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Native thyme with a mass of purple flowers
Native thyme is an attractive rounded shrub with wonderfully scented foliage. It smells nothing like thyme, but has a strong minty aroma with an earthy edge. The leaves were traditionally used for medicinal purposes, but are now a popular culinary ingredient used in a variety of bush-tucker-inspired dishes. 


What you need to know about native thyme

Name: native thyme, cut-leaf mint bush (Prostanthera incisa).

Height: up to 1.5m.

Plant type: perennial shrub.

Climate: cool and warm temperate, sub-tropical. 

Soil: moist, well drained and slightly acidic (pH 5.5–6.5), enriched with organic matter.

Position: full sun to part shade.

Foliage: small, ovate and highly aromatic with softly toothed edges.

Flowering: masses of mauve-purple, cup-shaped blooms appear in spring.

Feeding: feed after flowering with a complete organic-based fertiliser.

Watering: water regularly.

Appearance and characteristics of native thyme

Native thyme is a beautiful perennial that grows up to 1.5m tall and wide. Its leaves, which are small and roughly ovate with softly toothed edges, are strongly scented. When crushed, they release a strong minty aroma with earthy and peppery undertones. Masses of mauve cup-shaped flowers almost cover the shrub in spring. 

This fast-growing native will last for a good length of time, but generally starts to decline after 6–8 years. It can easily be replaced with new, quick-growing plants or cuttings. 

Once established, it is moderately drought-tolerant, but will grow better when watered regularly, especially during hot, dry periods.

A native thyme plant with purple flowers

Uses for native thyme

Grow as a feature plant in garden beds, trim into a hedge or screen, or use it to create a border along paths – ideally anywhere you can brush up against the foliage to release its aroma.

Use the leaves or stems to flavour meat dishes. It’s also great for seasoning roasted and baked potatoes.

How to grow native thyme

Choose a spot in full sun to part shade with well-drained soil. Mix compost and pelletised organic fertiliser into the soil and fork in well. Dig a hole twice as wide and to the same depth as the existing root ball. Remove the plant from its pot, loosen the mix to free the roots and place in the centre of the hole. Backfill with soil, firm down and water well. 

Mulch around the base of the plant with an organic mulch to help retain soil moisture and suppress weed growth.

Caring for native thyme

Native thyme grows quickly into a medium-sized shrub. Give it a light pruning after flowering to help keep it bushy and compact.

It is rarely bothered by pests or diseases.

How often should you water and feed native thyme?

Water regularly when the plant is young. Once established, it will benefit from an occasional deep watering, but this may need to be increased during hot, dry conditions. Mulching will also help the soil retain moisture. 

Feed after flowering with an organic-based fertiliser suitable for native plants. Applications of seaweed throughout the year are also beneficial.

How and when to harvest native thyme

Harvest the thyme leaves and stems as needed throughout the year.

How to propagate native thyme

Native thyme grows best from cuttings. An ideal time to do this is after pruning in autumn, when you can use semi-hardwood clippings as a propagating material. Take 5–10cm cuttings, remove half of the lower leaves and dip the ends into a rooting hormone. Insert the native thyme cuttings into a tray filled with propagating mix and gently firm around the base of each. Position in a warm, protected spot and mist regularly to keep the soil moist. Roots can take 3–4 weeks to form.

Safety tip

After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.

If you like this then try

Warrigal greens: this large-leafed native herb is easy to grow and can be used as an alternative to spinach.

Sea purslane: a fast-growing succulent ground cover with crisp, salty-flavoured leaves. 

Ruby saltbush: a succulent ground cover with silvery-grey foliage and edible salty-sweet berries.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!


Photo credit: Alamy Stock Photo and tuckerbush.com.au


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