Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) is a beautiful, low-growing, and woody evergreen that is grown for its attractive groundcover, particularly in sunny garden sites. With its creeping growth habit, it offers tiny, glossy, blue-green leaves that turn bronze in fall. Its rapid growth rate, showy foliage, and blooms add royalty to any garden and landscape.
Keep on reading to learn more about creeping thyme.
All About Creeping Thyme
Thymus serphyllum is a low-maintenance perennial of the Lamiaceae family. This plant is admired for its low-growing growth habit (perfect ground cover) and aromatic leaves (a characteristic of Lamb’s ear). It grows to a mature size of 2-3 inches tall and 12-18 inches wide.
Thyme is from the Greek word “thumos,” which means courage, and creeping refers to its trailing growth habit. Therefore, this plant was a symbol of bravery in Medieval times.
With its fragrant leaves and spreading growth habit, this plant makes a fantastic addition to a home or butterfly garden. It provides borders for pathways and looks stunning when grown under large trees as an understory plant.
Thymus serphyllum characteristics
The following are the essential features of wild thyme.
- Breckland thyme is an evergreen woody shrub that provides a good ground cover because of its spreading growth habit. Therefore, it makes an excellent substitute for lawn grasses.
- Wild thyme has excellent antifungal and antibacterial properties because of its aromatic leaves. Thus growing it as a companion plant with other garden plants keeps the pests and microbes away and saves the gardeners time and cost to control them.
- This spreading plant offers mint-like aromas and is used for food seasoning (dried leaves). In addition, thyme oil (thymol) is used for home fragrances and as a repellent for many pests.
- Wholly thyme is resistant to many garden pests and microbial infections because of its aromatic leaves.
- In the Middle Ages, wild thyme is used to harken back to the beliefs of the Greeks. For this, they place the dried thyme leaves beneath their pillows to ward off the nightmares.
- Egyptians use it as embalming, and the Greeks use it as incense in their temples to provide courage and purify their spirits.
- Wild thyme also offers health benefits. In ancient times, this plant was used to treat respiratory disorders and infections such as flu, sore throat, cold, and cough. In addition to this, it is also used to relieve pain from spasms and cramps.
8. Wild thyme tea is used to cure headaches and nervous disorders. Therefore, this plant is an excellent medicinal plant when consumed in moderate quantities.
Quick Care Guide of Creeping Thyme
|Common name||Wild thyme, Mother of thyme, Creeping thyme, Breckland thyme, Wild thyme, Wholly thyme|
|Botanical name||Thymus serpyllum|
|Mature plant||2-3 inches tall and 3-12 inches wide|
|Plant type||Herbaceous perennial, woody shrubs, ground cover|
|Native region||Northern Europe, Western Asia, Northern Africa|
|Russia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, Netherlands, West Siberia|
|USDA hardiness zone||4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b|
|Notable plant features||Aromatic leaves and flower, attracts butterflies|
|Flower color||Showy pink, purple/lavander flowers|
|Growth habit||Creeping, dense|
|Sunlight||Full sun (more than 6 hours of direct sunlight per day)|
|Soil||Sandy loam soil, well-draining|
|Soil pH||Slightly alkaline, neutral|
|Temperature||68-86 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize in spring|
|Pests and Diseases||Spider mites, root rot|
|Garden and Landscape uses||Rock garden, pollinator garden, drought tolerant garden, cottage garden, container garden, and walkways|
How to Care for Creeping Thyme?
Creeping thyme is a low-growing, drought-tolerant ground cover that grows and thrives in less-than-perfect growing conditions. It flourishes in full sun, well-draining soil, and low to moderate humidity.
It is a hardy plant that can withstand any growing medium and light food traffic. Due to these characteristics, creeping thyme is an excellent choice for beginner gardeners.
Below are the critical care factors to grow and maintain creeping thyme indoors and outdoors.
Thymus serphyllum is a drought-tolerant plant with moderate watering needs. It needs regular watering during seedling or the first year after planting. Once the plant is established, maintain a watering schedule every ten days to avoid soil drying and soggy conditions.
Being native to the southern regions of Europe and Turkey, creeping thyme thrives best in full sun. This sun-loving plant needs 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily for foliage and flower production.
On the other hand, if it is in complete shade, creeping thyme will not survive and thrive. So, always grow in sunnier garden sites with healthy soils.
For indoor container-grown creeping thyme plants, select a location with morning and midday sun exposure, such as east, west, and south-facing windows.
Creeping thyme performs best in well-draining soils with neutral to slightly alkaline pH levels. It prefers to avoid growing in wet soils. It gets root rot (slow decline of the plant). So plant it in sandy loam soils that drain well while hydrating the root system.
Avoid planting in clay soils because they retain moisture and do not provide oxygen (poor aeration).
Creeping thyme is hardy in the USDA hardiness zone of 4 through 9. It remains evergreen in mild winters (can tolerate -30 degrees Fahrenheit). A temperature range between 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit for seed germination is ideal.
This drought-tolerant plant does not like to grow in a highly humid environment like tropical plants. In a highly humid climate, its foliage turns yellow and begins curling. So, maintain a relative humidity of 30-50 percent and suitable air circulation.
Creeping thyme does not need regular fertilization once it is fully mature.
In contrast, the seedlings need organic plant food every two weeks for faster growth. This fertilizer-feeding help produce leaves and new branches.
Note: For container-grown creeping thyme, it is best to mix the organic matter with potting soil as a continuous source of nutrients.
Types of Creeping Thyme
Thymus serphyllum is a stunning shrub primarily grown for its foliage and showy flowers. However, many types of creeping thyme are used as culinary herbs, such as English thyme, while others make the best groundcovers.
Red creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum ‘Coccineus’) is a beautiful shrub with a spreading growth habit. It grows to 3 inches tall and 7 inches wide with beautiful deep pink flowers. This species is suitable for planting in the USDA hardiness zone 4 through 9.
Elfin creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum ‘Elfin’), a ground-hugging, is perfect for xeric landscapes. It reaches a mature height of 3 inches and is 18 inches wide. This species offers oval-shaped glossy leaves and lavender-pink flowers. With its trailing stems, it looks perfect when grown in decorative containers.
White flowering creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum ‘Albus’) forms a soft mat of light green leaves and small white flowers. It grows to 12 inches tall with 20 inches spread. This spreading shrub is perfect for patios and balconies when grown in containers. Its white flowers radiate beauty and uniqueness.
Creeping thyme ‘Pink Chintz’ (Thymus serphyllum ‘Pink Chintz’) is a low-growing shrub with dark green glossy leaves and small, starry flowers in pale pink. It attains a mature height of 2 inches and is 12 inches wide. This cultivar is a perfect edging plant in rock gardens and as filler for stepping stones.
How to Grow Creeping Thyme by Seeds
Creeping thyme is a prolific grower that is easy to grow and reproduce through root division, stem cuttings, and seeds. When growing through seeds, they can be started indoors before spring by replicating their natural habitat.
To propagate the creeping thyme with seeds, follow these steps;
- Grow the seeds in a seed starter tray filled with nutrient-rich potting mix. Ensure to cover the seeds with potting soil lightly.
- Moist the seeds and potting mix using a spray bottle. So, Now position the tray in a brightly lit spot for seed germination. Besides, Light plays a critical role in seed germination and seedling growth.
- Keep the potting mix moist and in a bright spot, about 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Within 7-21 days, the seeds will germinate. Once the sprouts are 3 to 4 inches long, transplant them into a new container or garden soil.
Repotting Creeping Thyme
Due to its faster growth rate and spreading growth habit, Thymus serphyllum needs repotting every one or two years (especially container grown). Repot it in a slightly bigger planter with drainage holes. Plant the creeping thyme in a porous container, such as clay or terra cotta, to keep the root system aerated.
Once your repotted plant gains a few inches, remove it from the container and transplant it in a garden site with full sun exposure. Or you can divide the root ball in half to plant them into separate containers as new plants.
Common Pests and Diseases of Creeping Thyme
With its antibacterial and antifungal properties, Thymus serphyllum remains disease and pest free throughout its life cycle. Also, This makes it an excellent plant for home gardens, a substitute for lawn grass, and indoors. However, when not adequately grown and maintained, it gives in to root rot and spider mite infestations.
Overly wet and poorly drained soils are the primary source of root rot in creeping thyme. These conditions damage the plant’s root system and impact nutrient and water absorption. As a result, the small and aromatic foliage of creeping thyme turns yellow and brown.If you notice these symptoms, amend the soil of your plants with sand and other organic material like shredded leaves and worm castings. Also, replant the Thymus serphyllum after soil amendments while closely monitoring soil moisture content.
On hot and dry summer days, spider mites are the most common pest of many indoor and garden plants, including creeping thyme. They wreak havoc on plants while interfering with their photosynthetic ability (forming delicate webs covering leaf surfaces). These tiny bugs also cause pale yellow spots on top leaves, giving leaves a brittle appearance.
The best and most effective way to treat spider mites is thoroughly rinsing creeping thyme plants with high-pressure water streams. It will wash away the tiny spider mites and create an unfavorable environment (due to high moisture) for them to reproduce and survive.
Also, spray your plant with insecticidal soap, neem, and horticultural oil to deter the mites. Apply these treatments throughout the growing season from spring to summer for effective management. Furthermore, prune off the severely infested plant parts to give your plant a new start at the beginning of the growing season.
FAQs on Creeping Thyme
How quickly does it spread?
During the first year of planting, Creeping thyme grows slowly. Once it establishes its root system, it is a fast grower and thrives in any growing conditions. However, keep a close eye on root rot due to saturated soils.
Does Creeping Thyme come back every year?
It is a perennial shrub that grows every year after undergoing a dormancy period in fall and winter.
How invasive is Creeping Thyme?
Although creeping thyme is a prolific grower and spreads quickly, it is a non-invasive plant with a mature size of 6-8 inches tall and 10 inches wide.
Does Creeping Thyme stay green in winter?
It is a perennial that lasts green in mild winter, but temperatures below -20 degrees Fahrenheit turn its foliage bronze.
What are the downsides of Creeping Thyme?
Creeping thyme’s rapid growth rate will outcompete the other plants in gardens and landscapes. Also, it will compete with them for water and nutrients.
What is the fastest-growing ground cover?
The fastest-growing ground cover for home gardens and landscapes is creeping thyme, creeping juniper, ice plant, Asiatic jasmine, creeping phlox, and yellow alyssum.