How to Grow Creeping Thyme (Beginner’s Care Guide)

Creeping thyme is a super easy creeping plant that likes to hang close to the soil with goregous tiny flowers and requires minimal care.

It’s also known as T. serpyllum, Breckland thyme, breckland wild thyme, elfin thyme, or simply, wild thyme.

This perennial can offer your garden plenty of plant cover with little-to-no care.

It doesn’t even need plant food. And it thrives in poor, nutrient-lacking soils.

Let’s dive in and learn about caring for T. serpyllum in your garden.

What’s creeping thyme?

Creeping thyme in the garden.
Creeping thyme’s pretty pink flowers. (By Susan Harris, Flickr, CC BY 2.0.)

Creeping thyme is a low crawling, versatile ground cover flowering plant that’s a good choice for adding some color to your garden.

Stemming from Southern Europe, this full sun herbaceous perennial loves to crawl and will give you plenty of leaves, flowers, and cheer!

They have a pleasant scent and can be grown as herbs and used in recipes. They do well in moderate climates and are low-growing. They flower in the spring and summer, which is good for brightening up your yard.

This is a thyme plant- an evergreen, hardy plant with some lightly haired leaves and stems. It sticks close to the surface with tiny flowers and will form dense mats of foliage.

What’s it used for?

It’s so dense that many people use it as a substitute for their lawn entirely. It can also be used for walkways, pathing, bordering, or to put some pink in an otherwise bare spot in your garden.

Are they easy to care for?

The plant needs very little care and is extremely easy to grow. This makes it a good choice for a beginner who just wants some plant coverage for their yard without having to spend a lot of time just to take care of it.

Creeping thyme smells like mint and can be used for teas or tinctures.

It’s not exclusively a decorative plant. It can be harvested, dried out, and then used for a variety of purposes- everything from drinks to seasoning to essential oil.

What color is creeping thyme?

Creeping thyme is a mix of colors depending on the cultivar you select. Most strains will have lush green foliage.

The flowers can be purple, pink, red, or some hybrids exist.

Is creeping thyme easy to grow?

Creeping thyme is very easy to grow and will take care of itself. It doesn’t need your attention other than weekly waterings.

It doesn’t even need plant food and thrives in poor soil.

What more could you ask for? It’s a good creeping plant that offers plenty of cover for beginners. It doesn’t get any easier than this, friend.

Is creeping thyme poisonous to dogs?

Creeping thyme is said to be dog-friendly, and also can withstand their trampling.

However, if you have a sensitive dog that has allergies or adverse reactions, you should avoid letting your dog come into contact with the thyme.

Always do your due diligence before introducing your pets to any plant- whether you think it’s safe or not.

Propagating creeping thyme

This lowrider herb loves to creep. (By uacescomm, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Here are some tips for propagating creeping thyme.

This plant is very easy to grow once you get it started. Just give it a few weeks to germinate and you’re on your way.

There are three popular methods to propagate it- from seed, transplant, or cuttings. We’ll cover all of them now.

From seed

You can sow seeds indoors after any danger of frost. The seeds germinate relatively quickly- a 14-21 day range is typical.

Keep temperatures above 70F for a higher success rate. Greenhouse germination outside is also possible.

Sow seeds in a starter tray and cover with 1/10 of an inch of soil. This is just a drop of soil over each seed.

You can sow 2-3 seeds per compartment and then thin later when they’ve grown about 1 inch in height.

After they’ve established roots and grow to about 2-3 inches, you can transplant them outside.

Slowly acclimate them to the outdoor temperatures by moving the entire container outside, then back in. Increase the sunlight by an hour each day for a week. This will help acclimate them to the outdoors and prevent shock.

After acclimation, you can transplant them directly into the soil.

For those in higher zones, you can sow directly into the soil by scattering the seeds or sowing one seed per 12 inches in rows.

They don’t need to be covered with soil. You can give them a gentle push and that should be enough.

Creeping thyme isn’t a tidy growing plant and will grow randomly all over the place.

So this is why you don’t need to worry so much about seed position. Water after sowing.

By transplant

Transplanting will give you a head start for the season.

Space each plant about 12 inches apart and give them ample space for the roots. The base of the plant should be aligned with the soil surface.

There’s nothing else to it. Transplanting is as easy as it gets. Water generally the first time you transplant.

By cuttings

You can divide your creeping thyme if you have an established one. To do so, unearth the plant carefully and don’t damage the roots.

You can soak it first to loosen any hardened soil. Do this in the warmer season, such as summer or late spring.

Dig up the root ball and use a clean pair of scissors. Cut it into 2-3 pieces. Each should have its roots, leaves, and a piece of the root ball to grow on its own.

Place each cutting back into the soil in their new homes and you’re good to go. This is the easiest way by far, but you need an established plant to do it.

How to grow creeping thyme

Here are some tips to plant and care for creeping thyme.

These general guidelines should be handy for the majority of cultivars independent of your hardiness zone. Adjust as necessary.

You’ll find that creeping thyme is super easy and basically grows by itself without being needy.

Hardiness zone

Creeping thyme grows well in zones 4-10 with little to no intervention.

It grows natively in Meditteranean climates, so you can grow it easily if you’re in these zones.

Hotter zones will burn the plant, which will directly influence the taste of the harvest for those who plant to use it for consumption.

Depending on your zone, you’ll have to adjust if you plant it in direct sunlight or partial sunlight. Look up your zone if you have no idea where you are.

How much sun does creeping thyme need?

Creeping thyme loves full sun, although it can tolerate partial sunlight as well.

Shady conditions lead to slower growth and fewer flowers. It may also need additional supplements if planted in partial sun because it doesn’t receive enough natural sunlight to flourish.

Provide at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.

If you’re in a warmer zone, partial shade may work.

Excess sunlight will harm the plant just like too little sunlight. It all depends on your zone. If you’re in a Mediterranean climate, plant it in full sun.

This is the native climate of thyme and it can tolerate full sun. Warmer zones will need to limit the exposure so it doesn’t get burned.

How often should you water creeping thyme?

Water the plant when it’s dry. Keep the soil moist, but never wet. The plant has dense flowers, which gives rise to mold or mildew problems.

The fungus will grow on the plant stems when there’s excess moisture and not enough sunlight to evaporate it.

The dense leaves will also cover it and trap the excess water and possibly grow fungus. If you want to avoid this, you can keep the foliage tidy and pruned.

Additionally, give your plant plenty of sunlight to prevent root drowning

Creeping thyme is susceptible to root drowning, so be wary of that:

  • Reduce watering when possible
  • Keep the plant well pruned

Give it full sun

Sift compost to help prevent it from drying out in the spring. You can also use manure that’s been well rotted.

Give it a good rinse through the mat of creeping thyme. You can do this in place of fertilizer, which is often discouraged because it’s unnecessary.

Overfertilization is bad and can make your thyme lose its flavor and aroma, both of which are highly prized upon harvest.

Creeping thyme is resilient to small floods, provided it drains. So if it rains often in your zone, it’s OK.

But make sure that the water actually finds its way out or else it can harm the plant. Remember, underwater creeping thyme is preferred over overwatering.

Soil

Creeping thyme can be grown in a variety of sols and isn’t picky about it. If the soil is well-draining, it’ll grow. If you really want it to thrive, use textured soil.

You don’t have to worry about soil because it’s hardy to a wide range of them.

Chances are if your soil isn’t completely devoid of nutrients and you’re in the right zone, you should be OK. Choose a well-draining soil and you’re set.

Any kind of rocky soil will be fine. Just makes sure that it gets good sunlight to thrive.

If your soil is acidic or neutral, you can use lime to help bring the pH to a higher level. This can make it more alkaline.

Use a soil tester if you’re not sure. It’s worth the price to make sure that you have the right pH for your thyme to thrive.

The soil should be weeded and any other competing plants should be removed. It should also be tilled first to stir up any dense clumps that could prevent it from draining well.

Soil pH

The soil pH should be alkaline to neutral. It can tolerate a range of pH, so don’t be paranoid over it. Ideally, keep it slightly alkaline around 7.5-8.

You can use lime to raise the pH of your soil naturally if you have acidic soil.

Spacing

Plant creeping thyme at least 8 inches apart from each other to allow proper nutrient dispersion and minimize competition for nutrients between each plant.

Depth

These plants don’t need that much depth to grow. If you’re growing from seed, a dusting of soil over the seeds is enough.

For transplants, plant it as deep as the pot it came in. Make sure the roots are covered.

Plant food

Creeping thyme doesn’t really need any plant food or fertilizer to thrive. They do well even in poor soils and will thrive on neglect.

You can give them just generic well-draining soil. That’s all they need to grow well as with most herbs.

If you notice that the leaves are growing by the flowers aren’t, you can use balanced all-purpose plant food to balance it out.

Avoid excess nitrogen (N on the NPK rating) because it encourages the leaves to grow.

Pruning & maintenance

Regular pruning will help rejuvenate the plant and keep it growing.

Don’t worry about chopping it down because it actually helps the plant grow. If you see spent flowers or woody stems, prune them back to help bring them back.

Even though it feels bad that you’re cutting down your thyme, it actually helps them overall. Regular care helps keep the plant tidy and not overgrown.

It also helps prevent fungal or moisture problems because of excess foliage and poor sunlight. They can get root rot in soil that’s overly wet whit no way to drain it.

It’s pretty much self-sustaining after you establish it. Give it enough sun, water, and space. That’s all it needs to thrive.

You should prune about 3-4 years down the road to encourage new growth. There’s no need to do it right away unless you’re trying to xeriscape.

If you notice that your creeping thyme is turning thin and leggy, make sure there’s ample sunlight.

It can be trying to reach for the sunlight which results in thyme that’s leggy and skinny. If you want that full, bushier look, provide more sun. You can always transplant it to another location in your garden if you messed up in the initial planting.

Overwintering

Depending on your hardiness zone, creeping thyme may stay as an evergreen or die back automatically during the wintertime.

If your zone is cold, expect it to lose its leaves and go dormant.

If you’re in a higher zone, it’ll continue to remain an evergreen throughout the mild winter. You can protect the root system by adding some mulch over it.

Remove it in the spring after the frost has passed.

Alternatively, you can use sand, gravel, or leaf litter. There’s no need to prune or cut back your leaves for the winter. Just let it drop them on its own.

Harvesting

To harvest creeping thyme, trim the leaves or flowers in the early morning. Then hang them upside down in a dark area to dry them out.

The leaves can be used for culinary purposes or extracted for thee essential oils. You can put them together in a nylon bag and then hang them as a bunch.

Collecting seeds

When the flowers are dried, shake them firmly over a mat. The seeds will fall out of the flowers. Separate the seeds from the chaff then put them into a jar for storage.

Place in a dry and cool location to keep them safe.

Other questions

Here are some other commonly asked questions from readers about how to give your thyme some TLC. Feel free to browse through them for some tips and tricks.

When does creeping thyme bloom?

The flowers attract bees and other beneficial pollinators. The pollen from the thyme helps flavor honey in honey bees.

How tall does creeping thyme grow?

This is a creeping plant as the name implies, so it sticks close to the soil surface rather than growing up tall.

Expect a max height of 5-6 inches or so since it’s a tail rooting plant. The stems grow out from a central root system and grow horizontally rather than vertically.

This is a good plant for covering up bare spots in your yard

How fast does creeping thyme grow?

This is a relatively quick growing plant and beginners can see the fruits of labor right away. If you need coverage for your garden quickly, then this is an ideal choice.

How long does it take for creeping thyme to grow?

It takes about 2-3 weeks to germinate from seed.

After that, it’ll bloom a season or two later. You shouldn’t expect blooms in the first season.

How long does creeping thyme flower?

Creeping thyme will flower for about 3 weeks in peak season.

Some cultivars bloom for a longer period.

If you want a bloom that lasts longer, look for the Pink Lemonade species which produces a pink flower throughout the season.

Where does creeping thyme grow best?

Creeping thyme grows best in the right hardiness zone. It needs alkaline soil with good drainage. Full sun is best.

Other than that, it thrives on neglect.

Does thyme come back every year?

Creeping thyme is a perennial in lower zones. It naturally will overwinter itself and die back in the cold.

You may have to put some mulch if you’re in a colder zone to help protect it over the winter.

In higher zones, it’s an evergreen and will grow all throughout the year.

Does creeping thyme have deep roots?

Creeping them has a moderate root system that rarely grows deep. When uprooting it, be careful not to damage the root system when you dig.

Pests

Creeping thyme is resistant to deer, which makes it a good plant to provide some ground cover while keeping deer out.

So if you want to landscape your lawn but you have a deer problem, it’s a good choice to use in gardens with wildlife. It’s a hardy plant that can tolerate even the most annoying animals that may find their way into your yard.

Don’t worry about it getting trampled. It should recover quickly.

Otherwise, you may find the occasional snail chewing away on the leaves. You can use beer traps, slug repellent, or remove them manually to keep them off your plants.

Diatomaceous earth also works wonders, but you need to make sure you get the food-grade, organic version.

Do NOT use pool grade DE. This powder can be sprinkled around your plants where you see those pesky slugs.

Keep your plant dry and well-drained to prevent bugs.

Diseases

Creeping thyme is susceptible to root rot and fungus. This comes from overeating and dense foliage.

Keep it dry and exposed to sunlight to reduce the possibility of a rot problem.

Otherwise, this is a hardy perennial that can tolerate a variety of conditions. It can even handle foot traffic, albeit light.

Best uses

Creeping thyme is super versatile.

You can use it to help cover up bare spots in your garden. It also retains moisture in the soil, prevents erosion, and offers the beauty of pink flowers for your enjoyment.

Additionally, you can plant it around borders, stepping stones, or even fencing. It can handle being stepped on and will do fine with moderate foot traffic.

Use it to border your house for a lush look while keeping the property line.

It also can help surprise weeds, cabbage worms, and border other fruits and vegetables well.

Use it to border strawberries and help keep the pests away from eating the fruit. The aroma it releases helps bring bees to your garden to pollinate your edibles.

The leaves of creeping thyme can be harvested for consumption. You can use it to flavor your favorite soups or salads.

It can be cooked in various dishes as well.

Companion plants

Creeping thyme can be planted with other taller Mediterranean herbs.

Some common choices are lavender, sage, rosemary, or other plants that require full sun with poor soil.

You can grow them together since they all like the same growing requirements.

They thrive in raised beds or alkaline soil, which pairs perfectly with creeping thyme.

Further reading

You may find these resources helpful:

Enjoy your creeping thyme’s plant cover

Creeping thyme being grow in the garden.
Choose a cultivar and enjoy! (By Jason Hollinger – Creeping ThymeUploaded by Amada44, CC BY 2.0)

Now that you know the basics of caring for creeping thyme, go forth and enjoy it!

The plant requires so little care that it takes care of itself. You just need to give it some water every so often.

No need for fertilizer or any of that fancy soil. Creeping thyme thrives on neglect and offers a pretty pathing plant or gap fill for bare yards.

You can use it for stews, salads, soups, and other recipes as well.

It surprises other weeds, helps retain moisture, and even prevents soil erosion on slopes. It’s extremely low maintenance and doesn’t ask for a whole lot.

What do you think? Do you have any questions about thyme care? Drop a comment and let us know.

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