HomeHerb SelectionPopular HerbsThe 10 Best Tips for Planting Vibrant Red Creeping Thyme

The 10 Best Tips for Planting Vibrant Red Creeping Thyme

Planning to add some red creeping thyme to your garden? Red creeping thyme may be just what you need. This hardy little plant can form a lush, fragrant carpet of deep red foliage that cascades nicely over rocks or container edges.

Growing creeping thyme is pretty easy, but following a few simple tips will help you get the most out of this versatile plant. Let’s walk through the 10 best ways to make your red creeping thyme thrive!

1. Choose a Sunny Spot

Creeping thyme needs at least 6 hours of full sun per day to really flourish. The morning sun is especially important to keep its foliage vibrant. Dappled shade underneath trees or shrubs is fine, but avoid planting it somewhere that gets no direct sun at all.

When given enough sunlight, the leaves will develop a deep, saturated red color. With too much shade, they can fade to green or even yellow, which is less attractive.

2. Pick a Fast-Draining Soil

Red creeping thyme prefers a bit of sandy, gravelly soil that drains quickly after watering. This helps prevent fungal diseases that can crop up if plants sit in wet conditions.

Before planting, try mixing in some sand or small pebbles to improve drainage. Or choose a raised bed or rock garden setting. The cracks between pavers or stones make excellent micro-climates for thyme to spread among.

3. Start From Cuttings or Potted Plants

For the best chance of success, opt for plants that are already established, rather than seeds. Cuttings or potted starts of red creeping thyme are widely available at garden centers and nurseries.

Look for cuttings that have abundant roots emerging from the stems. Avoid any that seem dried out or leggy. A healthy potted plant should have vigorous leafy growth. This gives your new thyme the head start it needs to settle in gracefully!

4. Give It Good Air Circulation

Stagnant air can lead to mold or mildew on creeping thyme’s densely packed foliage. That’s why good air circulation is key!

When planting, space pots or plants about 12 inches apart to allow for adequate airflow. Avoid tucking thyme into crowded enclosed spots in the landscape.

And periodically prune back any dead or crossing stems to open things up. A sparse, open form helps keep the plants healthy and looking their best.

5. Water Well at Planting

When first planting red creeping thyme, be sure to thoroughly saturate the soil around the roots. This removes any air pockets and helps the roots establish quickly.

Plan to water daily for the first week or so, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. After that, you can reduce watering to twice per week if there is no rain. The goal is to create consistently moist (but not wet) soil while new plants get going.

6. Use Shallow Containers

If growing red creeping thyme in pots or planters, choose wide, shallow containers versus tall, narrow ones. Shallow pots help prevent overwatering by allowing soil to dry out faster between waterings.

Make sure pots have drainage holes at the bottom, and add an inch or two of gravel below the soil to improve drainage. Place container plants on saucers to catch excess water. And adjust your watering schedule to avoid saturation.

7. Fertilize Lightly

Red creeping thyme needs very little supplemental fertilizer, especially in rich garden soil. But if growth seems sluggish, you can give it a light feeding each spring and fall. Use a water-soluble, balanced organic fertilizer. Follow label directions to determine how much to apply.

Too much fertilizer can cause leggy, weak growth and less intense leaf color. A light hand with plant food keeps thyme looking its best. Skip fertilizing entirely for potted plants – they are more sensitive to overfeeding.

8. Prune as Needed

To control the spread of red creeping thyme, prune it back before the plants flower in mid to late spring. Trim off about one third of the length of long, wandering stems. This helps keep the foliage thick and compact.

You can also shear plants back by a third or so after flowering. This stimulates bushy new growth. Just take care to avoid cutting back into the old woody parts of the plants. Focus pruning on the tender green stem tips.

9. Watch for Flowers and Seedlings

One of the charms of red creeping thyme is the carpet of delicate pink or purple flowers it produces. Enjoy the showy display as a sign your plants are thriving. But prune off spent flower stems promptly to reduce unwanted self-seeding.

Thyme has a habit of scattering seeds, allowing new unwanted seedlings to pop up nearby. Simply snip off faded flowering stems right down to the base to prevent this. You’ll still get the lovely flowers, but no surprise “weeds” down the road.

10. Guard Against Mildew

Too much shade and humidity can lead to powdery mildew or leaf spot fungus on thyme. Promote good air circulation and avoid wetting the leaves when watering to help prevent problems.

If you do notice signs of fungal disease, quickly remove and destroy affected parts of the plant. You can also apply an organic fungicide according to label directions. Keep an eye out for new growth emerging from healthy areas of the plant.

So there you have it – my top 10 tips to grow thriving, gorgeous red creeping thyme! Follow this advice and you’ll be well on your way to a lush carpet of deep red foliage. Let me know if you have any other questions, I’m always happy to spread the gardening love. Enjoy your new thyme patch!

What is red creeping thyme used for?

Red creeping thyme has a variety of uses beyond being an ornamental garden plant:

  • It makes an attractive, fragrant groundcover or pathway edging, releasing a pleasant herbal aroma when stepped on.
  • The leaves can be harvested to use fresh or dried as a flavorful seasoning for foods like meats, vegetables, and eggs. Thyme has an earthy, mildly minty taste.
  • Red thyme flowers are edible and make a pretty, tasty garnish to add to salads, dips, and more.
  • Creeping thyme contains essential oils like thymol that have antimicrobial and antioxidative properties, so it has been used for natural medicinal purposes.
  • As a hardy plant that requires little water or care once established, it’s very useful for low-maintenance landscaping, especially as a drought-tolerant lawn or walkway option.
  • The nectar-rich flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, so red thyme is great for supporting a little wildlife ecosystem.

What are the disadvantages of creeping thyme?

While creeping thyme has many positive attributes, there are a few potential drawbacks to be aware of:

  • It can spread quite vigorously, even becoming invasive in some cases. Regular pruning is needed to keep it contained.
  • The small leaf size means creeping thyme can take longer to establish as an effective groundcover or lawn alternative. It may need a few years to fill in thickly.
  • It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, so creeping thyme may struggle in dense shade or soggy, clay-heavy areas.
  • While hardy and drought tolerant, thyme can suffer or die off during periods of extreme heat, especially in areas with high humidity.
  • Too much fertilizer can cause leggy, weak growth. It takes a careful hand to avoid overfeeding.
  • Thyme is prone to fungal issues like powdery mildew if irrigation is not managed well or there is poor airflow.
  • The woody stems can become rather tangled and unattractive as plants age over a few years. Periodic replanting or rejuvenation pruning is needed.
  • Creeping thyme has only a light fragrance when not in bloom. For stronger aroma, upright thymes like French or lemon thyme are a better choice.

Can red creeping thyme grow in the UK?

Yes, red creeping thyme can certainly grow well in the UK. Thyme is a hardy Mediterranean herb that generally thrives in the British climate. The key things to consider for success are:

Sun: Choose a sunny, south-facing spot if possible. At least 6 hours of direct sun daily is ideal. Dappled sunlight can work too.

Drainage: Fast-draining soil is a must to prevent fungal problems. Add sand or gravel to improve drainage in denser earth. Or plant in a rock garden.

Shelter: Provide some protection from wind, which can dry out thyme. Plant near a wall, shrubs or mulch around plants.

Soil prep: Clear weeds thoroughly and mix in some gritty compost when planting to enrich the soil. Avoid fertilizing after planting.

Variety: Pick a compact, low-growing red thyme cultivar like ‘Coccineus’ or ‘Minor Red’. These are bred to resist disease and stay tidy.

Care: Water during dry spells until established. Then let soil partially dry out between waterings. Prune back periodically to stimulate new growth.

With the right growing conditions and care, red creeping thyme will create a drought-tolerant carpet of vibrant color, adding ornamental and practical value to gardens across the UK!

What does the creeping thyme symbolize?

Throughout history, creeping thyme has been associated with various symbolic meanings:

  • Courage and bravery – During the Middle Ages, women would often give knights and warriors gifts of creeping thyme to offer them courage before battle.
  • Sleep and relaxation – Thyme’s calming scent has long been associated with relaxation, restful sleep and sweet dreams. In Victorian times, pillows were often stuffed with thyme and lavender buds to promote sound slumber.
  • Fond memories – In ancient Greece, creeping thyme was added to coffins and burial sites, thought to aid loved ones in reminiscing of happy memories with the deceased.
  • Spiritual protection – European folklore suggests planting creeping thyme outside your home protects from misfortune and evil spirits.
  • Simplicity and humility – Thyme’s small, understated flowers and growth represent living simply with grace and humility.
  • Love and affection – In the Victorian era, creeping thyme’s tiny leaves were embroidered into handkerchiefs and love letters as a hidden romantic message between lovers.
  • Friendship – Exchanging creeping thyme cuttings is an old gardening tradition symbolizing abiding friendship and a wish for the recipient’s garden to thrive.

So over the ages, humble creeping thyme has represented bravery, nostalgia, protection, simplicity, romance and lasting friendship – quite an impressive range of meanings for such a delicate little plant!


What is the best time to plant red creeping thyme?

The ideal time is in early spring, so the new plants have a full growing season to establish before cold weather arrives. Fall is another option, at least 6 weeks before your average first frost date.

Should I fertilize my creeping thyme once planted?

No, fertilizing is not necessary and can even cause leggy, weak growth. Thyme grown in average garden soil does not require supplemental feeding. Just take care not to over-fertilize.

Is creeping thyme deer resistant?

Yes, deer tend to leave creeping thyme alone thanks to its strongly aromatic leaves and stems. Planting thyme is an excellent deterrent for keeping deer from grazing in your garden beds or lawn areas.

How often should I water creeping thyme?

Established creeping thyme is quite drought tolerant, butnew plantings need regular watering the first 2-3 months until well rooted. After that, water only during extended dry spells, 1-2 times per week. Avoid oversaturation.

What colors does creeping thyme come in?

The most common is soft pinkish-purple, but you can also find white, red, and magenta blooms. Foliage also varies from bright green to gray-green, silver, chartreuse, or deep red.

How do I propagate new creeping thyme plants?

Take 4-6 inch cuttings from established plants in spring or fall. Remove lower leaves, dip cut end in rooting hormone, and plant in potting mix. Keep evenly moist until new roots form in 2-3 weeks.



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