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Difference Between Rosemary & Thyme

Updated March 23, 2017

Knowing the difference between herbs comes in handy for both cooks and gardeners. Rosemary and thyme are two popular herbs that are easy to grow and smell wonderful when you walk by them in the countryside or in a garden, or pluck fresh sprigs for cooking.

Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an herb that can grow up to six feet tall. This is one distinguishing characteristic from the lower-growing thyme. Rosemary grows on long, woody stalks. The leaves are approximately a half-inch to an inch long, dark green in colour and narrow. The undersides of the leaves are silvery white or light grey in colour. The flowers are small and usually blue or light violet. Strip the leaves off the stalks or use an entire sprig to cook in soups, stews or with poultry.

Growing Rosemary

Rosemary is a perennial plant that grows in many climates. Plant it in decent soil where it has plenty of room to spread out and grow. Rosemary grows best in the ground, as opposed to pots. Avoid overfertilization and water it periodically. These hardy plants require little care. You can pinch back stalks to make it more full and bushy or to encourage new growth. Harvest bundles of it by cutting off long sections and bunching them together with a string to hang and dry. Rosemary can also be used fresh if desired.

Thyme

Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) is a low-growing plant that comes in many varieties and "flavours." It typically grows between several inches and a foot high. The stalks on thyme are more slender and delicate than those found on rosemary and, when dry, easily snap. The leaves are small, somewhat oval or elongated and their pungent aroma releases easily. Blossoms range from purple, lilac and lavender to pink and white. Thyme is used in many Mediterranean dishes, as well as eggs, soups, meats and salads.

Growing Thyme

Plant thyme around walkways or use it as edging. It works well as a filler and can be grown in pots. Thyme is perennial but more delicate than rosemary when growing in a garden. It can get quite leggy if left to ramble, so pinch it back before it goes into bloom. Try planting several varieties, such as lemon, pineapple or the woolly varieties, but check with your nursery to determine which are best for cooking, for ground covers or simply as decoration in the garden.

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About the Author

Debra J. Rigas, a professional writing coach, has been a writer and editor since 1975. She is the author of the nonfiction book "Everyone's A Guru" and has edited novels ("The Woman Pope") and worked in arts and sciences as a filmmaker, boat captain, landscaper, counselor, theater administrator and licensed midwife.