Q&A: Overwintering Thyme
Learn how to help thyme survive the winter months.
Q: Why do my thyme plants get woody and die out? How can I protect them over the winter?
— Ken W., northwest Ohio
A: The hardiness of thyme depends on which cultivar you use in your garden. Most selections of thyme(Thymus sp.) are hardy to USDA Zones 5 to 9 and marginally hardy to Zone 4 with added winter protection.
In areas with cold winters, thyme is considered semi-evergreen, meaning that the plant will retain some of its foliage during winter but not all. Since thyme is a Mediterranean herb, it prefers full sun and a well-draining soil. The keys to successful overwintering are good drainage and winter mulch. If thyme has been struggling all season long in a poorly draining soil and hasn't died yet, it will surely not make it through the winter with the added cold stresses. Plant in a raised bed or improve drainage with organic soil amendments such as compost.
Add a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to help protect plants through winter. Don't apply mulch before the onset of cold temperatures as it can cause the soil to heat up and actually make plants less winter hardy. Instead, apply mulch during an extended period of cold temperatures. This will prevents fluctuating soil temperatures that cause plant upheaval during periods of freeze and thaw.
You can help your plants out by providing them with adequate water throughout the summer and early fall. A plant that hasn't been thirsty for moisture will go into the winter months healthier and more tolerable of cold conditions.
Also avoid severe pruning from late summer to fall. This kind of pruning will encourage new growth on plants, only to be nipped by the frost. It's still fine to harvest clippings for cooking, but save the heavy pruning for early spring.
Thyme does become woody with age. If you don't want woody plants, replace them by purchasing new plants, growing them from seed, or starting new ones from cuttings.
If you still don't have great luck with overwintering thyme, you may want to treat it as annual and replant each year.
How to Get Rosemary to Thrive in Winter
Overwintering your plant is a great way to save rosemary topiary.
Q&A: Overwintering Bananas
Tips for growing banana plants in cold weather.
Tips to Perk Up a Bleak Winter Garden
Recommendations for adding cold-weather appeal to the garden.
How to Winterize Your Roses
Check out these tips to get your roses through the winter unscathed.
Q&A: Trimming Back a Fig Bush
How to keep your fig bush going strong all through winter.
How to Grow Fresh Basil
Planting aromatic basil from seed is the best way to go.
Q&A: Pruning Coreopsis and Marguerite Daisies
Tips for taking care of these lovely blooms in the winter.
Learn about this popular Mediterranean herb.
How to Grow Lemon Grass
Keep a pot of this easy-to-grow herb on a sunny windowsill, then harvest it fresh for Thai dishes or delicious teas.
Add Color to Your Landscape With Hellebores
The nodding flowers and dark foliage of this perennial bring life to its surroundings.
Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.
Photo Friday: Cooking and Dining in the Great Outdoors
HGTV Design Blog – Design Happens Aug 28, 2015 by Beth Rucker
This or That: Pick Your Favorite Vintage Find From Fixer Upper
HGTV Design Blog – Design Happens Aug 27, 2015 by Farima Alavi
6 Essentials for the Perfect Tailgate Party + Win the 1 Thing You Really Need
HGTV Design Blog – Design Happens Aug 25, 2015 by Farima Alavi
Discover the Winning Hue in Our Color Vs. Color Competition!
HGTV Design Blog – Design Happens Aug 24, 2015 by Kayla Kitts
Copy This Room: Get Beach Flip Style in Your Living Room
HGTV Design Blog – Design Happens Aug 24, 2015 by Shannon Petrie
4 Ways to Personalize Your Dorm Desk + College Goodie Giveaway!
HGTV Design Blog – Design Happens Aug 21, 2015 by Farima Alavi
The Easiest (and Cutest!) DIY Dorm Roommate Mugs Ever
HGTV Design Blog – Design Happens Aug 20, 2015 by Marianne Canada