By Heather Rhoades
Thyme plants, like most woody herbs, do best when they are pruned regularly. Taking the time to trim thyme, not only creates a nicer looking plant, but also helps improve the amount you can harvest from the plant. Keep reading to learn how to cut thyme so that it grows best for you.
When to Prune Thyme Plants
The right time to trim thyme will depend on what kind of pruning you plan on performing on the plant. There are 4 ways of pruning thyme plants and they are:
- Hard Rejuvenation – Late fall after first frost
- Light Rejuvenation – After blooming in the summer
- Shaping – Spring
- Harvesting – Anytime during active growth (spring and summer)
Let’s look at why and how to prune thyme in these different ways.
How to Prune Thyme
Pruning Thyme for Hard Rejuvenation
In most cases, thyme plants do not need hard rejuvenation pruning. This because of the fact that they are normally harvested on a regular basis and harvesting prevents the thyme plant from becoming too woody. But sometimes a neglected thyme plant may need to be pruned back hard to remove woody growth and encourage tender, usable growth.
Hard rejuvenation pruning normally take a few years to complete. In late fall, after the first frost, select 1/3 of the oldest and woodiest stems on your thyme plant. Using sharp, clean shears, cut these stems back by 1/2.
Repeat the process the next year until your thyme plant has returned to growing younger, more tender stems all over the plant.
Pruning Thyme for Light Rejuvenation
When you trim thyme for light rejuvenation, you are basically ensuring that your thyme plant does not become too woody in the future.
In late summer, after the thyme plant has flowered, select the 1/3 oldest stems on the plant. Using sharp, clean shears, cut these back by 2/3.
This should be done yearly for the best health of the plant.
Pruning Thyme for Shaping
All thyme, whether it is upright thyme or creeping thyme, tends to get a little wild looking if not shaped regularly. If you are ok with your thyme getting a bit wild looking, you do not need to cut your thyme to shape it. But, if you want a thyme plant that is a little more formal, you will want to shape your thyme plant yearly.
In the spring, after new growth has started to appear, take a moment to picture how you would like your thyme plant to look. Keeping that shape in mind, use a sharp, clean pair of shears to trim the thyme plant in that shape.
Do not cut the thyme plant back more than 1/3 when shaping. If you need to cut back your thyme plant by more than 1/3 in order to achieve the shape that you would like, only do a 1/3 cut back each year until the desired shape of the thyme plant is achieved.
Cutting Thyme for Harvesting
Thyme can be cut at any time during the spring and summer to harvest. It is best though to stop harvesting thyme about 3-4 weeks before the first frost. This will allow the more tender stems on the thyme plant to harden off some before the cold comes and will make it so you have less die back on the thyme plant over the winter.