Pruning or trimming thyme -【How and when to prune】


Thyme encompasses between 200 and 300 species of plants in the Lamiaceae family. They are herbs or also subshrubs that develop in the temperate climates of Europe, Asia and North Africa, although currently their use has spread throughout the world. For its correct development it is essential that you know how to prune thyme, in this post we will cover how and when to prune it and what tools to use.


Depending on the use you give to your thyme plant, pruning may have a greater or lesser degree of importance. For example, if you use it in the kitchen and need to harvest continuously, pruning will be more important than if you have this herb decoratively in your garden. In any case, it will always be necessary to prune your thyme, whatever the use.

Pruning thyme
Interesting fact: without a doubt it is one of the herbs that have been most used in history. For example, in Ancient Greece they already used it to take baths, while the Egyptians used it as part of their embalming techniques.

1. Tools needed to prune thyme


There are few tools that you will need to carry out the pruning of this grass. You can manage it perfectly with the following:

  • Pruning shears: this is the essential tool for pruning a thyme. They must have very sharp blades that will allow you to cut the stems and branches of the thyme precisely and cleanly.
  • Gardening gloves: it is good that you use them to protect your hands from cuts and scratches that can occur during pruning. In addition, it will help you keep your hands clean and dry.

Keep in mind that you must disinfect all tools before you prune your thyme. This will help prevent the transmission of diseases, you will have to do it before you start pruning and every time you change plants.

2. Why to prune thyme?


There are many good reasons why pruning your thyme is important. These are reasons that are repeated almost for any aromatic herb.

Among the most important points are the following:

  • They help to maintain the health of the plant.
  • Stimulates growth and renewal of branches. This is key in old plants as it rejuvenates them.
  • It allows to control the size of the bush, in this way we can adapt it to the space that we have available.
  • Works very well for pest and disease control. Many times the best solution for these problems is to cut the affected branches.
  • Storing the pruned branches allows us to have thyme during all times of the year.

I’m probably forgetting some point, but I think these are enough reasons for you not to forget to prune your thyme.

3. When to prune thyme?


As it happens with all the plants that you have in your garden or orchard, defining an exact moment of the year in which pruning should be carried out is very complicated. Actually, the time to carry out this task goes hand in hand with the type of pruning that we are going to carry out.

There are two very different times in which you can prune. The warm months in which the thyme is active, and the cooler months when this herb is resting. Let’s see which pruning can be done in each of those times.

3.1 Pruning thyme for winter

This grass supports strong pruning very well, that is, in which a high percentage of the total branches of the plant is cut. This type of pruning should be done in times of rest of the thyme. The best time to do this is in late winter. This is how we take advantage of the fact that it is at rest, but there is not much time left before it begins to sprout and thus heal the pruning wounds better.

That time should be chosen because if you select the months in which the plant is active (summer or spring), you will put a lot of stress on the plant. Being a hard pruning, with a large number of cuts, the sap that the plant would lose would be a lot.

Another pruning that can be done in the cold months is cleaning. As I always say, it is always a good time to trim diseased, dead or damaged branches. The sooner you can the better.

Since you are interested in knowing how to prune this herb, I have no doubt that it will be useful to know about the pruning of any of these plants:

3.2 Pruning thyme in spring and summer

While hard pruning is not recommended, the warmer months are also a good time to do some pruning on your thyme. Let’s see some of the pruning that you can do in spring and/or summer.

  • Light rejuvenation pruning: after flowering in the summer is a good time to trim some branches as part of a light rejuvenation pruning. It is good to carry out regular rejuvenation pruning, so that later you do not have to carry out very hard pruning.
  • Training pruning: spring, when the plant begins to become active, is the best time to carry out training pruning on a thyme.
  • Harvesting cuts: If you have your thyme for culinary or medicinal purposes and you need to cut it as part of your thyme harvest, you can do so at any time during the growing season. Try not to cut too large a percentage of the plant. If you consume a lot of thyme you should have several plants, so as not to always cut the same one.

Finally remind you that in summer and spring seasons you can also make cleaning cuts. Although thyme is a very healthy plant, some pest or disease can appear, and it is best to cut the branches in poor condition.

4. How to prune thyme?


Let’s analyze the most important pruning that you must carry out on a thyme. I will explain hard pruning in woody thyme and training pruning. Another very necessary pruning is cleaning, in which all damaged or diseased branches are removed. But since I think it is a fairly simple pruning, I will not dedicate a section to it.

4.1 Pruning woody thyme (Hard pruning)

Thyme is a woody herb that withstands hard pruning very well. Moreover, it is the best way to prevent the plant from becoming too woody and thus increase the density of foliage.

As we said, this type of pruning should be carried out preferably at the end of winter. This may vary depending on the climate where you live, in warm climates hard pruning can be done in the middle of winter.

You must cut the dry branches as low as possible, but we can only prune the green part, which would be 1/3. I mean, you divide the plant into 3 parts in our mind and you prune one. You should never leave a branch without leaves or buds as it will dry out completely.

Once pruning is finished, water abundantly. If you had a fertilization scheduled, it is also a good time to do it. This will allow the thyme to recover faster from the stress of pruning.

4.2 Training pruning

Although thyme grows in a bushy form that does not require excessively intensive training pruning, it is good to carry out the following tasks:

  • Step 1: carefully observe the plant to detect branches that are growing in an unfavorable way for this herb. Among these branches, we must take into account those that grow inwards, branches that intersect and those that have grown too much, occupying spaces that we do not want the plant to occupy.
  • Step 2: once all these “annoying” branches have been detected, you must take your scissors and start working. Make sure the blades are sharp and disinfected. You must make the cut at the base of the branch, above a side bud.
  • Step 3: remove all the branches you need, although if you are in the growing season, do not overdo it by cutting too much foliage. Since you will be weakening your thyme a lot
  • Step 4: finished pruning accompanies a good watering. If you find yourself in early spring some fertilizer might also help.

5. Cutting back thyme for harvesting


Being an aromatic herb, one of the most common reasons why we cut thyme branches is for its harvest. Obviously it is a task that is carried out in the growing season. Although it is important that you know how to store it correctly to have thyme throughout the year.

The steps to follow to trim a thyme for harvesting are as follows:

  • Step 1: Prepare your tools, whether you are going to cut with scissors or a knife, it is always good that it is sharp and disinfected.
  • Step 2: you must be clear about how much thyme you need. Always try not to cut too much, or you will be wasting your plant. Cut just what you need. You should never cut more than 1/3 of the plant’s foliage.
  • Step 3: with a cut that is as clean as possible, proceed to cut all the branches that you need. Make the cut above a knot of leaves.
  • Step 4: for a better use of your plant it is good that you store thyme. To do this, place the twigs in a plastic bag with hermetic closure and store it in the refrigerator. Dried thyme can be stored in a dark glass jar in a cool, dry place.

The last point is essential to have thyme in seasons like winter and summer. It will also allow you not to resort to your thyme if it is too small and needs a few more days to grow.

Since you are interested in knowing how to prune this herb, I have no doubt that it will be useful to know about the pruning of any of these plants:

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