Thyme plants are low-maintenance perennial herbs that are indigenous to Europe’s Mediterranean region and have adapted to its arid climate.
Thyme has a short lifespan and, with good care, can continue to produce leaves for use in cooking for about 5 to 6 years.
Thyme plants need to have some of the same growing conditions as in their original Mediterranean climate, with a focus on soil, irrigation, and full light.
While thyme may grow in many climes with slight alterations to the conditions, certain of the Mediterranean climate’s requirements are necessary for it.
There are various ways to revive a thyme plant that appears to be dying, but it is crucial to first understand what is causing the plant to appear sick and in need of revival.
Determine the reason the thyme plant has to be revived.
The following are the main causes of thyme death:
- Because of the soil’s constant moisture, thyme gets fungal disease or root rot.
- Thyme that has become yellow and droopy due to wet soils or an excess of nitrogen in the soil as a result of more fertilizer.
- Thyme plant that is wilting, drying out, and becoming brown.
- Low levels of sunlight or nutrients lead the leaves and foliage to grow slowly.
- Due to undersized pots or containers or a lack of drainage holes in the pot’s base, thyme may droop or grow slowly.
- Thyme plant that has to be revived following the winter.
Read on to learn how to address these issues so that your thyme plant recovers and produces fresh leaves with a potent flavor and perfume.
Table of Contents
Thyme Plant with Root Rot
- Symptoms. The thyme plant appears wilted or drooping, and its leaves are likely turning yellow or brown.
- Causes. excessive thyme irrigation, poorly draining or soggy soils that hold too much water, and high humidity from other plantings.
Thyme plants naturally grow in the Mediterranean region of Europe, where they have been bred to do well in full sun, intermittent rain or irrigation, well-draining sandy soils, and ideally in places with some breeze to lower humidity.
Due to the roots’ susceptibility to root rot and fungal disease in damp soils, thyme plants have evolved to become drought resistant and require dry, well-draining soil conditions rather than rich soil or compost that is continually moist.
Thyme plants only need watering once every two weeks in most regions when established and planted in suitable soil (added with sand for increased drainage), and once a week during hot weather if they are grown in pots.
Thyme plants are more susceptible to difficulties from overwatering than from underwatering because of their tolerance for dryness and their roots’ sensitivity to wet soils.
How to Revive a Dying Thyme Plant with Root Rot
- Reduce watering to once every two weeks if your thyme is exhibiting signs of root rot. This will enable the soil to dry out a little between watering sessions.
- Remove anything that absorbs moisture, such as compost, leaf mold, or any other sort of rich organic mulch, as thyme likes dryer soil.
- Examine the roots of the thyme plant after carefully pulling it out of the ground with a fork. Snip the unhealthy portion of the root back to healthy growth with a clean pair of pruners if any of the roots appear to be brown, squishy, or rotten. Do this to prevent the spread of fungus to otherwise healthy growth.
- Replant the thyme in fresh soil that has been improved with at least 30% horticultural grit or sand and 70% multipurpose compost (preferably in a pot). Throw away the old potting soil since it is the home of the fungus that is rotting the roots. To eradicate the fungus, apply an organic pesticide to garden soil.
Due to their favorable drainage circumstances, thyme plants frequently thrive in containers. In comparison to amending garden soil, controlling the soil profile (by adding sand) to increase drainage is much simpler.
It’s crucial to water your thyme plant adequately for the environment and conditions of your garden because overwatering is one of the most typical mistakes made while growing Mediterranean herbs.
In most circumstances, watering once every two weeks is sufficient, but you should change your watering schedule such that the soil around the thyme becomes relatively dry in between waterings.
By adding sand or grit to the soil, you can mimic the well-draining, low- to medium-fertility soil conditions where thyme thrives and produces more flowers and leaves with the strongest perfume and flavor.
Thyme should be planted around 2-3 feet apart to allow for the best airflow, since too-closely spaced plants will generate a humid microclimate by fighting for space, sunlight, and air circulation.
The thyme should start to show symptoms of healing in about three weeks if you follow these instructions and make sure your plant is in full sun.
Thyme Plants Turning Yellow and Wilting
- Symptoms. The thyme plant’s leaves frequently exhibit a withering appearance and are becoming yellow.
- Causes. soils that are wet or too much nitrogen from fertilizers.
In its Mediterranean habitat, thyme plants have evolved to survive in sandy soil with low to moderate fertility.
There is probably a high concentration of nitrogen in the soil if it is rich in nutrients or if fertilizer has been applied.
If you are growing thyme for culinary purposes, too much nitrogen may cause the plant to become leggy, droop, or wilt, and it will also lessen the flavor and perfume of the leaves.
As mentioned in the opening section of the article, root rot is also frequently characterized by yellow foliage and a drooping appearance, so be careful to plant (or transplant) thyme into a soil that drains properly.
Follow the instructions for thyme with root rot revival if the soil is persistently moist as a result of frequent watering.
Revive with Yellow Leaves with a Wilting Appearance
- You should cease fertilizing thyme if you have been doing so since it encourages excessive foliage growth with a poorer flavor and perfume.
- In order to increase drainage and balance the soil’s nutrient profile, move the thyme plant from the garden soil or the pot to a new pot or part of the garden and amend the soil with 30% sand or gravel (by volume of the container or in the planting area).
- Trim back the thyme’s lanky or wilting growth for a more rounded appearance (do not cut back into woody growth as this is not grow back particularly well).
- Place the thyme plant in full sun and only water it until the soil has had a chance to dry out slightly between waterings, at which point the thyme should start to grow again.
For the majority of plants, yellow leaves are a sign of root rot, excess nitrogen, or even insufficient nitrogen.
Thyme plants have evolved to the Mediterranean region’s arid climate, which is characterized by sandy soils with poor nutrient densities and little moisture retention.
Therefore, rather than a nutrient deficiency in the soil, the reason they frequently turn yellow is excessive nitrogen fertilizer or moist soils.
Although the origins of these two issues are distinct, the solutions are similar.
To create the ideal soil mix for thyme plants to grow and yield leaves with the highest concentration of essential oils for a more pronounced flavor, amend the soil with roughly 30% horticultural sand or grit to 70% multipurpose compost.
The well-draining, low to medium fertility sandy soil conditions of their native Mediterranean, where thyme plants thrive, are recreated by adding sand and grit to the soil.
Trim back any thyme that has lanky growth since the plant’s energy can be drained by too much development, and growth that is leggy or withering is frequently more prone to disease.
To maintain the plant neat, use a pair of pruners to remove about a third of the top growth. Thyme is hardy and may be cut back at the end of the growing season or whenever you need the herb for cooking.
Trimming is extremely simple and is comparable to pruning other Mediterranean herbs (like rosemary or lavender), but it is crucial to avoid cutting it back too severely because doing so will hinder the plant’s ability to grow because the older wood does not produce many new shoots or leaves.
The following YouTube video provides instructions on how to prune thyme:
Thyme Turning Brown and Dry
Even with proper care, thyme is a perennial herb that often only lives for 5 to 6 years.
When compared to younger thyme plants, the growth of older thyme plants tends to slow down and produce fewer leaves with a weaker perfume and worse flavor.
Thyme leaves naturally start to turn brown and look dried up after 5 years, which is why taking cuttings for propagation is so popular because it allows you to have a supply of thyme at a low cost and with little upkeep.
Thyme is regarded as cold hardy and can withstand a cold Winter with frost (hardy in USDA zones 5-9), however a heavy frost or possibly a late Spring frost (when new growth is sprouting) can cause the plant to turn brown.
(To find out how to stop thyme plants from turning brown, read my post.)
Thyme grows well in full sun as well, so if the plant is in a location with fewer than six hours of direct sunlight each day, dark foliage may be an indication of stress from the lack of direct light or even water sensitivity from slow-draining soils or overwatering.
Revive Thyme that is Drying out
- Thyme has a short lifespan, much like many other Mediterranean herbs. Take cuttings to multiply thyme plants since doing so is more affordable and successful than starting thyme from seed.
- If thyme has been harmed by frost, remove any damaged growth in the spring when it’s warmer because this encourages the regrowth of healthy new growth. If there is a chance of frost, avoid cutting away the growth since the wound from the cut may sustain additional frost damage.
- Thyme should always be planted in full light. Thyme does not thrive in partial shade, so place the pot or container in a sunny spot or move your thyme to a garden spot that receives more sun. You may also consider trimming back any overhanging plants that may be throwing shade.
Thyme plants may be multiplied easily and successfully, and one plant can produce a large number of other thyme plants for the next year. For a simple tutorial on how to successfully propagate thyme from cuttings, view this YouTube video:
In order to prevent drying out and turning brown, it is also crucial that the plant has the best possible growing circumstances, such as:
- whole sun.
- Let the soil dry in between waterings (typically water pots once per week and only water thyme planted in garden soil once every 2 weeks during drought).
- If you live in a humid region, plant each thyme around 2-3 feet apart to allow for adequate airflow.
- sandy soil with good drainage that doesn’t keep too much moisture around the roots.
However, thyme does not require a Mediterranean climate and can thrive in temperate climates with higher rainfall as long as the soil is well draining so the roots can dry out properly. Thyme will become healthier and more resilient as you replicate more of the native Mediterranean conditions of the thyme plant.
Thyme Plant not Growing
- Symptoms. Thyme plant that appears sickly and has little to no development.
- Causes. Lack of sunshine, other plants competing for resources, thyme that has been put in a pot that is too tiny, or thyme that is more than five years old.
Thyme plants are generally small, herbaceous plants that prefer to grow in dry, low-nutrient soils. As a result, they do not naturally spread or grow quickly, though creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) does.
However, if your thyme isn’t growing and appears ill in the spring or summer, there may be a problem with the growing environment.
Although thyme can continue to grow after four years, it naturally slows down and there may be some dieback, with part of the leaves turning brown and dried up. This is the thyme plant’s normal life span.
The overall rate of growth as well as the flavor and aroma of the leaves can be hampered by a lack of sunlight. Additionally, nearby plants may compete with the thyme for nutrients, water, light, air, and space, which may result in the thyme’s poor growth or death.
Small pots and containers naturally have less room for the roots to spread out, which can prevent your thyme from growing.
How to Revive Thyme Plants that are not Growing
- To give the plant’s roots the room they need to expand and gain access to the moisture and nutrients it needs, plant thyme in a pot or container that is at least 12 inches across.
- For optimal growth and health, place thyme plants in full sun for at least six hours each day.
- To ensure that each thyme plant has enough water, soil, sunlight, and airflow, make sure to space the plants at least 18 inches apart. Thyme should be planted about 2-3 feet apart for optimal results in more humid conditions.
- Potentially with proper care, thyme plants can not live for very long. After the third year, the growth can decrease and the plants may even die. Thyme may be easily and inexpensively propagated from cuttings in the first and second years.
There is less room for soil, nutrients, and root growth in smaller pots or containers where you put your thyme. Because of this, planting in a larger container (at least 12 inches across) gives the roots adequate room to spread out and will encourage development.
For your thyme plants to be more cold hardy and survive Winter, the larger pots with more soil also shelter the roots from cold and frost.
To promote growth, move the thyme to a sizable pot in direct sunlight.
If your plants are not growing well and are planted less than one foot apart or in the same pot, I recommend transplanting the thyme so that they are planted at least 18 inches to 2 feet apart from each other. Thyme prefers to grow in open areas in its native Mediterranean region and it does not tolerate competition from other plants.
The thyme roots can correctly take root and get the moisture, nutrients, and sunlight they need with 18 inches of space. Make sure the new location receives direct sunlight, and the thyme should recuperate and start to develop once more.
The strength of the aroma and flavor of thyme plants is correlated with the number of hours of sunlight each day, with plants in full sun having the strongest flavors due to the concentration of essential oils.
This is why I always recommend propagating Mediterranean herbs because it is very easy and you can replant your pots and containers for the cost of compost, sand, and a little bit of patience! If your thyme has a life span of 3 or 4 years before it stops growing and begins to die back, do not despair as this is fairly typical for this herb even in the best conditions!
Thyme Plant Dying in a Pot or Container
Thyme plants dying in pots most frequently occur for the following reasons:
- The pot is inadequate (not enough nutrients or soil to insulate the roots properly).
- There is no drainage holes in the base of the pot (or the use of a drip tray) (or the use of a drip tray).
Thyme should ideally be planted in a pot that is at least 12 inches across because a container this size will not only have enough room for the roots to flourish, but also additional soil will help to insulate the roots during the winter.
Even a plant as drought resistant as thyme can suffer from soil drying up too rapidly in smaller pots, so move your thyme to a larger pot to help it recover.
Make sure the pot has drainage holes in the base and check to see if they are blocked by compacted dirt or debris if the thyme is exhibiting indications of root rot (turning yellow or brown and drooping) while receiving the recommended amount of water (water once or twice a week with a good soak).
The use of drip trays to collect extra water can also be problematic because thyme loves the soil to become fairly dry in between waterings.
In order to try and resuscitate the plant, transplant the thyme to a pot with drainage holes in the base if the soil is wet owing to poor drainage. Then, proceed with the above instructions for treating thyme plants with root rot.
Revive Thyme Plants after Winter
As long as they are placed in a sunny Window and watered once every 4 to 6 weeks during winter dormancy, thyme can be protected over the winter in an extremely cold or exposed region by using a cover or bringing the pots inside until the spring.
Outside of Mediterranean conditions, thyme typically grows year after year and preserves some of its leaves over the winter. However, some leaves may fall off naturally.
Snip off the brown foliage in the spring when the risk of a severe frost has passed if there has been any frost damage. Delay pruning until more hospitable weather because if you remove frost-damaged growth during cold weather, the new wounds are vulnerable to more harm.
- The most frequent cause of thyme plant death is root rot or a fungus brought on by too much moisture around the roots as a result of overwatering or poorly draining soils.
- – Cabbage family crops. … -Cabbage family crops…. Therefore, planting in a bigger pot (at least 12 inches across) gives the roots more room to spread out appropriately and encourages growth.
- The roots of your thyme plants are protected from frost and cold by the larger pots with more soil, making them more cold-tolerant and able to survive the winter.
- To promote growth, move the thyme to a big pot in full light.
- Thyme prefers to grow in open spaces in its native Mediterranean region and it does not tolerate plant competition. If your plants are not flourishing and are planted less than one foot apart or in the same pot, I advise transplanting the thyme so that they are planted at least 18 inches to two feet apart from one another.