Growing thyme is considered one of the easiest activities in gardening. This plant is very resilient and flexible in the garden.
When I was a child, my family grew thyme consistently to prepare some homemade Zaatar. If you’re wondering, Zaatar is a Middle Eastern spice that consists mainly of thyme and is used to prepare flavorful pastry or to make meals and dishes tastier.
For that reason, I’m experienced with cultivating thyme successfully. Years of practice have taught me how to successfully propagate and care for thyme and also how to choose the best soil for this herb.
In fact, choosing soil for thyme is very simple, and in this article, I’m going to walk you through all you need to know about this topic.
The Nature of Thyme
Before we move on to talking exclusively about the perfect soil for thyme, it’s necessary to clarify a few things about the nature of thyme and what makes it selective for the type of soil in which it grows.
Thyme originated in the Mediterranean region, which is a relatively hot and arid area. Plants that are native to this area are usually stiffer than other ones.
What’s more is that in most cases thyme can grow as an evergreen perennial, which means it can survive during all seasons of the year. That’s why thyme can withstand many fluctuations in its environmental conditions.
Under all these variable growth conditions, thyme depends for its survival on the only thing that it finds stable in its environment, which is the soil.
The soil in the Mediterranean region drains water very well. This feature is problematic and beneficial at the same time.
While soil that drains water quickly causes plants to dry quicker in areas where temperatures are high and rain is scarce in the first place, it also prevents moisture from accumulating in the ground and causing root rot or suffocation.
Thyme has adapted very well to the soil of the Mediterranean area, and we will use this piece of information to determine the best type of soil for our plant.
The Best Soil for Thyme
According to what was just mentioned above, the first characteristic of the ideal soil for thyme is quick and efficient drainage.
The question is how well do you need your soil to drain water? Do you need a “cactus and succulent” mix that keeps things as dry as possible, or should you go for a more moderate one?
The answer is very controversial. Thyme is a drought-tolerant plant that can grow decently in a cactus and succulent mix, but it can also do very well in a regular but modified potting soil mix.
One other feature that you should look for in the soil is the pH of the medium. Although thyme can withstand a wide range of pH ranging from 6 to 8, it prefers a more balanced one.
While many plants prefer acidic or alkaline soil, thyme grows best in neutral soil. The ideal pH of the soil for thyme would be one that ranges from 6 to 7.
Choosing the Soil
1- Adjusted Potting Soil
Considering all of that, the most suitable potting soil for thyme would be FoxFarm OCEAN FOREST® POTTING SOIL.
First of all, this soil’s pH ranges between 6.3 and 6.8, which is great for your thyme plants. Second, the soil texture of this mix is one of the best in the world.
FoxFarm is very light, which allows water to drain smoothly and keeps the roots well aerated and penetrated.
Nonetheless, FoxFarm or any other potting soil isn’t enough on its own. We need to give it a little push to drain a bit more quickly.
Most of the components that constitute FoxFarm are organic, which is pretty good for the nutrition of our thyme, but this material can also trap good amounts of water.
I’m not saying that FoxFarm doesn’t drain well. From my own experience, FoxFarm drains water efficiently, but since we’re growing a very drought-tolerant plant, we need to modify it a bit.
Modifying the soil to increase its ability to drain water can be achieved by adding draining gardening material, such as perlite or horticultural sand, to it. This material prevents water from being trapped and helps flush it out.
The habit of adding water-draining material to the soil isn’t new in the field of gardening. Gardeners have been doing it for a long time to increase the productivity of drought-tolerant plants.
Of course, you can still grow your thyme in any well-drained potting soil, but if you want to master the game and produce the highest quality of growth, you should be able to adjust the soil to suit the needs of the thyme strain you’re growing.
You can start by mixing ⅓ of any water-draining material (I prefer perlite) with ⅔ of well-drained potting soil.
Your thyme should do great in this mix, but you need to monitor the plant during its first few weeks in this soil.
2- “Cactus and Succulent” Mix
Many gardeners prefer to grow their thyme in a succulent mix, which has the best water-draining ability.
This soil doesn’t need any modification of its draining capacity because it’s already composed of a material that drains water in a very elegant way.
Nonetheless, you need to avoid succulent mixes that lack the organic material that keeps your thyme well nourished.
That’s why I advise you to go for such brands as Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix, which have a moderate amount of nutrients.
Nonetheless, if you choose to go with a “Cactus and succulent” soil mix, you would still need to amend the soil with nutrient-rich fertilizers.
Adjusting Your Soil on Demand
Look after any signs of wilting, yellowing, or darkening in the leaves. If you observe any, it means you either want to add more draining material or increase the amount of potting soil.
If your plant feels better when you water it, then you should do that more frequently or add more organic matter or regular potting soil to the container.
On the other hand, if water makes things worse, then you should add more draining material to the mix or reduce the number of times you water your plant per week or month.
Using Fertilizers to Enrich the Soil
Another thing I love about FoxFarm potting soil is that it’s rich with nutrients that come from peat moss, worm castings, crab meal, and other products that are derived from nature.
If you use this soil or any other nutrient-rich mix, you should forget about investing in fertilizers for the first few weeks or months. After that, however, you should start compensating for all the nutrients that your thyme has consumed during that time.
Most herbs need fertilizer to grow the way we want them to. Thyme is one of these plants that can grow much more quickly with proper nutrition.
Remember to avoid choosing synthetic fertilizers. Instead, go for natural ones, such as worm castings (vermicompost). Learn how to make your own worm castings here.
Vermicompost is high in nitrogen, which is what most plants need to grow tall. It can be prepared at home or purchased from plant stores or nurseries.
The main issue here is that the more you increase organic material in your soil, the more it retains water. To avoid such a problem, use the fertilizer in moderate amounts.
Repotting Your Thyme
Remember that you need to repot your thyme every few months for several reasons.
Note: Repotting simply means changing the soil and not necessarily the planter/container.
First of all, as soil grows old in the container, its texture changes. This means that all of its characteristics can shift drastically. For example, if it’s well-drained, it could increasingly retain water.
Second, the compost in the soil also becomes exhausted. To enrich the plant with nutrients again, you need to change the mix and add compost to it afterward.
New soil has a spongy, soft texture. Old soil, on the contrary, has a rough and compact texture. So, remember to monitor these aspects of your soil and change it when necessary.
That’s all! Enjoy growing your thyme and don’t forget to share all your questions and thoughts in the comments below!