Lemon thyme: how to care and main uses

The Mediterranean side of the Iberian Peninsula is full of many varieties of medicinal and aromatic plants. One of them and of high added value is lemon thyme . These aromatic herbs have been very well introduced in the gastronomy and traditional medicine of many countries. In homage to this, we want to tell you about the lemon thyme plant, its main differences, care and characteristics.

And it is that all these plants, although they are used less and less due to modern medicine, continue to represent a strong ally as a complement to medicines, especially taken through infusions.

Many of them contain a large volume of antioxidant substances, terpenes and vitamins that we can take regularly. Lemon thyme is widely used for infusion and, in fact, we can buy it in supermarkets.

To make this process even more natural, we will tell you how to grow this plant or even use it for its aroma in our ornamental garden .


Lemon thyme is classified as an aromatic herbaceous plant in the Lamiaceae family . We can find it in areas of mountains growing wild, although it is perfectly adapted to grow it in the garden and in pots.

It is known as a lemon tree because it has yellow tones that traditional thyme does not have. In addition, the aroma it gives off is somewhat different, with citrus scents.

It is a perennial plant, so it will be active throughout the year, sprouting up in the spring and summer months and emitting an intoxicating aroma in the garden.

In addition, it is a perennial plant that has small aromatic leaves that bloom during the spring and also during the summer.


At the ornamental plant level, it has a reduced size, not exceeding an average height of 30 cm. It produces a large volume of small, elongated and oval leaves. On the edges you can see a yellow tone that is what differentiates it from traditional thyme.

Another big difference, the main aroma is not found in the flowers (as it happens in most plants), but in the leaves.

Due to its small size, it is common to grow it in pots , and it can be used to flavor dishes in gastronomy, simply as an ornamental plant or to make infusions once the leaves have dried.

In order not to confuse it with other plants, its scientific name is Thymus citriodorus .


The origin of this plant is found throughout the Mediterranean side, where aromatic species such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil and all its variants have always grown.

Lemon thyme has also been cultivated in many other areas of Europe for its high resistance, and already in Ancient Greek times it was used in religious ceremonies, baths and for its medicinal properties.


Today, buying a lemon thyme plant costs less than € 3-4. From it, we can collect its seeds or use cuttings to reproduce new plants.

It is considered a rustic plant that is easy to maintain and care for. From here, we leave you a series of tips on its maintenance, whether grown in the garden or planted in pots.

More information: traditional thyme care


Thymus citriodorus can be planted throughout the year, especially in areas with mild winters. The ideal time is at the end of winter, where it will begin to emit its first roots and new shoots.

It should be planted in a bright area, in full sun or partial shade, but with plenty of light.

It is used to dry climates, with little humidity, although it grows without problems in coastal areas even with saline winds.


There are no soil type, pH or texture requirements for lemon thyme. In fact, it grows abundantly in areas with calcareous and alkaline soils .

However, its development is greatly enhanced when we introduce a little organic matter into the planting hole , or we use peat enriched in the substrate to grow it in a pot.

With this we ensure good drainage, since its roots are very sensitive to excess humidity.

In fact, the main cause of death of this species, thyme, rosemary and all Mediterranean aromatics is excess water and root suffocation .

More information: the importance of organic matter


Irrigation in this type of species must be very small and spaced, always drying the substrate before the next irrigation .

They do not need a lot of water for their growth and they know how to take advantage of the humidity of the substrate very well. Keep in mind that they are used to growing in almost inhospitable environments.

  • Irrigation in spring and summer:  2 irrigations per week.
  • Irrigation in winter: 1 irrigation every 7/10 days without rainy season.

As for the amount of water, grown in soil, we can provide 1 liter per plant and irrigation. Grown in pots, always water until we see that water comes out of the holes in the bottom.


Lemon thyme is not usually fertilized, but we can stimulate its growth by providing mineral fertilizers in the sprouting stage (winter start and spring start).

The organic matter or peat that we add at the beginning will allow it to grow for a long time. In spring, the most recommended option is to provide granular fertilizers, easy to apply and release nutrients for a long time.

An interesting nutrient mix for aromatic species can be the ratio NPK 12-10-18 + 2MgO and micronutrients , of slow release.

Fertilizers – Universal Fertilizer Blue Bag 800 g. – Batlle

  • The Azul Batlle Universal Fertilizer is a complex granulated fertilizer that contains all the nutrients in each fertilizer grain
  • Especially suitable for outdoor plants, it provides the necessary nutrients for optimal development of horticultural species, fruit trees and all kinds of ornamental plants, trees, shrubs and flowers
  • Its low chloride composition, rich in micronutrients and high solubility provides it with optimal qualities for plant nutrition.
  • Composition: CE fertilizer. NPK fertilizer 12-10-18 + 2MgO with micronutrients
  • Dosage: Apply by spreading evenly at a rate of 40g / m2


Thymus citriodorus is perfectly suited to growing in pots, creating a substrate with sufficient drainage.

For this, the mixture of peat with highly draining elements is ideal. For this, you can mix universal substrate + sand / perlite / coconut fiber / vermiculite, etc.

If you want to know the properties of each of these substrates:

Controlling irrigation is very important, since the pots usually provide more water than this type of plant usually needs.

As an important tip, always water when the substrate is dry, and not just the surface, as we may think. We need to assess whether there is moisture inside the substrate (by inserting a stick or finger), and only water if it is dry .


Lemon thyme can be multiplied by seeds (obtaining totally different plants from the mother) or identical plants by cuttings .

On the other hand, buying an adult and already developed species of this species is quite cheap. Checking prices, it can be bought in markets, nurseries or specialized stores for a price between € 3 and € 4.

Let’s see the characteristics of both Thymus citriodorus multiplication systems .

Multiplication by seeds

To obtain new plants through seeds, you have to have a lot of patience, since it is slow growing. We will germinate in coco fiber substrate and peat indoors, maintaining constant humidity and temperature. In a period of 2 to 3 weeks we will see the first seedlings emerge.

Until we have a young and resistant plant, with true leaves, we will not transplant to the final place.

Multiplication by cuttings

By cuttings we make sure to obtain the same variety of the chosen mother plant.

To collect these cuttings, we will wait until summer, where the new stems are well developed.

We will select the most robust, cutting them at a distance of 10-15 cm from the end. We will remove the lower leaves and leave a clear stem from the base.

We put it in water for a few days and when we see the first roots come out, we transfer it to a cultivation tray with enough humidity, coconut fiber being preferred.

When we see the raw leaves come out, we will know that the cutting has taken root and the plant can fend for itself.


One of the biggest problems with lemon thyme is that it dries slowly with no apparent explanation. 80% of the time, it is due to overwatering. The waterlogged substrate does not allow the roots to breathe well, so they slowly darken and die.

This whole process is progressive, and when we see the plant drying out from the upper end, we think it is a lack of irrigation and we return to provide water, worsening the final result even more.

Clean substrate, with good drainage and very short and well-spaced waterings. That is the secret for these types of plants.


Lemon thyme is quite appreciated in gastronomy, as an aromatic plant. A perfect blend of the traditional flavor of thyme with a blend of citrus aromas typical of lemon.


The maximum concentration of aromas and its concentrated oils is achieved just before flowering. The best time is first thing in the morning, so you don’t lose water during the day.

Likewise, the flowering it produces in the garden is spectacular, so this plant is also frequently used as an ornamental.

We can use it fresh, providing a great fragrance to the dish.


The main component of lemon thyme is associated with the traditional thyme plant. We are talking about active components such as  carvacrol  or thymol . In addition, we also find others such as borneol, anethole and linalool.

Both principles have antibacterial and fungicidal activity, as well as insect repellants, so it is also used in combination with horticultural plants to repel pests.

At the nutritional level, lemon thyme contains a good amount of vitamin C , minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron, and important flavonoids with antioxidant properties.


Usually the young shoots of this plant are also used for the preparation of infusion. In it, both dry and fresh leaves are usually used. The latter provide more aroma.

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