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English Thyme Vs German Thyme Vs French Thyme? Differences

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Last updated on September 26th, 2022 at 08:47 am

With many common herbs today offering similar delight medically and ornamentally, thyme remains a good choice for a household herb.

This aromatic herb is also a culinary treat for which it has become many gardeners’ favorite. If you desire to grow thyme, then the first step is decision-making regarding the type of thyme you would cultivate.

You may have discovered a large variety of thyme available to you. Some of these include; Common thyme, Lemon thyme, English thyme, French thyme, and German thyme. But the three most popular ones are the latter, and sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish them.

Coming from the same family and genus, English, German, and French thyme exhibit countless similarities, yet they are different in shape, color, flavor, growth pattern, and climate tolerance. To an ordinary person, they are all the same thyme responding differently to the condition of growth, but the fact is, their characteristic differences form the basis of their differences in species.

What Is The Difference Between English, German And French Thyme?

Though not as many differences are there are similarities between English, German, and French thyme, their differences are sufficient to identify them even without a side-by-side comparison.

Their differences can also account for their specialized purpose, which we will discuss later. For now, how do these varieties of thyme differ? Let us consider two main ways;

1. Leaf Shape and Composition:

The appearance of the leaves of the three thyme varieties in question is one of the most noticeable differences.

Broad round leaves characterize English thyme, and German thyme also has rounded leaves, although tinier than that of English thyme, while French thyme is reputable for its narrow and pointy leaves.

 Thyme is evergreen, and this is true for English, German, and French thyme. However, in German thyme, you find a true green pigment on the leaves.

English thyme produces bright-green leaves, while French thyme produces a gray-green pigment on its leaves.

Furthermore, the leaves of German thyme are packed with highly flavored aromatic oils, which attract pollinators.

English thyme, on its part, boasts of the ‘original’ thyme flavor, a mix of clover and lavender. In contrast, French thyme though has a subtler flavor but is the sweetest.

2. Growth Pattern and Condition.

Growth-wise, English thyme resembles creeping thyme due to its similar growth pattern. As in creeping thyme, English thyme grows rapidly, spreading evenly as it covers the soil surface.

With German thyme, growth is upward when proper attention is given to the development of the stem, which speedily becomes hardy.

There is also an upward growth in French thyme, but the growth in French thyme is rather slow compared to its English and French counterparts.

Also, while growing, the stem of German thyme remains Brown. However, you will notice a reddish stem in both English and French thyme.

Like many herbs, thyme is a sun and heat-loving plant that is very resilient and tolerant. This resilience and tolerance vary with different varieties.

For example, French thyme is especially tolerant of drought, having narrow leaves, which reduces the amount of water the plant loses to the atmosphere due to transpiration.

English and German thyme, on the other hand, are cold tolerant. It is important to note that German thyme is even more tolerant. The presence of its sturdy stem proves to be an advantage in this weather.

The rounded leaves of English and German thyme also assist them in expelling excess water through transpiration when temperatures fall.

English, German Or French Thyme, Which Is Better?

Whatever the variety, whether English, German or French, all thyme offer the same benefits. This means they are all aromatic, medicinal, nutritious, ornamental, and a delight to taste in our meals. Nonetheless, you may still wonder which variety is better among the three.

In my opinion, English thyme is the best among the three. This preference is because it is by far more versatile in function. Also, it is easier to cultivate. Furthermore, this species has the original clover thyme flavor and, as such, serves better when it comes to culinary purposes.

With so many uses for this favorite, availability could easily become an issue. Nonetheless, it is not. This variety grows low but spreads out rapidly, with attractive foliage always available for use. Furthermore, the English thyme is very tolerant to both drought and frost.

What Is English Thyme Good For?

English thyme is a good culinary herb that overwhelms a meal with its characteristic aroma- that of thyme. As a low grower, English thyme is also good outdoors for ground cover as it adds aesthetic value to the surrounding in addition to a refreshing fragrance.

Above all this, English thyme is best for medicinal purposes. It is priceless when mixed with other ingredients for a herbal mix. Alone, English thyme makes a fine thyme Tea packed with health benefits.

English thyme performs tremendously against sore throat, bronchitis, cough, stomach ache, and many more, whether in a herbal mix or thyme tea. Thus far, this is the best use for English thyme.

What Is French Thyme Good For?

French thyme, also called the summer thyme, is a slow grower yet a herb on demand for its many vital purposes. One good use of French thyme is as an ornamental herb.

Due to its slow growth, French thyme is an excellent choice for a potted herb, and in the house, it serves as a natural air purifier and an ornament as it gives off a delightful fragrance.

French thyme is subtle in its aroma compared to English or German thyme and is best used for culinary purposes.

Its subtle aroma perfectly blends with other ingredients to produce a delightful taste. French thyme also has a naturally sweet taste which reflects outstandingly in a meal.

What Is German Thyme Good For?

German thyme produces green foliage filled with flavor and aromatic oil. These aromatic oils make them a good choice when considering thyme tea. Nevertheless, the best use for German thyme is for outdoor purposes. 

German thyme is also called winter thyme because of its ability to survive the fall and tolerate low temperatures. It is a hardy plant that grows upright and, as such, serves best as a border plant and for pavers around the house.

Out there, it can live through winter and summer, resisting deer and rabbits. It also attracts butterflies, and this will surely delight you.

What Type Of Thyme Is Best For Cooking?

Thyme is generally regarded as an aromatic culinary herb. English thyme is very remarkable when employed in the kitchen.

It is a good choice to sprinkle on your roasted potatoes and a good spice in soup, sauce, beans, and meat dishes. German thyme also has unique aromatic foliage. Nonetheless, French thyme is the best for cooking.

The narrow-leafed herb species has a subtle thyme aroma, creating a unique blend with other ingredients and its unique sweet taste that enhances delicacies.

Used fresh, French thyme is simply the best. The narrow, compact foliage is ideal for sprinkling on any meal since it does not quickly soften or melt away in a delicacy. 

Did you know that to the French, there are some meals prepared strictly with French thyme? This highlights the uniqueness of French thyme as it is irreplaceable in such meals.

All over the world, French thyme is regarded as the best for cooking, which is also why it is a favorite for companies producing processed thyme.


English, French, and German thyme are different kinds of thyme from the same family with similarities but significant differences. These species differ in shape, color, flavor, growth pattern, and climatic tolerance.

 In this article, I have outlined the differences between the trio and further explained their uses. If you desire to grow thyme, this article will assist you in selecting which species best suits you. Even if you want to select a variety for consumption, the information above is a sure guide.


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