Can Thyme Survive Winter? Tips to Protect Thyme

Thyme is an interesting herb to grow in your garden. It has so many applications in the kitchen and elsewhere. Although this herb is rather hardy, you may have your doubts as to whether thyme can survive winter or not. 

Yes, thyme can survive winter. It is a cold-tolerant herb that is quite capable of surviving harsh winters through dormancy. Some very hardy variants are even capable of growing a bit during winter. 

Need a way to prolong your fresh thyme? Have you ever thought about freezing it? Can You Freeze Thyme?

Continue to find out how to make your thyme last through the winter seasons. 

Is Thyme a Tender or Hardy Herb? 

For anyone hearing these two terms by now, you will want to know what exactly it means. Each herb is either a tender or hardy herb, let us elaborate what they are.

Tender Herbs

All tender herbs as the name suggests are extremely susceptible to damage during cold and frost. These plants are not capable of surviving the winter season outdoors and bringing them indoors does not guarantee they will grow or even survive. 

As a result, you will have to make certain efforts to help your herb through the winter season. Examples are Curry leaf plants, Sage, Rosemary and Sweet Bay Laurel. 

Hardy Herbs

On the other end of the spectrum are hardy herbs. These herbs are usually capable of surviving winter and frost. This is possible because these plants usually overwinter, i.e they cease all growth processes and go into a dormant state. 

These herbs have a sort of woody stem which does help hold off the ill-effects of cold and frost. But, bringing these plants indoors does give them the best chances of survival. 

Thyme is a hardy herb like Rosemary, Oregano, and Lavender. These plants are cold-hardy but do not exhibit any growth in winter.

How Much Cold Can Thyme Tolerate?

Although thyme originates from the Mediterranean region, it is quite tough and can survive colds and frosts. Thyme can survive the winter in USDA Zones 5 to 9 and is considered a semi-evergreen plant, as it can still retain some foliage during winter. It can also survive USDA Zone 4 if offered some protection.

Thyme is an extremely hardy plant and can survive temperatures as low as -20℉, with some species of thyme surviving -30℉! 

 If you live in USDA Zones below 5, you will need to bring your thyme indoors to survive the cold. 

Should You Bring Your Thyme Indoors In Winter?

As we mentioned above if you live in USDA Zones 5 to 9 you can leave your thyme outdoors. Below Zone 5, thyme plants need to be brought indoors for winter. Check which zone you live in, and plan appropriately. 

So, if your thyme is potted in a small container it is best to bring it indoors as the roots are more vulnerable to cold in this state.

Caring For Your Thyme Indoors

So bringing your thyme indoors in winter can help your thyme survive winter. If all conditions are right, your thyme could still exhibit growth, allowing you to harvest throughout winter! Here’s what you need to keep your thyme happy indoors during winter.  

1) Light

It’s no secret that thyme loves sunlight. You have to provide enough sunlight or find another way if there isn’t that much sun exposure.

Provide your thyme plant with at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight or else enough time under a grow light will suffice. 

2) Potting Mix

For growing thyme a mixture of materials that allows good drainage and a good nutrient profile is essential. 

Create the ideal potting mix for your thyme by mixing sand, peat moss, and perlite, and loam. The soil should be neutral or just slightly alkaline in nature.

3) Fertilizer

Your indoor thyme will need weekly fertilizing as a flower pot can only hold so much nutrients before it becomes completely exhausted. If this happens and nutrients are not replenished, your thyme plant could end up dying! 

Fertilize your thyme plants weekly with a fish emulsion or seaweed liquid. Ensure the solution is weak or diluted. 

4) Water

Seeing as it will be winter, watering should change depending on the temperatures and how saturated the air is with moisture. 

A safe measure of how much water to give your thyme is by watering well and then waiting patiently for it to dry out before offering it water again. For this to happen, we suggest using a clay pot for planting thyme indoors in winter. 

Check out – How Much Thyme in a Sprig?

Tips To Keep Thyme Alive in Winter

If you plant to leave your thyme outdoors or in a place partially exposed to the winter’s cold, you will have to protect it. Also, if you intend on harvesting some thyme in or just before winter, you will have to carry out a few tips to ensure they live! 

#1. Cover With Cloth or Cloche 

Sometimes protecting a large number of plants becomes difficult as you cannot bring all of them indoors! A lack of space or an enormous number of plants makes it impossible to bring indoors. You must find a way to protect them while they are still outdoors.

Placing a cloth over the whole flower bed can help you protect a large number of thyme plants as well as other herbs/plants that are semi-cold tolerant. It conveniently traps and keeps in any heat that the soil emits. 

Use a breathable fabric as you do not want to completely suffocate the plants. If using a cloche, you can have one built from glass. Alternatively you can make your own cost-efficient cloche by getting a transparent plastic bottle and cutting off the bottom.

Place the bottle with the top (narrowing portion) facing upwards. Thus, appearing as a cloche. It works the same way a fabric would, by trapping in heat rising from the ground. 

#2. Bring Your Thyme Indoors

This is the most obvious way of making sure your thyme will live another day! Temperatures indoors are much higher than those outdoors during winter. So, bringing your thyme indoors lets them benefit from such temperatures. 

Placement on a window that remains closed is a good idea. It will get enough sunlight here without air drafts that dry it out. But while indoors during winter try not to overwater your thyme as it dries out slower. 

NOTE- You will also require a grow light if you do not get enough sun exposure during winter, that too in your house. 

If frost has passed and there are decent amounts of sunlight. You may consider placing them on the porch instead of being completely closed up indoors. 

#3. Make a Greenhouse

A greenhouse is traditionally made from glass. It allows the sun’s rays to enter through the glass and not escape. Thus, creating a warm environment for your herbs to grow and or just survive winter! 

This option may sound expensive but you will not need a very large greenhouse at all if it’s just for your herbs. A smaller version of a greenhouse can be made using glass put in old frames. This can further lower the costs of building a greenhouse using expensive raw materials. 

#4. Generously Mulch

Mulching is often used to ensure that plants retain enough moisture during summer. However, it has another purpose! 

Coarse garden waste such as straw and bark chips can be layered onto and around your thyme to act as insulation, trapping heat in.

Many gardeners even state you may see small amounts of growth with this method. Thus, you can lift the mulch, harvest the herb, and then replace the mulch layer. 

NOTE- Don’t be alarmed if the mulch is covered with snow, this will be more beneficial by trapping in more heat.


Thyme is a handy herb to have year-round. There isn’t an issue growing it in summer and spring. However, winter can prove to be a problematic time to grow thyme.

Thyme is a hardy herb and can survive winter. However, you will not experience much growth if any at all! 

There are several ways to protect your thyme herb against cold. But, if you want to ensure your thyme survives and you can harvest from it, just bring it indoors!

Read More – When and Where to Plant Thyme?


Is thyme frost tolerant? 

Yes, thyme is frost tolerant and can survive regular yearly frost. They will survive with some hardy variants even displaying slight growth. However, in extreme cold you will have to help your thyme out by protecting it. You can do this by covering it with fabric, a cloche, placing it in a greenhouse or even indoors in your home.

Does thyme grow back after winter?

Seeing as winter is pretty much a period of dormancy, thyme will gladly start shooting back after winter. As soon as temperatures start to rise, you may be able to see a difference in your thyme plant and your other herbs for that matter. You can offer the best chance of speedy growth by placing it where it will receive more sunlight.