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How to Prune Thyme? The Fastest Way to Maximize Growth

How to prune thyme

Thyme is a culinary herb that is used to enhance the flavor of a dish. It is usually added in a combination of different herbs. Although thyme is well known as a seasoning herb in cuisines all around the world, that is not all. Thymol is an active compound of thyme which is widely used in home sanitizing products. Also, thyme essential oil, diluted in other compounds, can be used to heal skin and mouth infections. Because of these amazing benefits of thyme, it is a popular option when it comes to planting herbs.

Although thyme is a perennial herb that doesn’t need much extra care to propagate, pruning it regularly helps its growth, makes it look good, and is beneficial for the overall health of the plant. So, if you are considering planting thyme in your garden, you should consider learning how to prune thyme. To save you the trouble, I have compiled this simple guide to walk you through the steps of pruning thyme.

Essential Steps to Pruning Thyme:

When to Prune?

Before we get into the details of how to prune thyme, we first need to know when to prune. Thyme can be pruned almost throughout the year. However, the exact time to prune would depend on the objective of pruning.

If you want to cut thyme to use in your cooking, you don’t have to wait for a specific time. You could just go out there and harvest all you want throughout the growing season which is spring and summer.  

If it’s been a while since you last picked up your pruning shears and your thyme is all woody, you would go for a hard-pruning regimen. This is usually done in the dormant winter season after the first frost.

To prevent your thyme from becoming woody, late summer pruning is your go-to regimen.

The shaping of the thyme is usually done in the spring.

Different pruning periods require different approaches towards them and so they will be discussed in detail.

Harvesting Thyme: How to Cut Thyme?

Thyme could be cut at any time during the growing season. There are no particular rules in response to how to cut thyme, but make sure that you leave behind at least five inches of the plant for it to continue growing. Additionally, it’s best to cut tender new growth to stimulate the appearance of new shoots. Always avoid the tough, woody parts when cutting your thyme plant.

Although thyme could be harvested anytime, the herb harvested in summer has a special flavor to it. The best time in summer is before the flowers bloom as the thyme is at its peak flavor and freshness at that time. You could go for a mass harvest at that time.

It’s best to mass harvest a couple of times along with occasional cutting to stimulate new growth. Don’t worry about the plant though! The more you harvest, the more it would grow.

After harvesting the thyme, it is not always best to wash the leaves as that strips them of their oils. As long as the leaves are not overly filthy, they are good to go. 

Bonus Tip: Harvest before dawn to enjoy the maximum flavor of the herb. It is best to harvest thyme right after the dew has dried.


Don’t cut the plant too close to the winter season, as it would stimulate new growth which won’t be prepared in time for the coming frost. This would lead to a weak and stressed plant. The newly developed leaves and branches will not grow strong enough to tolerate the cold winter days.

Rejuvenation Pruning: How to Revive Thyme?

Normally no one can resist that strong smell of thyme coming from the garden and so due to regular pruning and harvesting, it wouldn’t need much rejuvenation. However, if you left your thyme on its own and now want to again make it green and fresh, learning how to revive thyme is of paramount importance.

Although thyme, like a lot of herbs, do not easily die, they are not indestructible. There are still a number of ways for thyme plants to die when left completely alone.

Normally, thyme plants do not need hard rejuvenation because they are regularly harvested, which promotes healthy, tender growth. However, if totally left alone, a thyme plant develops a thick, woody growth that is practically useless. Here’s how to revive thyme.

In the dormant season (in late fall, after the first frost), cut one-third of the woodiest stems back to about half of their original size. You would have to cut this way for the next few years to fully get rid of all the woody branches. Don’t be hasty and cut more than one-third of the branches as it could lead to the death of the plant due to shock. By cutting one third, you ensure that the new growth is encouraged while keeping the plant alive.

Keep doing this for the next few years until the plant is consistently growing younger looking and more tender stems all over the plant.

Late Summer Pruning (Light Rejuvenation):

How To Prune THYME

Light rejuvenation pruning in the late summer is done to keep the plant from becoming woody in the future. After the flowering of the plant, cut one-third of the oldest stems back by one-third of the original size. This should be done regularly to ensure better growth in the coming season.

Use clean and sharp shears to get the best cut. You do not want to unnecessarily damage your plant. Do this yearly for the best health of your plant.

How to Prune Thyme for Shaping:

Over time, thyme plants can become wild looking. If you want your plant to grow in a certain direction and shape, you need to cut it in the early spring when the new growth is just about appearing. First, picture the plant’s shape in your head and then cut the plant accordingly to facilitate growth in the intended direction.

This shaping is usually done at the start of the growing season to encourage the plant for more growth during the coming season.

One thing to keep in mind while shaping is that you shouldn’t cut back more than one-third of the plant. You can always cut more the next year if you couldn’t achieve your desired shape.

Again, only use sharp and clean shears.

How to prune thyme indoors?

Pruning of indoor potted thyme isn’t that much different from the pruning regimen for the outdoor thyme. Basic principles remain the same. So, you don’t have to learn how to prune thyme indoors separately.

Just cut-back woody stems by no more than one third. Cut the needed amount with small shears or by pinching the stems at any time during the growing season. Depending on the size of the pot and the rate of growth, your thyme would need to be repotted every other season.

Thyme is a hardy plant that doesn’t need much extensive care, so there is very little which can go wrong!


With its characteristic aroma and flavor and many other benefits, thyme is among the top contenders when it comes to planting herbs.

As stated earlier, pruning thyme is not a necessity. Thyme is very resilient and usually would grow just fine without the need for regular pruning. Because thyme is regularly cut for its flavorfully useful qualities, it kind of gets pruned regularly. However, having said that, regular pruning would make sure that you reap the benefits of thyme for a long period. If you want a healthier and more beautiful plant, make sure that you konw how to prune thyme.

Pruning surely is a hard pill to swallow but once you get a taste of the sweet benefits that it has for the overall health and growth of the plant, you won’t consider it a bad bargain.

This simple step by step procedure for how to prune thyme would surely come in handy and make the task all the easier.

Happy Growing!

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