One of the best low growing ground covers, Thymus serpyllum forms evergreen dense cushions 5 to 10cm (2 to 4in) tall. The stems creep along the ground rather than rise vertically and grow 10 to 30cm (4 to 12in) long. The leaves are very small, but dense and cover the low growing plants. Blooming from May through to August with clusters of flowers in shades of purple-violet, the plants flower so prolifically, you can hardly see the evergreen leaves below.
There are very few ground covers that can be walked-on, but creeping thyme is one of them. It is suitable as a lawn substitute in small areas, an ideal ground cover to use between stepping stones or near to patios and walkways. Hardy to -34°C (-30°F) with good drought tolerance, these low maintenance plants don’t require mowing, watering or care, and can take a lot of abuse. When you step on them they emit a lovely fragrance.
Because of its low growth habit this diminutive Thyme can be used effectively in the foreground of just about any planting in the landscape. It can be used in borders where it is an excellent ground cover between taller plants. It is especially popular to use in spots where the plants can cascade over a rockery or wall.
Creeping thyme is an easy plant to maintain, it does not tend to take-over and can easily be confined to a specific area. It tolerates many soil types, including heavy clay. Its leaves can be used as a culinary herb and the flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies. A versatile, low maintenance groundcover, its uses in the garden are almost unlimited.
Sowing: Sow in Spring or Autumn at around 13°C (55°F)
Seeds can be sown indoors in late winter to spring or in autumn at temperatures around 13°C (55°F) or they can be sown directly into the garden between May and August.
Sow seed on the surface of lightly firmed, moist seed compost in pots or trays. Do not cover as they need light to germinate. Cover the container with a piece of glass or clear plastic and leave in a position which receives diffused light. Once some of the seeds have germinated air should be admitted gradually. Germination 15 to 30 days.
When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings into 7.5cm (3in) pots to grow on. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to15 days before planting out after all risk of frost. For best results, provide any ordinary, well-drained soil in full sun
When transplanting pinch out the tip of each stem to encourage the plants to bush outwards. Plant 30cm (12in) apart.
Prepare the planting area by mixing generous quantities of organic humus into the soil. Peat moss, processed manure, and compost (if available) are excellent soil additives. Mix them about 50% with your existing soil. You only need to prepare the soil 15 to 25cm (6 to 10in) deep. Remove weeds and stones and rake to a fine tilth.
Broadcast the seed over the planting area. It may help to mix the fine seed with sand to get more even distribution. Press the seeds lightly into the soil, but do not cover. Water well and continue to water especially through hot periods. Once seedlings are grown, thin out to 30cm (12in) apart. Replant the thinnings in any spaces.
Remember during the first year, any new plantings will require weeding and mulching, but once established, little care is needed. If planting area is properly prepared the plants will not need fertilising. In subsequent years fertilise during the late spring and early summer. Any type of liquid plant food can be used.
Once established, plants can be dug and divided during the cooler spring months of March, April and May. Thyme, like Rosemary and Lavender is one of those plants that if cut back too hard will not re-grow, if you need to trim them wait until new growth buds appear in the spring and cut back to the lower ones.
Creeping Thyme as an alternative to a Grass Lawn
Creeping Thyme can be a good alternative to grass and will provide you with an attractive lawn. It can be walked on and will survive well. One huge advantage is that unlike grass which needs constant mowing, it doesn't need cutting. Just give it a weeding every now and then and you'll have a gorgeous thyme lawn which smells wonderful. Camomile also serves well in creating a nice lawn, or if you put both thyme and camomile together you will get a lovely lemon aroma when walked upon.
It is a source of oil of Serpolet by distillation, and is used as an aphrodisiac in herbal medicine. It is used as a seasoning for many meat dishes (being commonly used in beef stews), cabbage or green salads, and vegetable dishes The dried leaves are used for a herbal tea. Thyme tea with honey is soothing for coughs and sore throats.
Thyme is the companion plant of Cabbages, repelling the Cabbage worm. Dried flowers are used to repel moths from clothing. In Perfumery, Essence of Thyme is used for cosmetics and rice powder. Thyme also enters into the formula for Herb Tobacco.
Native to Central and southern Europe, Thyme is cultivated in gardens worldwide with a suitable climate. The plants are rich in essential oils, and are considered an aromatic herb.
There are over 100 different species of thyme, but the two main types. The common thyme' (thymus vulgaris) is a very popular culinary herb, and is often used as a ground cover, but it grows taller than the creeping varieties and is not suitable to walk-on.
The genus name is from the Greek thymos which was the Greek name for the herb thyme and phyllon means "leaf", meaning "thyme-leaved"
It has a number of common names, but is most often called Creeping Thyme, referring to its low growing, creeping habit.
- Additional Information
Family Lamiaceae Genus Thymus Species serpyllum Common Name Wild thyme Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to -34°C (-30°F) Flowers Purple-violet flowers Natural Flower Time May-August Foliage Small green, evergreen leaves Height Dense cushions 5 to 10cm (2 to 4in) tall. Spread 30 to 60cm (12 to 24in) Spacing 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Position Sun to Partial Shade Soil Prefers well-drained light-textured soil with modest fertility Time to Sow Sow in Spring or Autumn at around 13°C (55°F) Germination 15 to 30 days. Uses Thyme lawn, Greenroof, Hanging baskets, Container planting, Underplanting. Ground cover