Question: Should I remove flowers from thyme? Do I let it flower? -Justin G.
Answer: You should remove the flowers from your thyme plant before they have bloomed if possible, while the blossoms are still just buds. Once an herb plant is allowed to flower, the plant will focus its energy on producing more flowers instead of on making the leaves that you use in cooking (which are the reason most of us grow the herbs).
After the flowers have bloomed for a while, the plant will eventually go to seed and then die back, so blooms actually signal the end of the plant’s life cycle. That’s why, if you wish to get the maximum life span from your plant and if you want it to continue producing leaves you can use to flavor your food, it’s necessary to remove the flowers while they’re still just buds, before they open.
You can either use your fingers to pinch off the flowers below where the bud has developed or use scissors or gardening shears to cut through the stem—just be sure to make a clean cut, or pinch cleanly through the plant’s stem. Don’t rip or tear the stem, or you can damage the plant and put it at risk for disease.
In addition to removing flowers whenever they appear, you should also prune your thyme plant regularly. Pruning helps the plant to grow denser and more compact, and it also helps to extend the life of your plant and help you get more of the foliage you can use from it.
Herb plants should be pruned even when they’re babies, from the time they’re growing strong and are well established. Prune your thyme plant during its peak growing season, when it’s putting out new growth the fastest. Remove all dead branches as well as an inch or two from the end of each branch. Choose a spot at the node where leaves connect to the plant’s stem to make your cuts.
You can remove up to a third of the plant’s foliage in this way without doing it any harm. In fact, after pruning, your plant will bounce back to be bigger and better than it ever was prior to being pruned. Just make sure to remove your clippings from the ends of the stems at the top of the plant, leaving the larger leaves at the plant’s base behind. These leaves are responsible for processing more nutrients during photosynthesis due to their larger surface area, and they should be left intact because they’re so important to the plant’s nutrition.