How To Revive Your Dying Thyme Plant

Last Updated on November 1, 2022 by Stephanie

Thyme plants are low-maintenance perennial plants that are indigenous to the Mediterranean region of Europe and are adaptable to the changing environment of the Mediterranean.

Thyme is a short-lived plant that produces leaves suitable for culinary use for 5 to 6 years, if the plant is properly cared for.

In order to revive the thyme plant, it is essential to replicate the conditions that they thrived in their original Mediterranean environment, focusing on full sun, watering as well as soil and water conditions.

While certain climates of the Mediterranean are necessary to cultivate Thyme, it is an extremely cold-hardy plant that can thrive in a variety of climates, with a few modifications to the climate.

If your thyme plant appears like its dying, there are a variety of methods to revive it, but first you need to know whats making the plant appear sick and need revitalizing

The Thyme plant require a rebirth…

The most frequent causes of dying thyme are:

  • Thyme is afflicted with root rot or fungal disease as a result of consistently moist soil.
  • Thyme that is falling and turning yellow due to the soils moisture or excessive nitrogen in the soil as a result of fertilizer addition.
  • Thyme plant is becoming brown, dry and dying back.
  • The slow growth of leaves and other foliage is a result of the lack of sunlight or nutrients.
  • Thyme that is drooping or growing slowly because of small containers or pots, or the absence of drainage holes at the bottom or the bottom.
  • The Thyme plant needs to be revived after the winter.

Continue reading to learn how you can overcome these issues so that your thyme plant is revived and grows new leaves that have an intense aroma and distinct flavor…

Thyme Plant With Root Rot

  • Symptoms. Thyme plants appear appearance that is wilted or has a look of drooping leaves, with leaves that have turned brown or yellow.
  • Causes. Too often watering the thyme, slow draining soils or boggy soils that hold excessive amounts of water, high humidity from the thyme being planted close to each other.

Thyme plants are native to the Mediterranean region of Europe in which they have been well-adapted to thrive in the suns full rays, with little rain or irrigation, sandy soils that drain well and, in ideal conditions, areas that have airflow in order to lower humidity.

Thus, thyme plants have evolved to become drought-resistant which means they require dry and well-drained soil conditions instead of fertile soil or compost that remains moist because the roots are vulnerable to root rot and fungal diseases in soils that are damp.

Once established and planted in the correct soil (amended by sand to improve drainage) Thyme plants require watering once each two weeks for the majority of climates , and once per week in hot weather when they are planted in pots.

There are more problems that arise when you grow thyme because of over-watering instead of under watering because of their resistance to drought and their sensitive to soils that are damp.

How to Resurrect a Dying Thyme Plant using Root Rot

  • If your thyme has begun to show signs of root rot, it is essential to cut back your watering to once every two weeks in order to let the soil dry up between sessions of watering.
  • Thyme likes soil that is dry, therefore, remove any material that holds moisture, such as leaf mould, compost or other abundant organic mulch.
  • Take the thyme plant from the soil using a fork , and then inspect the roots. If any of the roots appear soft, brown or rotten cut the affected portion of the root back to its healthy growth using the use of a sterilized pair of pruners (wipe the blades clean with an alcohol-soaked cloth). disinfectant to stop the spread of any disease to healthy growth.
  • Plant the herb (ideally in the form of a pot) with a new layer of dirt that is amended by at minimum 30% horticultural sand or grit, and 70% multi-purpose compost. Remove the old potting soil because it is the home of the fungal pathogen that is making the roots decay. Apply an organic fungicide that kills the fungal infection.

Thyme plants are able to thrive in pots because of their favorable drainage conditions. Additionally, its much easier to manage the soil shape (by the addition of sand) to increase drainage, when compared to changing the soil in garden.

Over-watering is among the most frequent mistakes made when it comes to growing Mediterranean herbs, so it is essential that you water the thyme plants in a manner that is appropriate for the conditions and climate of your garden.

A watering schedule of once every two weeks is sufficient in the majority of cases but you must alter the frequency of your irrigation so that the soil around your thyme is dry between watering sessions.

The addition of sand or grit can help recreate the well-draining and moderate to low fertility soil conditions that let thyme flourishes and emit their most intense scent and the most distinct flavour of the leaves, as well as additional flowers to be seen.

Plant thyme about 2 feet apart to allow for maximum airflow, so that each plant doesnt compete for sun light, space and air circulation instead of creating an unnatural microclimate which are too close to each other.

flowering thyme

Follow these steps to ensure that your thyme plant is the sun all day long and the thyme will start to show signs of healing in about three weeks or so.

Thyme Turning Brown and Dry

  • Symptoms. Thyme plant that has leaves turning brown, and drying up , with a lack of growth.
  • Causes. Extreme frost, natural die-back (thyme is only around 5-6 years) absence of sun or fungal illness.

The Thyme plant is perennial plant which can last for 5 to 6 years, even with proper maintenance.

After three years, thyme plant grow slower and produce fewer leaves. an unattractive aroma and a poor flavor compared to the younger plants.

Thyme leaves are known to start to brown and dry appearance within 5 years and this is the reason cuttings to propagate is extremely popular to keep a supply of thyme without much maintenance and with a minimal cost.

Thyme is regarded as cold-hardy and is able to withstand the cold winter months with Frost (hardy within USDA zone 5-9) However extreme frosts or even an early Spring frost (when new growth is beginning to emerge) could cause the plant to go brown.

(Read the article below to find out how to fix the problem of thyme plants turning to brown).

Thyme is also thriving in full sunlight and therefore when the plant is situated in an area that receives less than 6 hours of sunlight per day , then the brown leaves could be an indication of stress caused by a the absence of sunlight or possibly sensitive to water due to slow draining soils or excessive the top watering.

The Revive Thyme is drying out

  • Thyme can be quite short-lived like a lot of Mediterranean plants. Cuts can be used to propagate more plants of thyme as its cost-effective and has a higher chance of success than cultivating thyme from seeds.
  • If the thyme is suffering due to frost, remove the damaged growth during spring when temperatures are higher, which encourages the growth of new growth that is healthy. Dont cut off the growth when there is the risk of frost, as the the cut could be vulnerable to damage from frost.
  • Make sure to plant thyme in an area that is sun-filled. Thyme doesnt last very long if it is grown in shade, so choose the container or pot in a sunny location or move your thyme to an area of the garden that is more sunny and reduce any vegetation that could be causing shade.

Thyme Plants Turning Yellow and Wilting

  • Symptoms. Thyme leaves have begun to turn yellow frequently, and have an appearance of wilting.
  • Causes. The soil is prone to flooding or there is excess nitrogen due to fertilizers.

Thyme plants have been adapted to living in medium to low fertility sandy soils in their Mediterranean habitat.

In the event that your soil appears abundant in nutrients, or perhaps there have been applications of fertilizer, it is probably a significant amount of on nitrogen within the soil.

The excess nitrogen in the thyme plant to become in a wilting, leggy state, or even droop and the flavor and aroma of the leaves arent as strong, which can have an impact on the overall taste and aroma when you grow thyme to use in cooking.

The yellowing of the foliage and the wilting appearance are other common signs of root rot, as discussed in the beginning of this article. Ensure to allow for your soil time to dry out between watering sessions and then plant (or transplant) the thyme in well-drained soil.

If the soil remains wet because of frequent watering, take the steps to revive the thyme that has root rot.

Revive with yellow leaves and an effervescent appearance

  • If youve applied fertilizer to your thyme, you must stop because this can cause excess growth of the foliage, which has a less flavor and aroma.
  • It is recommended to move the thyme plant from the garden soil or pot to a different pot or a garden area and then amend the soil with 30 percent sand or dirt (by size of pot, or in the area of planting) to increase drainage and to balance the soils nutrient profile.
  • Cut back the leggy or wilting growth of Thyme until it appears rounded (do not cut it back to woody growth, as it will not a good way to grow back).
  • Maintain thymes health by placing it in complete sunlight and watering the plant after it has the chance to dry out somewhat between watering sessions and the thyme will begin to grow back.

The yellow leaves of the majority of plants usually suggest root rot, excessive nitrogen, or even too little nitrogen.

Thyme plants have adjusted to the dry conditions of the Mediterranean with sandy soils that dont retain much moisture and have the lowest nutrient density.

The reason why they typically change color is due to excessive nitrogen fertilizer or soil that is damp, rather than an imbalance in nutrients within the soil.

While both of these issues have different reasons The treatment for both is the same.

Add approximately 30 percent horticultural sand, or grit up to 70% multi-purpose compost to create the ideal soil mix that allows the thyme plant to flourish and produce leaves that have the highest amount of the essential oils to give an enhanced flavor.

The addition of grit and sand to the soil will recreate the well-drained low to moderate fertility sandy soil conditions of their home region of the Mediterranean where thyme plant thrive.

Cut back any growth that is leggy of the thyme back because the excessive growth could drain the energy of the plant. Also, the growing leggy or wilting tends to be more susceptible to diseases.

Cut back about one third of the top growth using pruning tools to keep the plant neat and neat. Thyme is a tough plant and can be cut back as and when you need the herb to cook with or to cut it back at the close of the season.

Pruning is easy and is similar to trimming other Mediterranean herbaceous plants (such as lavender or rosemary) However, it is crucial to be careful not to cut the plant too hard since cutting it back to the woody portion of the plant may hinder growth since the old wood doesnt produce many new leaves or shoots.

It is also important to ensure that the plant is in the best conditions for growth to avoid drying out and turning brown, like:

  • Full sun.
  • Let the soil dry between watering sessions (typically watering pots every week, and only water thyme that is planted in soil of the garden every two weeks in dry spells).
  • A good airflow is achieved by planting each thyme about 2 feet apart in humid conditions.
  • The soil is well-drained, sandy that doesnt retain excessive moisture around the roots.

The more you alter the climate to mimic some of the thyme plants native Mediterranean conditions the more healthy and robust thyme will become but it does not need the Mediterranean climate to thrive and thrive in climates that have more rainfall, provided that the soil drains well so that the roots dry out effectively.

Thyme Plant not Growing

  • Symptoms. Thyme plants with little or no growth and a sloppy appearance.
  • Causes. Thyme plant in the wrong pot, small, not enough sunlight, or the competition with other plants for resources, or a thyme plant that is more than five years old.

Thyme plants are compact plants that thrive in soils that have low water and nutrients, so they dont naturally grow rapidly, however the creeping variety (Thymus serpyllum) can expand and grow quickly in the full sun.

If its the time of year to plant and your thyme isnt growing and looks unhealthy, then theres a possibility of an issue with the growing conditions.

Thyme will continue to grow after 4 years, however the growth slows down, and it is possible that there will be some dying back, and some of the leaf leaves becoming brown, and drying up , which is the normal lifespan of the thyme plant.

Lack of sunlight could affect overall growth as well as the flavor and aroma that the leaves have. Plants near by may also be competing for airflow, space as well as water and nutrients which could make the thyme slow down or even to die.

Containers and pots which are particularly small restrict the space available for roots to grow, which could make your thyme not develop.

How to Resurrect Thyme plants that aren’t growing

  • Place thyme seeds in a container or pot that has minimum 12 inches in diameter to ensure that the roots of the plant have enough room to grow so that they can get access to the nutrients and moisture they require.
  • Make sure to plant thyme in full sunlight (at at least six hours per day) to allow it to grow and remain well.
  • Make sure that the thyme plants are planted at minimum 18 inches apart to ensure that there is sufficient soil, water, sun sunlight and airflow for each plant. In humid climates, plant thyme about 2 feet apart to get the best results.
  • Thyme plants arent long-lived herbs. Their growth rate can decrease after three, and they may end up dying after four or five years, even with proper maintenance. Plant thyme with cuttings in both the beginning and in second years to ensure a constant supply of thyme plants for an affordable cost.

The smaller the container or pot in which the thyme is planted in the smaller it will be, the less room there is for nutrients, soil and the development of roots. So, planting in a bigger pot (at at least 12 inches in diameter) gives the roots the space to grow properly, and encourage the growth.

The bigger pots that have more soil will also shield the roots from frost and cold, to ensure that your thyme plants are more tolerant of cold and can withstand Winter.

Transfer the thyme into an enormous pot and place it in full sunlight to stimulate the growth.

Thyme is a plant that thrives in open areas of the Mediterranean and does not take on the competition of other plants. If your plants arent doing well and are less than 1 foot from each other or are in the same container, then I suggest that you transplant the thyme to ensure that they are minimum 18″ or 2 feet from one another.

With a distance of 18 inches, the thymes roots will be able to establish correctly and get the nutrients, moisture and sunlight it needs. Make sure that the new site is in full sunlight and the thyme will recover and grow once more.

The amount of sunlight per day are correlated with the intensity of the scent and flavor of thyme, with plants that are in full sun have the strongest flavor due to the high concentration in essential oil.

If your thyme is having an average life span of three or four years prior to the time it ceases to grow and starts to fade, dont be discouraged as this is common for this plant even under the best conditions. Thats why I recommend that you propagate Mediterranean plants as its extremely simple and you can plant new plants in your pots and containers with compost for the cost of and sand, along with some patience!

Thyme Plant Dying in a Pot or Container

The most frequent reasons why thyme plants die in pots is because of:

  • It isnt big enough (not sufficient nutrients, or enough soil for it to insulate roots correctly).
  • There are no drainage holes in the bottom of the pot (or the need for the drip tray).

It is recommended to plant thyme in a pot that is minimum 12 inches in diameter because a pot of this size is not just full of room for the roots to develop but also the soil will help to protect the roots in winter.

Pots that are smaller also get hotter in the sun , which could dry the soil too fast for a plant that is as drought-resistant as thyme therefore, you should move your thyme into larger pots to aid in its revival.

If your thyme has signs of root decay (turning brown or yellow and dropping) even after watering it in a timely manner (water approximately once a week and soak thoroughly) make sure the pot is equipped with drainage holes at the base. Also, check whether they are blocked by soil that has been compacted or other debris.

Drip trays that collect excess water can be an issue as they keep the soil moist, while thyme likes the soil to be dry in between watering.

In the event that your soil has become damp because of the absence of drainage, then move the thyme into an area with drainage holes at the base. Follow the above steps that relate to treating plants suffering from root rot in order to bring the plant back to life.

Re-invigorate Thyme Plants After Winter

The majority of thyme plants typically sold in shops and garden centers are cold-hardy varieties, including the common variety (Thymus vulgaris) and lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus) and creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) and are able to withstand the winter frost and continue to grow the following season (hardy up to USDA zones 5-9).

If you reside in a extremely cold or exposed climate you can protect the thyme plant during Winter by securing it with a cloche, or transport the planters inside until Spring, when they can be set in a bright window and watered every 6 to 4 weeks in the winter months of in dormancy.

Thyme is usually semi-evergreen in Mediterranean climates, which means that it keeps some of its leaves through Winter, but there are times when leaves fall off, which is normal, and the Thyme will re-grow next year.

If there is frost damage, cut off the foliage that is brown during spring when the danger of frost that could be severe has passed. If you cut off the damaged growth due to frost during winter, the wounds could be susceptible to more injury, so you should delay pruning until there is a milder conditions.

Key Takeaways:

  • The most frequent reason why thyme plants die is due to fungal or root rot caused by excessive watering of the roots caused by excessive watering or slow drainage of soils.
  • Thyme plants need well-drained soils. Water the plant after the soil is dry, to prevent the thyme becoming yellow or brown due to root decay.
  • If youve used too much fertilizer, thyme plants may change color as a result of stress. The plant may droop or appear to wilt. Thyme likes medium to low fertility soils that have been amended by sand or grit in order to increase drainage.
  • Thyme plants may begin to fade, dry out and become brown after about 4 or five years. The propagation of thyme is an effective method to maintain a steady amount of this plant for a lower cost.
  • The thyme plant should be planted in pots that measure minimum 12 inches in diameter and have drainage holes at the bottom to prevent moist soil, which can create conditions for fungal and root rot disease.


Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)