If you have ever seen thyme leaves turning brown it doesn’t look appealing nor does it look appetizing at all! This will immediately prompt you to analyze to find a cause and then solve the problem.
You can fix thyme leaves turning brown by adjusting watering habits, using porous soil, reducing humidity, and protecting thyme from winter frost by covering or bringing indoors.
Continue reading to find the reasons for thyme leaves turning brown. One reason, in particular, will be quite shocking to read!
Also read: Can Thyme Survive Winter? Tips to Protect Thyme
1) Excessive Moisture can cause browning of Thyme Leaves
The leading reason behind thyme leaves turning brown in excessive moisture and how to fix it revolves around reducing these moisture levels.
First, you need to identify what factors are causing high moisture. It could be watering habits, water-retaining soil, or even humid air.
– Too Much Watering
If you notice your thyme leaves turning brown, you should start by scrutinizing your watering routine first! Chances are you are offering your thyme plant water when it isn’t required.
Thyme prefers to be watered when it completely dries out. You shouldn’t water it when the soil is still wet.
Perhaps the case is that the pot you are using is not appropriate and the drainage holes are not letting water pass out. This is another condition that you must keep in mind. You may falsely think that your watering habit is to blame when it is actually the pot to blame!
How to Solve?
As soon as you observe your thyme leaves starting to turn brown or discolored in any way, check if the plant’s pot soil is wet. If it is wet, immediately cease watering.
Only water your plant again when the soil is completely dry. If you notice your plant is drying off too slowly, it would be due to incorrect soil, wrong pot location, and high humidity.
- Only water your thyme after dipping your finger into the soil to check the moisture levels
- Try to get your pot more sunlight by changing its location
- Ensure it isn’t in an area with very high or very low humidity, a mix between the two is essential
- Take a look at your pot’s soil (more about this in the next section)
– Water-Retaining Soil
Thyme usually does well in poor soils. However, some prove to be too incompatible for thyme to thrive, resulting in thyme leaves turning brown. So, you will have to take a second look at the soil you are using.
Look back and you will remember that thyme thrives in the Mediterranean and its nearby islands. These areas are notorious for being extremely sunny and having sandy soils that have poor fertility and are well-draining. In these conditions, thyme is actually drought-tolerant!
Soils with an excessive amount of organic matter could be stressing your thyme plant by making conditions too moist. As a result, the plant could turn brown, stem by stem and leaf by leaf.
How to Solve?
If your watering routine is not that regular but still the soil seems wet, the soil is the culprit! You will need to amend the soil to ensure your thyme does not end up dying due to excessive moisture.
The problem could be due to excessive amounts of organic material. You will immediately have to add higher quantities of porous materials such as perlite or sand. Avoid putting vegetable kitchen waste in your thyme soil as this could contribute to moisture.
Not to mention that thyme doesn’t need an excessive amount of nutrients as these plants naturally grow in bare soil with low nutrient profiles. You are best off growing thyme in sandy soils as opposed to any other type of soil.
– High Humidity
Having dry air with low humidity results in helping the plant’s soil dry out in the right amount of time. While a highly humid environment will result in your thyme becoming rather poor looking and weak, you won’t be able to harvest as much thyme.
Spaces can have high humidity when there is a lack of air circulation, meaning the condensed water has no way to escape. As a result, you’ll find that excess water finding its way back to your thyme plant.
How to Solve
Having overly moist air can be problematic because it will probably end up in the soil or the thyme plant itself! But, excessive amounts of water will end up making your thyme leaves discolored.
If this is the case, you will immediately want to know how to fix thyme leaves turning brown. Start with assessing the air currents in that area. If there is too little circulation you can make attempts to increase air circulation.
You can try lowering air humidity by:
- Opening up a window
- Changing your thyme’s location by placing it in an area with more space (or open space)
- Reduce watering frequency if temperatures are lower (winter season)
2) Progressive Aging of Your Thyme
Thyme leaves turning brown may not always indicate poor health or incompatible conditions. It might not have occurred to you that your thyme is dying off for the year!
Thyme is a perennial that comes back year after year for a few years. But, even then, these plants do have maximum life. Even if you have looked after your thyme bush exceptionally well it is not exempt from aging!
Thyme leaves turning brown could be a sign that your thyme plant is on its way out. You are most likely to see your thyme turn brown in 4 to 5 years
Unfortunately, there is no solution to prevent the aging of thyme plants. As a result, you will have to replace your old plant with new ones. This could be done by planting cuttings or buying a whole new plant.
NOTE- You can plant thyme from seeds but the process is extremely slow.
3. Thyme Leaves Can Turn Brown Due to Cold or Frost Damage
Some may be tolerant to winter damage while others may not make it through the rough weather alive! So, thyme plants with brown foliage in the winter season could be happening because that variant isn’t that cold-tolerant.
Plus, if you harvest your thyme before and during the winter frost, you could be making it more vulnerable to damage.
Although thyme plants can’t survive, wondering if freezing can still be used as a means to store harvested thyme. Read Can You Freeze Thyme?
NOTE- Thyme planted outdoors in tiny pots are also very susceptible to cold damage. These can also be more prone to leaves turning brown.
How to Solve?
Before buying a thyme plant, you may want to enquire about how cold-hardy it is and if it will thrive in your USDA Zone. Most thyme plants are hardy up to USDA Zone 5, beyond which they need protection from the cold.
To protect your thyme you can bring it indoors, place it in a greenhouse, add a thick layer of mulch, and cover it with a breathable fabric or cloche, in an attempt to maintain warmer temperatures.
While keeping your plant indoors you will have to ensure the following conditions:
- Good sunlight (for 6 to 8 hours daily)
- Watering when necessary
- Well draining soil
- Occasional fertilizer
Being from the Mediterranean, thyme is a drought-tolerant plant that quite adapted from frost and below-freezing conditions. So, before temperatures plummet, you have to step in and help your thyme if you want it to stay alive and keep the leaves looking green and lush!
Thyme is a great herb to have in the garden, but, only as long as the leaves are green! If your thyme starts discoloring, you will want to know how to fix thyme leaves turning brown.
You can fix thyme leaves turned brown by working to identify and solve the problem before it takes full effect. Excessive water (water-retaining soil, overwatering, high air humidity) aging, and frost damage are reasons for thyme leaves turning brown.
Solutions for (how to fix) thyme leaves turning brown are:
- Reducing watering frequency
- Improving soil by adding porous materials (sand, perlite, vermiculite)
- Protecting your thyme plant from frost and cold
Take note of these red flags before any of them claim your thyme!
Related read: How Much Thyme in a Sprig?
Will dead thyme grow back?
Yes, thyme will grow back if it dies out after winter. Just leave it in the ground and prune it back. Also, provide a layer of mulch to help protect it. You will find it shooting back up in the spring season. Thyme is a perennial that will allow growth back for many years, more like 4-5 years.
Should thyme be cut back every year?
Yes, you can cut back or prune thyme every year. If you really want to maintain your thyme plant’s longevity, you can prune or cut it back before it flowers. Thus, you can offset the dispersal of seeds and keep your thyme plant growing! Meaning cutting back can help your thyme plant last for the maximum.