How to multiply Thyme plants

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Are you growing thyme in your herb garden?

Thyme is a great plant to have in the herb garden, and it’s another that one that does very well in pots or containers.

Thyme in terra cotta pot

There all all sorts of thymes including fruit scented, Caraway, variegated, wooly, creeping, and the taller upright common culinary Thymus vulgaris or common thyme. Many thymes are ground covers, and more than a few are culinary.  Thymus vulgaris  AKA French, German or English thyme is what you will usually find in seed packets. It is also easy to grow from seed. Thymus vulgaris is the usual cooking thyme- so you’ll know which plant to grab when a recipe calls for a teaspoon of ‘thyme’.

If you don’t want to wait for seeds to germinate then it’s faster and easier to get going with started plants from your local nursery. They may have a nice selection of thyme plants for you to bring home and play with, too!

Beside being a basic kitchen herb, thyme is great in rock gardens.

Some of the low growing thymes are well suited to areas between paving stones. These little plants will rot in wet soils, so be sure to keep them up out of soggy areas!

The creeping thymes are usually propagated by division. If you have a favorite small thyme and would like more of it, you might want to try dividing.

Don’t panic, there is NO math involved!

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How to:

First, take a look at the underside of the plant.

It should have small roots growing around the edge where it has started to creep and set down new roots. Ideally it should NOT be flowering like the one I am using here.

Next, prepare your potting mix.

Make sure it’s nice and moist and have a container or two on hand.

You can see some new roots on the thyme below in this fairy garden.

Little Roots on Thyme
Little Roots on Thyme

Dig up the thyme from the garden or remove it from its container.

Try to keep the root ball intact as much as possible for now. We’re going to tear it up in a minute.

clump of pink chintz thyme
Thyme Plant and Roots

Now tease and tear the plant into two (or more) pieces from the top down.

There will be some ripping sounds that you will hear, and yes you are destroying part of the plant’s roots by doing this, but the two main sections of roots and plants will be alright. I promise.

Now you have two (or more) pieces of thyme.

separated thyme
Two Pieces of a Thyme Plant

Next, take those pieces and plant them before the roots dry out.

Make sure the roots are well covered and if possible keep the plants are kept out of direct sunlight for a day or two.

This will help them recover faster from transplant shock. Yes, that is a real thing.

You may notice some dead bits in a few days. That’s OK.  Just clip them off. Before long those pieces you planted will start growing and creeping along the top of the soil making bigger plants and more new roots!

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If you aren’t in a big hurry you can do this repeatedly and make more plants for yourself and friends.

Two Dishes of Thyme
Two Dishes of Thyme

These thyme divisions are in large 18″ plastic plant saucers.

They have been growing for several weeks and are beginning to fill out.  Since thyme can grow fairly quickly these plants will continue rooting and cover most of the bare soil within two months.

When the saucers are full I’ll divide them up again so I always have plenty for my herbal fairy gardens. This easy, low cost method of propagating thyme works well for home growers. Growing in flats or saucers means I can keep young plants out of heavy rains and control watering better than I can out in the garden.

A few things about the creeping or smaller thymes-

They have shallow roots and will die if left to dry out in the hot sun for very long. That being said, they are good for low watering areas because they don’t need a long, deep watering like some other plants.

Newly divided or transplanted thyme plants need soil to be kept uniformly moist, but not wet.

Too much water will cause them to rot.

If you want to try using a saucer or something similar, here are a few tips:

First find a deep saucer or a wooden box. Mine are are about 4″ deep, but something deeper will be just fine!

Make sure you have a good potting mix along with some drainage holes and your thyme divisions should be happy little campers ;)


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