Please help me grow Thyme

jwahlton(9B Kisimee)February 23, 2011

I cannot get Thyme to grow. I have tried it in pots, in the ground, all sides of the house, inside, feeding, watering a lot, watering a little. And every plant I buy dies. I get it from Lowes/HD, come home, put into a pot with some ammended soil. It may last a week, then gone. I like to cook with Thyme so I would love to have a lot of it. All of my other herbs are doing well. So what is the secret to growing Thyme in Florida?



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I sure hope you get some answers here as I have the exact same are not alone!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 11:15AM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

All year they do poorly for you?

A week is very sad. What happens if you get a plant from Lowes/HD, leave it in the pot it came in and just set it in your yard? Don't fertilize, don't do anything except water if it is completely dried out (to the point where the plant wilts). Does it last longer than a week?

For me they do fine this time of year, but tend to die out during August. I managed to have 2 plants survive last year's summer though. I've learned that they can handle cold+wet and hot+dry but not hot+wet. For me they like as much sun as they can get (my herb garden is in 1/2 to 3/4 sun, and they could use a bit more), well drained soil and minimal fertilizer. Despite my best efforts, I tend to lose some of my plants during summer. But ones planted in the fall do very well until the high heat + high humidity of summer kicks in.

Do you grow Marjoram successfully? I find that it suffers from the same trickiness. They really would just prefer a more British climate=)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 4:35PM
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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

I've hade several varieties of thyme that have done great for me and then others that died rather quickly. Right now I have what I think is lime thyme growing next to my front sidewalk in full sun. I planted it about a year ago and it gets watered twice a week. I've had better luck with thymes that I buy from local private nurseries then from the big box stores.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 4:46PM
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I put a lot of pea gravel in my herb bed for better drainage, a lot of the herbs don't like wet feet. I also never put any fertilizer or pesticides in that area, mostly because it's right over the water well, but I don't think they need that much fertilizer and bugs don't seem to bother most of the herbs, plus when they bloom they attract bees and I don't want to poison them. I have noticed that the thyme does decline some in hot, humid weather. I have started putting herbs in pots with a lot of pea gravel also, in heavy summer rainfall even the pea gravel in the beds don't percolate as well since we have clay soil.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 6:06AM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

Sun Worshiper asked
A week is very sad. What happens if you get a plant from Lowes/HD, leave it in the pot it came in and just set it in your yard? Don't fertilize, don't do anything except water if it is completely dried out (to the point where the plant wilts). Does it last longer than a week?

No it doesn't last very long at all. I'm really frustrated about this!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:54AM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Julia, with your plant that you bought, but didn't repot and it died within a week - how did it die? Dried out? Wilted? Mold? Rot? Eaten? Can you post a picture of what the dead one looks like? Might give a clue about what is wrong.

If all you do is water, you should be able to get more than a week. What do you water with? Tap water? Could be that your tap water has high levels of salt or something. Maybe you could try watering a new one only with collected rain water (cheap), or bottled water (expensive) for a week or two to see if it works. If it stays alive and you then switch back to tap water or sprinkler water and the plant dies, seems to indicate needing to have your water tested. If you try, might be neat to snap a picture of your plant when you get it, and a new picture each day for a week or 2 to see how it changes.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 3:57PM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

It wilted. I thought it was just thirsty so I kept it watered thinking I could revive it, but nope. I'm going to get another one this weekend and try it again. I use the water from the hose to water all of my plants. I've already put the dead ones in my compost pile. Good idea about the photo. So again, should I keep it watered, repot it, what should I do with the one I'll buy this weekend (hopefully)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 2:49PM
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joycrick(zone9 FLA)

I keep mine in a pot with very good drainage and gravel on top of the soil. I water it infrequently via a saucer under the plant, not overhead. Thyme is very prone to fungus and soil-borne disease.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 3:07PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

It sounds like it had some sort of damping off disease due to overwatering. With your new plant, I would not repot it. I'd put it in filtered sun and only water it if the soil is completely dry to the touch. Do only that for 2 weeks and see if it is still alive.

If the plant wilts and the soil is wet to the touch, don't water it. Spray it with a anti-fungal spray that is sulfur based. If it wilts and the soil is dry to the touch, then water it and check to see if it has perked up 2 hours later. If it has not perked back up by then, it is an indication that something other than lack of water is going on.

Be sure to pick out a robust specimen without leggy, spindly growth if you can. One of the things I've noticed about big box thyme is that it is seems to have been grown indoors in a semi-light starved condition. They are often spindly and ill adapted to immediately being subjected to full FL sun.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 3:25PM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

I didn't get to buy one, but hopefully will this week sometime. When you say filtered sun, my house faces north (front)/south(back). I've tried it in the front under the big oak tree where it would get filtered sun, I thought. But there I planted in the ground. Didn't do too well

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 3:28PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Ideally thyme would like full sun. But big box plants are often not hardened off enough to be put in full sun right away. I was suggesting putting it in filtered light for a couple weeks to give it a chance to adjust. If it is still alive in a couple weeks, move it to the sunniest spot you have and plant it into the ground. Definitely put it where it has southern exposure, not the north side of your house. Also, I think being Mediterranean in origin, the thyme probably dislikes acid soil and soil under large oaks can be very acidic from decaying leaves. Do you have a picture of your backyard? If you'd like to post one I can comment on where I would try locating it for in ground planting.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 9:46AM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

OK. I bought two plants a couple of weeks ago. Here they are when I bought them

I put one on the southeast side and here it is now

I put one on the southwest side

Neither look good, neither are lush, etc. As suggested I didn't do anything but put it out there. So this is what happens to my thyme!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 11:48AM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Thanks for posting the pictures. This is very puzzling. It looks like there might be a root rot problem, or possibly something is blocking the plant from taking up nutrients, since the after pictures have much yellower foliage.

The before pictures look healthy, so it looks like you got good starting plants.

Since the plants on either side of your house did about the same that would seem to rule out how much sun exposure they are getting as the problem.

Did either of them get any water other than rainfall? If so, what was the source for the water (sprinklers, tap water etc)?

Is the soil in the containers moist now? Or is it dry to the touch?

In the southeast picture, the plant is up off the ground right? Can't quite tell from the picture. If so, that means it certainly has good drainage.

I'll see what your answers to my questions are, then we can see if we can come up with a way to further narrow in on what the cause is and how to avoid it.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 12:07PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Thyme is as a rule tough......I had a whole tray of seedlings I started and forgot about them for months and they are happy as clams. You said you did nothing to it? Did you water it? Perhaps it is something in the water?

I am not a fan of those peat pots especially for any plant that does not want to be damp. So if it was me I would buy another plant and remove the peat pot and put it in a plastic pot of the same size and make the top of the soil in the pot 1/2" below the rim. I would then bury the pot in the spot you want the plant to grow leaving just the 1/2" of plastic pot above ground and ignore it, do not water it. The plant will grow and droop and where the stems touch they will root. I have a 5 foot across patch of oregano in the garden and in the middle of it somewhere is the original plant still in it's plastic pot buried in the ground.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 12:11PM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

SUN No, I didn't water per your instructions. They did get lots of rain the last day or so though. Yes, the SE was off the ground, the SW is on the ground. The soil when taking those photos was moist cuz it rained all day. I did get nice healthy plants to start with. The before photo was taken on my kitchen counter, right after getting them.

BR I have taken it out of the peat pots and put into another pot. Same thing happens! I've put them in the ground, in same size pots, bigger pots. I've done everything I can think of except wear it on my head!!!!!

When I do water, it's from the hose

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 2:31PM
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joycrick(zone9 FLA)

I forgot to mention that I put that weed-stop cloth under the pea gravel so none of the thyme leaves are ever in contact with damp soil. Mine does pretty well until late July/August, but then comes back in late September. I cut it frequently to use in cooking.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 4:32PM
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Thyme likes cool and dry in well-drained soil - that's a delicate balance

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 9:31PM
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The secret is to buy a cheap pack of seeds, sprout them on a windowsill and then plant them all over. Basically ignore them, and see where they like being. Oddly mine have done the best in a full sun window box.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 10:20PM
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I bought my thyme plant at Publix in the produce section (also my Spanish Tarragon and culantro). I found that the soil is often too moist and usually repot the plant, using the MiracleGrow potting soil. I set the pots in the garden on top of the mulch, where they will get sun most of the day. If they consistantly wilt, they get moved to a shadier spot - which is hard to find in my back yard! From March to Oct they get watered twice a week depending on rain frequency. Air circulation is important in this humid climate.
I never fertilize my herbs. The MG potting soil seems to be plenty enough for what is for all intents and purposes, a weed.
I do take my herbs into the lanai if we're to have a freeze, but the tarragon and stevia are in such big pots I had to leave them outside - and pray!
Both are coming back this spring, for which I'm SO grateful! My thymes seem to be responding to the season as well. Come to think of it, Publix herb plants are grown in Florida. That may have something to do with their success. Certainly worth a try.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 6:29AM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Since you didn't water, then the wilting is more likely to have been from drought stress than a fungus. Now that it has been a couple days since rain, have the plants perked up at all? Is there any new growth?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 11:03AM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

Not much. It looks like the one on the southwest side is a little better. I was able to get some yesterday for cooking. The one on the southeast side is fried! Next I'm going to repot it and see what happens.

I'll have to check Publix for plants. I'm in there several times a week!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 4:34PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Julia, when you come to the garden party, remind me to show you all the places that I have growing thyme, in a pot, in the ground, full sun, shade, and I will try to get a thyme plant for you. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow in Florida.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 8:07PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Since one of the plants is recovering a bit, I'd try watering it whenever the soil is dry to the touch and see if it improves.

Great that you'll be able to meet up with Silvia, she should be able to give you some great tips!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 2:10PM
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rainy230(10 Jupiter)

Help trying to grow Mr Stripey in Pot ( since joint issues prevent me from big garden). I bought a Mr Stripey not knowing anything much about them, I just can't help myself sometimes I just have to bring a plant home with me.. I read somewhere they can be tricky.. well this little bugger is getting foliage and no blossoms yet. I have it in full sun ( about 8hr a day zone 10 ) I make sure it;s watered .Any tips on this would be great . Thanks Rainy

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 1:18PM
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rainy230(10 Jupiter)

whoops sorry tech impaired here.. I was reading about thyme situation and posted as a reply instead of new post .. :0.. I am having same problem with my thyme also from box store.. I now have it in house where it gets moring sun and I bought one of those glass watering bulbs, so far looks better than my thyme outside ugh!!! I'll be reading for thyme tips too :) Rain

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 1:22PM
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gardencraze(9b Groveland FL.)

I find that when I buy herbs ,especialy thyme from a box store they have not been properly taken care of so they are already stressed. Tip the plant over and out of the pot and check the root ball and if it is too tight don't buy it. When I have to have it.... and the root ball is too tight I take it out of the pot and tickle the roots a little to loosen them that seems to work well for me. I have had thyme for a long time.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 7:50PM
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I have been having the same issue it seems. How are they growing now?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 5:15PM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

Well they aren't doing well at all. For a while I had some good ones going, but alas, they are going downhill

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 9:24AM
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This is my experience from working in commercial growing operations.

In those peat pots, they aren't going to live. #1, by the time you buy them, they are already past prime for a small pot. #2, they have been over-fertilized and over-watered to get rapid growth.

Repot any herb you buy from a box store immediately into a suitable pot, at least one size larger than the one you bought it in. Thyme needs extra perlite, about 1/3 perlite to 2/3 potting soil. Thyme, as everyone has said, hates wet feet, so clay pots are good. Put about an inch of river rock or perlite in the bottom of the pot. During the summer, place it where it gets morning sun until about noon, and is protected from rain. Raising the pot off the ground is good.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 10:57AM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Well, this is the time of year when thyme plants start to struggle here because they hate the humidity+heat. I harvested a nice bounty from my in ground plants at the end of April, and now my plants are starting to look a bit ratty too.

But I am trying an experiment. I love lemon thyme & it is hard to find. Only place I've found it is from one vendor at the yearly Leu Garden spring plant sale. I talked with him for a bit, and he recommended that I put my plant in the full sun. I bought a big plant, and it had enough spots on the side that had touched down and rooted that I was able to separate off about 6 baby plants. I planted the mother plant in full sun as the grower suggested. I planted the baby plants in a variety of locations, from a pot kept on my window sill at work to various levels of shade/sun and moisture in my yard. So far the score is:

Mother plant in ground in full sun, mulched - in best shape & in bloom
Baby plant in ground, in full sun, no mulch - second best looking
Baby plants in both pots & ground in 50-80% shade with ample water - ok, but not as good as the ones in sun
Baby plant in ground in 50% shade in very dry soil (from competing tree roots) - not doing as well, is drought stressed
Baby plant in pot on office window sill - saddest of all, very spindly, because it isn't light enough. But alive.

It will be interesting to see what the score is by the end of summer.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 3:12PM
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