along walkways. Plus, Mother of Thyme adds a splash of color to your landscape with its small clusters of pink flowers in the summer.

When it comes to care, Mother of Thyme is low-maintenance and drought-tolerant. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Once established, it requires minimal attention.

Juniper Thyme

Juniper Thyme is an exquisite perennial herb that adds beauty and fragrance to your garden. Its bluish-green leaves have a silvery, needle-like appearance, and it’s sometimes referred to as moonlight thyme due to its unique foliage.

Delicate pink flowers bloom from early to midsummer, creating a vibrant and captivating display.

This herb hails from Greece and Turkey, and it thrives in full sun. It grows to a height of six to eight inches and a spread of six to 12 inches, making it ideal for containers or as a ground cover.

When using Juniper Thyme in culinary dishes, be mindful of its sharp, spicy flavor — it should be used more sparingly than common thyme.

Juniper Thyme is a multi-purpose herb that adds both aesthetic and culinary value to your garden. Its beautiful form makes it an attractive accent plant, while its strong flavor adds depth to your favorite recipes.

Minus

Minus is a miniature variety of thyme that adds beauty and fragrance to gardens and containers. Growing to a maximum height of 6 inches, this hardy perennial produces delicate light-pink flowers that butterflies are drawn to. 

It thrives in zones 4-8 and requires full to partial sun and well-drained soil. If you live in an area with moderate temperatures and moderate rainfall, Minus is an exceptional option for low-maintenance gardening. Once established, it requires minimal watering and upkeep.

In addition to its ornamental value, Minus can also be used as an edible herb. Its fragrant foliage can be used to add flavor to soups and sauces, and its pink flowers can be used to decorate salads or other dishes.

The Bottom Line

When looking for suitable thyme varieties to add to your herb garden, there are plenty of options to suit your needs.

If you want to grow these plants for culinary purposes, common thyme is a reliable choice that can be used in a wide range of dishes.

For a citrusy twist, lemon thyme adds a refreshing flavor to meals.

Conversely, if you want an attractive addition to your garden, juniper thyme, with its silver-edged leaves, is a great option.

And if you need ground cover or want to create beautiful pathways, creeping thyme is the perfect choice.

With these varieties, you can enjoy the aromatic and flavorful benefits of thyme while enhancing the beauty of your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can thyme be used in herbal remedies or for medicinal purposes?

Yes, it can. It offers several wellness benefits, such as aiding digestion and soothing headaches. Thyme is also recommended for herbal medicine and essential oils.

What are the growth habits of thyme varieties?

Thyme varieties have different growth habits. For example, creeping thyme is a ground-hugging plant used in paths and lawns. Mother of thyme is low-growing and found in rock gardens or along walkways. Wooly thyme has tiny grayish leaves and small pink flowers.

How do different thyme varieties differ in flavor and fragrance?

Different thyme varieties have distinct flavors and fragrances. For instance, lemon thyme has a citrusy scent and is great for fish dishes, while caraway thyme has a strong flavor that pairs well with beef. Each variety offers unique culinary possibilities.

Which thyme varieties are best suited for ground cover or as decorative accents in the garden?

For ground cover or decorative accents in your garden, Creeping Pink Thyme is heat and drought-tolerant with plumper leaves and tiny pink flowers. Wooly Thyme is best used between pavers and stepping stones.

Are all thyme varieties safe to use in cooking and for essential oils?

Yes, they are. Thyme is a versatile herb that offers different flavors and scents. Choose the variety that suits your preferences and enjoy its culinary and aromatic benefits.

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