Gardeners consider growing thyme one of the most leisurely activities in gardening. This plant is very resilient and flexible in the garden.
When I was a child, my family always grew thyme to prepare homemade Zaatar. If you’re wondering, Zaatar is a Middle Eastern spice that consists of thyme (more than anything). We use it to prepare flavorful pastry or to make meals and dishes tastier.
For that reason, I have a lot of experience with cultivating thyme. Years of practice have taught me how to propagate and care for thyme and choose the best soil for this herb.
Choosing soil for thyme is remarkably simple. In this article, I’m going to walk you through all you need to know about this topic.
The Nature of Thyme
Before we talk about the perfect soil for thyme, it’s necessary to clarify a few things. We need to discuss the nature of thyme and what makes it selective for the type of soil in which it grows.
Thyme originated in the Mediterranean region, a pretty hot and arid area. Plants native to this area are usually stiffer than other plants.
What’s more is that in most cases, thyme can grow as an evergreen perennial. That means it can survive through all seasons of the year. This status is why thyme can withstand many fluctuations in its environmental conditions.
These growth conditions change back and forth. Thyme depends on the only stable thing in its environment: the soil.
The soil in the Mediterranean region drains water very well. This feature is problematic and beneficial at the same time.
Soil that drains too much water causes plants to dry quicker. This is the case in areas with hot temperatures and scarce rain. These conditions prevent moisture from accumulating in the ground. This lack of water could cause root rot or suffocation.
Thyme has adapted very well to the soil of the Mediterranean area. We will use this information to figure out the best type of soil for our plant.
The Best Soil for Thyme
So, it seems the 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 well in a cactus and succulent mix. But it can also do very well in a regular but modified potting soil mix.
One other feature 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 range from 6 to 7.
Choosing the Soil
1- Adjusted Potting Soil
With that in mind, the most suitable potting soil for thyme is the FoxFarm OCEAN FOREST® POTTING SOIL.
First, this soil’s pH ranges between 6.3 and 6.8, which is perfect for your thyme plants. Second, the mix’s soil texture is one of the best in the world.
FoxFarm is noticeably light. It 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 at a faster pace.
Most of the components that constitute FoxFarm are organic. That’s rather good for our thyme’s nutrition, but this material can also trap a lot of water.
I’m not saying FoxFarm doesn’t drain well. From my experience, FoxFarm drains water efficiently. But since we’re growing a very drought-tolerant plant, we need to change it up a bit.
You can rework the soil to increase its ability to drain water. Add draining gardening material to it. Perlite or horticultural sand would be perfect. These materials prevent trapping moisture and even helps flush it out.
Adding water-draining material to the soil isn’t new in gardening, though. Gardeners have been doing it for a very long time. We know it increases the productivity of drought-tolerant plants.
Of course, you can still grow your thyme in any well-drained potting soil—but I’m guessing you want to master the game. You should adjust the soil to suit the needs of the thyme strain you’re growing. That will help produce the highest quality of growth.
Mix one part of any water-draining material (I prefer perlite) with two parts of well-drained potting soil.
Your thyme should do great in this mix, but you must watch 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. After all, it does have the best water-draining ability.
This soil doesn’t need any modification of its draining ability. It’s already composed of a material that exquisitely drains water.
Nonetheless, it would be best if you avoided certain succulent mixes. Specifically avoid those lacking the organic material that keeps your thyme well nourished.
That’s why I’m suggesting you go for brands that have a moderate amount of nutrients. Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix is always an excellent choice.
You will still need to amend the soil with nutrient-rich fertilizers if going with a “Cactus and Succulent” soil mix, though.
Adjusting Your Soil on Demand
Look for signs of wilting, yellowing, or darkening in the leaves. If you see any of these, it means you should do one of two things. You either want to add more draining material or increase the amount of potting soil.
Your plant may feel better when you water it. In that case, you should water it more often. You could also add more organic matter or regular potting soil to the container.
But more water may makes things worse. If so, you should add more draining material to the mix. You may also 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 its composition. It’s rich with nutrients from peat moss, worm castings, crab meal, and other products. Notice these are all derived from nature.
Forget about investing in fertilizers if you use this soil or another nutrient-rich mix. The treatment should last for at least the first few weeks or months. Then start compensating for all the nutrients your thyme has consumed during that period.
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 worm castings here.
Vermicompost is high in nitrogen, which is what most plants need to grow tall. You can prepare it at home or buy it from plant stores or nurseries.
The main issue here is the more you increase organic material in your soil, the more it holds onto water. To avoid such a problem, use the fertilizer in moderate amounts.
Repotting Your Thyme
Remember, you must repot your thyme every few months, for several reasons.
Note: Repotting means changing the soil and not necessarily the planter/container.
First, as soil grows old in the container, its texture changes, so its characteristics can shift drastically. For example, if it’s well-drained, it could retain water at an increasing rate.
Second, the compost in the soil 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 watch these aspects of your soil and replace 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!