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How Much Cold Can Thyme Tolerate? (Explained)

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The winter is a very delicate time for most plants. So if you have thyme in your garden, it is not surprising that you may be worried about its welfare.

After all, what makes a gardener good apart from their love for plants?

So, you may have wondered how much cold can thyme tolerate? Thyme prefers a mild climate, although it can tolerate temperatures well below freezing. However, it tolerates cold better in well-drained soil. Thyme can continue to grow even in cold climates, and all herb varieties can survive cold climates even in temperatures of less than 25-20°F. Which is the coldest any variety of thyme can tolerate.

What Temperature Is Too Cold For Thyme?

Thyme needs moderate to maximum exposure to sunlight. So, it will survive in warm and moderately dry climates, sunny summers, and even mild winters.

The plant generally thrives in places where temperatures of 60-85°F are typical.

Although thyme is a very cold hardy herb, and most varieties can survive temperatures below 20-30°F, the plant’s hardiness does not carry it over any lower temperatures than that.

Once temperatures drop below 20-30°F, the thyme will likely not survive.

Likewise, thyme will not do well in frigid temperatures with the added cold stresses, especially if it struggled with poor sunlight, heat, and poorly drained soil all season long.

It is usually during the winter that thyme struggles with cold temperatures. During the summer and spring, the sunlight is just ideal for thyme to thrive.

Thus you may want to take steps to provide your thyme plants with extra protection to make sure they survive these cold temperatures. Some measures you can take include;

1. You should take extra care with watering your thyme adequately before the winter.

If you keep a habit of adequately watering your thyme before the winter, it will be prepared enough to pull through the season.

It will go into the winter healthier and more tolerable of cold conditions.

2. Add a two to three-inch layer of mulch around the plants.

Applying mulch during an extended cold spell will provide enough heat for the thyme stands and keep the soil from freezing.

3. You can also increase the soil drainage capacity. With good drainage, thyme plants are most likely to survive the cold weather.

It would be best to use compost to amend soil and plant in raised beds.

4. Prune lightly shortly before cold spells. Before the onset of the cold, it would be best to only harvest small clippings for cooking, but do not prune heavily.

What Is The Lowest Temperature Thyme Will Tolerate?

Low temperatures are brutal on any plant or herb, even cold-hardy herbs. Many perennial herbs, like thyme, are cold hardy and so they can survive low temperatures.

However, they don’t usually grow or thrive in such conditions.

However, it is inevitable that during cold temperatures, most popular garden herbs will take severe hits from cold and frosts.

While thyme can survive in the cold, it cannot tolerate extremely low temperatures ranging from 25°F and below.

Although thyme grows as a perennial during frost, going dormant during winter and coming back in spring with new growth.

So, thyme is very resistant to cold; nevertheless, extreme frost will kill the plant.

Nonetheless, it can survive even in winter, though it will shed some of its foliage, and it will not put on any new growth until the end of the winter.

As such, you may want to explore other means of making sure that you can continue to enjoy your thyme even during the winter. Such means include:

1. Covering your thyme up by growing it in a cold frame or a cloche. The covering traps the heat rising from the soil, elevating the soil temperature by several degrees.

2. Additionally, it will help to add a thick layer of mulch over herbs. Thyme can even continue to grow if you cover it up with a mixture of shredded bark, dry straw, and other coarse mulch.

The covering will provide the insulation with your thyme needs. Expectedly, they won’t produce as much new growth as in the warm season, but they won’t go dormant either.

(I) Another option is to transplant your thyme plants into a pot and move them to a warm spot. The garage, a frost-free greenhouse, or sun porch will serve this purpose well.

The plant will flourish in the container in a protected area throughout the cold season, and you can transplant them into the garden once spring returns.

(II) You can equally move your thyme plants indoors and grow them in front of a sunny window. For example, you can grow it from seeds or stems of a parent plant on a windowsill in the kitchen.

Thyme planned like that will do well, as long as it gets a least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. When using LED or artificial lights, 11-14 hours is usually sufficient.

(III) Increase the life of your thyme by putting the stems in glasses of water. The cold weather will not affect your thyme if you harvest it and put it in glasses of water indoors.

Thyme will grow new roots and remain alive for several weeks at least. Just be sure to refill the water as needed and place it on a sunny windowsill.

Can Thyme Survive Frost?

In cold conditions, it is primarily the wetness and not necessarily the cold that kills plants.

Most garden herbs, including thyme, are cold-hardy and can tolerate low temperatures quite well.

Not only is thyme cold-hardy, but it also tolerates frost well. Like most cold-hardy perennials, thyme will hardly die during the winter, except the winter is exceptionally cold.

Thyme may be able to hold its own in cold and even frost. But once the moisture on the plant freezes, the plant will not recover.

Can Thyme Survive 40° Fahrenheit?

Most herbs can survive temperatures in the mid to low 40 degrees. However, some more miniature cold-hardy plants will not survive.

The basil, for instance, will not survive anything below 50°F. Thyme, however, is quite a cold hardy.

The ideal conditions for thyme are sunny, temperate climates with well-drained soil and constant sunlight. However, even when planted indoors, thyme requires about 55-40° F at night and higher temperatures during the day.

However, thyme is cold-hardy enough to withstand temperatures as low as 40°F. Thyme flourishes in temperatures of 60-85°F.

Thyme can even withstand mild winters and does well in sunny summers.

As such, although 40°F is not the best temperature option for thyme, it will most likely survive if exposed to a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Conclusion

Since thyme is a plant of Mediterranean origins, it thrives better in sunny climates where it is planted in full sunlight and exposed to high temperatures than cold and frost.

However, thyme’s cold hardiness makes it adapt and grow even in winter cold and frost, when less cold-hardy herbs do not survive. Nonetheless, temperatures below 20-30° are too cold, even for thyme.

When exposed to low temperatures, thyme will go dormant, especially in winter. Thyme can tolerate frost, significantly if it is grown indoors or protected from the worst. 

But it will not put on any new growth or foliage during the winter or frost. Except you harvest it indoors and protect it.

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