Variegated lemon thyme, native to the Mediterranean region, produces tiny ¼ to ½ inch green leaves outlined in yellow. Growing to a height of 8 to 12 inches this hardy perennial herb is ideal for containers, hanging baskets or as an edging plant. Abundant purple-pink blooms appear in mid summer and attract both bees and butterflies.
Lemon thyme prefers full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours a day and thrives in rich well-drained soil high in nitrogen. It requires little supplemental watering and grows well in soil pH ranging from 4.0 to 8.0. Light application of fertilizer in early summer boosts growth, but generally is not necessary. Sheering back to 3 to 6 inches revives the plant in mid to late summer after blooms are spent.
This compact plant spreads to a foot or more as its woody stems often take root when contacting the soil. Dense foliage creates a mound of delicate green and yellow leaves. When grown in raised beds or containers, foliage trails over the sides adding texture and dimension to the garden.
Flavor and Fragrance
Lemon thyme releases a burst of lemony scent when leaves are bruised, so it's preferable to plant it along along walkways or edges of pathways. Like its fragrance, lemon thyme has a distinct lemon flavor with rich earthy undertones.
Lemon thyme can be used in recipes calling for lemon or lemon pepper and enhances the natural flavors of fresh garden vegetables. Chopped or dried lemon thyme added to breading for chicken or rubbed into chicken before cooking provides a delicate lemon flavor. Used in omelets or other egg and cheese dishes, lemon thyme adds an unexpected burst of flavor.
As a mild stimulant, similar to caffeine, lemon thyme provides a boost of energy.
lt also adds flavor and fragrance to soaps, mouthwashes and colognes.
According to Iowa State University, lemon thyme is more effective as an insect repellent than the advertised "mosquito plant". Crushed leaves rubbed on the skin repel mosquitoes and other flying insects.