HomeGrowing TipsGrow a Carpet of Creeping Thyme in 7 Easy Steps

Grow a Carpet of Creeping Thyme in 7 Easy Steps

This low-growing, spreading herb makes an excellent ground cover plant. With its tiny aromatic leaves and pretty flowers, it adds beauty and fragrance to the garden. This plant grows well in rocky areas and releases a pleasant scent when stepped on. Follow these 7 simple steps to grow a lush carpet in your landscape. For more information, you can read about Creeping Thyme on Wikipedia.

Step 1: Choose a Site with Full Sun Exposure

This herb thrives in full sun, meaning it needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Select a site that receives sunlight throughout the day, such as a south-facing location. Morning sun helps dry dew from the leaves quickly, preventing fungal disease. The afternoon sun maximizes growth.

Partial shade is acceptable, but the plant will likely be more sparse and leggy. It tolerates light shade but may decline over time without enough sunlight.

Step 2: Prepare the Soil

The plant prefers well-drained soil and struggles in heavy, wet clay. Improve drainage by mixing in coarse sand or small gravel.

Work organic compost into the top 6 inches of soil to increase nutrient content and water retention. You can also mix in a thin layer of Espoma Organic Garden Tone for herbs before planting.

Remove any weeds in the area, making sure the soil is smooth and free of debris. Rake gently to create a loose, even planting bed.

Creeping Thyme

Step 3: Select a Variety

Many cultivars are available. Some popular options include:

  • Pink Chintz: Bright pink flowers with lavender-scented leaves. Grows 2-4 inches tall.
  • White Moss: White flowers on mat-forming foliage. Stays under 1 inch tall.
  • Purple Carpet: Violet-pink blooms on dark green leaves. Grows 1-2 inches tall.
  • Red Creeping: Rose-red flowers with small leaves. Height of 1-2 inches.

Choose a variety based on the flower color and height you prefer.

Step 4: Purchase Young Plants or Cuttings

You can purchase young plants at a nursery or take cuttings from a mature one. Cuttings should be 3-4 inches long with several leaves. Remove the lower leaves and dip the stem in rooting hormone before planting.

For a quicker carpet of coverage, buy several small pots of young thyme plants instead of cuttings. Plant them 12-18 inches apart.

Step 5: Plant the Herb

Dig holes the same depth as the pots the plants come in. Gently remove each thyme plant, loosen the roots, and place it into its hole. Backfill soil and pack firmly.

Water thoroughly after planting to soak the root zone 6-8 inches deep. Add mulch around the plants to retain moisture.

Step 6: Care for the Plant

  • Water frequently for the first few weeks until established. Afterward, water whenever the top inch of soil is dry. Provide about 1 inch of water per week.
  • Cut back any dead or damaged growth as needed to encourage healthy foliage. Prune lightly in spring to shape and stimulate new growth.
  • Fertilize in spring with a balanced organic fertilizer or compost tea. The plant has low nutrient needs once established.
  • Weed carefully by hand throughout the growing season. Use bark mulch or pea gravel to prevent weeds.
Creeping Thyme

Step 7: Enjoy the Carpet of Thyme

Within one growing season, your herb will spread to form a fragrant carpet. If you’re interested in designing your garden with both herbs and ornamentals, these tips might be useful. The little flowers will attract pollinators while releasing a sweet herbal scent.

Walk on your thyme lawn to release more of the lovely aroma. Use sprigs of fresh thyme for cooking.

Sit back and relax as you enjoy this low-maintenance, drought-tolerant ground cover. The creeping thyme should thrive for years to come with proper care.

Disadvantages of Creeping Thyme

While creeping thyme has many positive attributes, there are some potential drawbacks:

  • Slow establishment – It can take 1-2 growing seasons for creeping thyme to fully spread and cover the soil. Be patient as it fills in.
  • Doesn’t tolerate foot traffic – Don’t plant creeping thyme where people will walk regularly. The stems are delicate and will break easily.
  • Prone to drought – The shallow roots dry out quickly in hot weather. Plan to water weekly if rain is lacking.
  • few serious pests or diseases – Occasionally affected by root rot in soggy soil. Improve drainage before planting.
  • Can be invasive – Certain types of creeping thyme may spread beyond the intended planting area. Control unwanted growth.
  • Low cold tolerance – Many varieties suffer dieback in cold climates under USDA Zone 5. Select hardy cultivars like Pink Chintz.
Creeping Thyme

What is Creeping Thyme Used For?

Creeping thyme has many uses beyond ornamental ground cover:

  • Landscaping – Used between stepping stones, in rock gardens, spilling over walls, and between pavers or bricks.
  • Cooking – The leaves and flowers add flavor to meats, breads, and vegetables. Commonly used in French and Mediterranean cuisine.
  • Tea – The fresh or dried leaves make an herbal tea rich in antioxidants like vitamin C. Has a mild, refreshing flavor.
  • Potpourri – Add the fragrant flowers and leaves to homemade potpourri. Releases scent when disturbed.
  • Honey Production – The flowers provide nectar for bees, improving honey quantity and flavor.
  • Natural insecticide – Contains thymol compound that naturally deters mosquitos and other pests. More research is needed.
  • Aromatherapy oil – The essential oil promotes relaxation and eases stress. Often added to lotions, perfumes, and bath products.
  • Gardening – Used as a companion plant to improve flavor and repel pests for vegetables like tomatoes.

Does Creeping Thyme Like Sun or Shade?

Creeping thyme thrives best in full sun. It tolerates partial shade but may become straggly and fail to flower without at least 6 hours of direct sun per day.

Some filtered sunlight is acceptable, such as an area under a high tree canopy. But too much shade will hinder growth over time.

For the healthiest creeping thyme, choose a site with morning and afternoon sun. The foliage and blooms will be most abundant given plenty of sunlight.

Creeping Thyme

Where Does Creeping Thyme Grow Best?

Creeping thyme grows well in zones 4-9 in a variety of conditions:

  • Sandy or gravelly soil types – Tolerates poor, dry, well-drained sites. Avoid heavy, muddy soil.
  • Rock gardens and slopes – Grows well in rocky areas since they need good drainage. Looks lovely spilling over stone.
  • Between pavers or stones – Handles light foot traffic and releases fragrance when stepped on.
  • Garden edges and pathways – Creates a nice border along walkways, fences, and beds.
  • Near patios or seating areas – Lovely aroma when gently brushed against or crushed underfoot.
  • As a lawn substitute – Provides a fragrant, low-maintenance alternative to grass. Needs occasional mowing.
  • In full sun or light afternoon shade – Grows best with maximum sunlight. A southern exposure is ideal.

The herbaceous qualities and pretty blooms make creeping thyme an excellent landscaping plant for many garden sites. Give it well-drained soil and full sun for optimal growth.

Conclusion

Creeping thyme makes a fantastic ground cover with very little maintenance needed. Follow the 7 steps outlined to plant it successfully. Be sure to give it plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil. In just one season, your creeping thyme will create a fragrant carpet with cheery blooms. Enjoy this hardy, aromatic plant for years to come!

Creeping Thyme

FAQs

How do you start creeping thyme from seed?

Start creeping thyme from seed 8-10 weeks before your last expected frost. Sprinkle the tiny seeds onto the soil surface and gently press them in. Keep the area moist until germination occurs in 14-21 days. Grow the seedlings indoors or in a cold frame until your planting date outside.

What is the best time to plant creeping thyme?

The best time to plant creeping thyme is in spring after the last frost or in early fall about 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost. Avoid summer’s heat and winter’s cold. Spring and fall allow enough time for the roots to establish before temperature extremes occur.

How far apart should creeping thyme be planted?

When planting small pots of creeping thyme, space them 12-18 inches apart to allow room for the plants to spread out and cover the soil. If taking cuttings, make holes 6 inches apart to accommodate creeping thyme’s spreading habit.

Should creeping thyme be cut back in winter?

Lightly trim creeping thyme in late winter or early spring to remove any dead growth and shape the plant. Cutting back by up to one-third every few years will encourage new growth. Avoid heavy shearing which can damage the plant.

Is creeping thyme deer resistant?

Most types of creeping thyme are naturally deer resistant thanks to their pungent scent and flavor. The low growing nature also makes it difficult for deer to graze. Creeping thyme is a great low-maintenance ground cover for areas prone to deer damage.

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