While some plants only serve one purpose, creeping thyme is a wealth of experiences. Not only is it perfect for long stretches of ground cover, but you can also eat this plant, which is a member of the mint family.
When to plant creeping thyme: Creeping thyme is perfect if you want ground cover in a garden, need a plant that can withstand foot traffic, or that won’t be eaten by deer. Plant creeping thyme in the spring, either in the form of seeds or divisions. The first year won’t see a lot of growth as it will need time to settle in. However, once the plant becomes mature, after two or three years, it will then speed up its growth and indeed spread out. Creeping thyme prefers moist soil that drains well and full sun. Regularly prune it to keep the plant from becoming woody and to promote air circulation.
Planting Creeping Thyme in Different Climates
You may be able to plant creeping thyme in a tropical climate but it doesn’t like humidity. Be sure to regularly prune the plant so there is enough airflow.
It can be very hard to plant creeping thyme in a dry climate. This plant craves moist soil and if you aren’t vigilant about hand watering, it can quickly dry out.
A temperate climate is excellent for creeping thyme. Just make sure the soil drains well. You may want to add sandy or rocky soil to your planting area to prevent the roots from becoming too wet.
You can definitely grow creeping thyme in a continental climate. It’s best to stick with hardier varieties that can withstand the colder winters.
Unfortunately, creeping thyme will not grow in a polar climate. Even though there are some hardier varieties, it still needs warmth and sunshine in the summer to grow.
Choosing Creeping Thyme Seeds
One important factor to note is that creeping thyme and common thyme are different. While they are of the same plant type, common thyme, also known as English thyme, won’t spread out as much and instead is more contained.
If you want a ground cover with lovely spots of color, there are plenty of varieties of creeping thyme to choose from.
White creeping thyme
Producing white flowers, this variety can add a nice contrast to your garden and can also be paired with other, more colorful varieties.
Expect this type of creeping thyme to grow about two inches in height and 12 inches wide. It is also a nice, cool-hardy variety.
With pale pink flowers, this is a lovely addition to any garden. The plant is a bit taller than other varieties and can reach three inches tall. It will spread up to 12 inches wide.
How to Plant Creeping Thyme Seeds
The best time to plant creeping thyme seeds is in the spring. You want to wait until the threat of frost is over, which is usually late April to mid-May, depending on where you live.
While you can sow thyme seeds directly into your garden, you can also get a head start and plant the seeds indoors, about six to eight weeks before the last frost date.
Another option is to use divisions or stem cuttings. These will give you a jump on their growth and they are readily available at most gardening centers.
Overall, creeping thyme isn’t too picky about the soil it is planted in. You want to aim for soil that drains well but is also moist. If the soil stays too wet, however, it can lead to root rot and root drowning.
As for the soil pH level, aim for a neutral to the slightly alkaline area. This is generally between 6.0 and 7.5.
Creeping thyme prefers full sun, so be sure to choose the right location. If it is too shady, the plant will grow slower and you won’t have the benefits of all the blooms.
When planting, try to space out your creeping time, leaving up to eight inches between the plants. Creeping thyme will grow out and while it can take a few years, that space will be important to allow it to naturally spread.
How to Water Creeping Thyme
While overall maintenance of creeping thyme is relatively easy, one area to watch out for is watering. Creeping thyme needs soil that drains really well, as it is susceptible to root rot.
However, when you have soil that drains fast, it can mean that there isn’t a lot of water retention. As a result, the soil can dry out and your plants will suffer.
You will want to stick to a regular watering schedule with creeping thyme. Water every other day, or even every day if you are in the middle of summer.
The best time to water is in the morning so that the water can penetrate into the soil. When in doubt, do a simple soil check with your finger to assess the moisture level.
How to Grow Creeping Thyme
Speed of growth
Creeping thyme will eventually spread out, which is why you want to ensure there is enough space between other plants.
Don’t worry, however, if the first year after planting doesn’t see a lot of growth. This plant will take a bit to become established but in its second or third year, once it reaches maturity, it will grow a lot faster.
You can expect bold pops of color in late spring or early summer. For those that are planting from seed, you may not get blooms the first year as the plant will still be establishing itself.
Pruning and maintenance
As your creeping thyme grows and spreads out, the main branches of the plant can become woody. The result will be more branches and fewer blooms.
To help prevent this look, you will want to regularly prune your plants. Your two options are to cut back a lot of the growth to inspire more new branches or to simply dig out the plants and start with fresh, new ones.
While many people don’t want to lose the mature plants and their spread, if they aren’t looking as good as you want, it may be worth it to start fresh. You can also purchase plants that are already flowering so you don’t have to start all over again from seeds.
Aim to prune in the early spring so that your plant is ready for the upcoming growing season. Then, you can prune once more in the late summer, after the plant is finished flowering.
The aim is to have a bushy plant that has enough airflow to promote new growth. Creeping thyme does not like humidity and if the plant is too close to others, or the branches are too dense, it can start to wilt.
As long as you start creeping thyme out in decent soil, then you don’t need to worry about adding fertilizer. If you see your plants drooping or you know your soil is not the best, you can add a bit of liquid fertilizer once or twice a year.
How long does creeping thyme take to grow?
Creeping thyme will be ready the first year that you plant it. Plant the seeds in spring and by summer you will have a decent amount of growth.
However, the plant won’t be mature for a few years so growth can seem stagnant. It is only after creeping thyme is mature that it will really start to spread out, so you will have to be patient.
Is creeping thyme edible?
Creeping thyme is, indeed, edible. It is part of the mint family and gives off the same aroma as other pint plants.
To ingest creeping thyme, most people use it in tea. It is especially great if you crush it up.
In order to harvest creeping thyme, you should snip off small stems from the plant. Then, hang them upside down to dry in a dark, well-ventilated area.
It is best to harvest creeping thyme early in the morning. This way the essential oils in the plant will be the most abundant and you will get the most amount of flavor.
Benefits of creeping thyme
There are many reasons to choose creeping thyme and many uses for it. While it can be an excellent way to fill in part of your garden, you can actually use it as a substitute for the grass or along a pathway.
This plant is very durable and can withstand people stepping on it. If you have a series of stepping stones, you can add creeping thyme around them for an added, gorgeous effect.
Creeping thyme is also deer resistant, which makes it perfect for rural properties.
Creeping thyme is a wonderful addition to a garden. This ground cover provides tiny, delicate blooms that will spread out as it grows. Plant creeping thyme in the spring and in a few years it will mature and cover plenty of space.