How to Grow Creeping Thyme

Thymus serpyllum


Creeping thyme is a dwarf, mat, or cushion-forming plant with tiny, evergreen, aromatic leaves and masses of tiny flowers that are a magnet for bees. The blooms appear in summer and come in a range of flower colours including pink, red, purple, as well as white, with leaf colour that varies from grey-green, to mid-dark green, or variegated with yellow. There are many species of thyme and the name ‘creeping thyme’ does not refer to any one species, but rather is used as an overall term for all those which are prostrate, mat or cushion-forming in habit.

Some thymes are native to the British Isles, including Breckland thyme (Thymus serpyllum), which grows on heathland in Norfolk and Suffolk, and wild thyme (Thymus polytrichus), which grows widely in varied sites such as cliffs, walls, and meadows. Many thymes originate from Mediterranean regions and are therefore need a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Their compact and neat habit makes creeping thymes ideal for many different sites around the garden, especially path edges and paving crevices, where the foliage is lightly trodden on to give off its wonderful scent, although thymes won’t stand up to heavy foot traffic. The growth is good at suppressing weeds once established, which takes around 2-3 years to form dense cushions.

Thyme is edible and is a popular herb to use in cooking to add flavour to dishes such as soups and casseroles. However, the best types of thyme to grow for culinary use are bushy ones such as Thymus vulgaris. Thyme contains the volatile oil thymol which is a natural antiseptic and also repels insects, simply by crushing and rubbing leaves on the skin, although the most popular thyme for this purpose is lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) which is bushy and spreading in habit, not creeping.

How to grow

Plant creeping thyme into fertile, free-draining soil in full sun and well drained soil. Keep watered until established. Trim after flowering if required.

Where to grow

Thymus serpyllum

Grow creeping thyme in full sun and well-drained soil in a variety of sites including rockeries, raised beds, border edges, window boxes, living walls, green roofs, and shallow pots. Thymes grow best in soil with a neutral to alkaline pH. Creeping thyme is low-growing and spreading, growing a maximum of 5-10cm high and 20-30cm across.

How to plant

Plant creeping thyme in spring, or autumn in mild areas, in soil that drains freely and with no danger of waterlogging in winter. To grow in pots, use soil-based potting compost and add coarse grit to boost drainage.

How to care

Trimming creeping thyme.

Trimming creeping thyme.

Once established, creeping thyme needs no regular care apart from occasional trimming of older plants.

How to propagate

The easiest way to propagate creeping thyme is to separate sections of the plant that have produced roots where they touch the ground, in summer and early autumn. Replant larger sections immediately or pot up smaller rooted pieces to grow on. Another method of propagation is semi-ripe cuttings taken in mid to late summer.

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Pests and diseases of creeping thyme

Creeping thyme is not liable to any pests or diseases.

Advice on buying it

  • Creeping thyme is sold in the alpine plant section of nurseries and garden centres
  • Occasionally creeping thyme may be sold as a herb, although this section tends to house bushier rather than creeping varieties of thyme
  • Always check plants for signs of damage and disease before buying

Where to buy creeping thyme online

Varieties of creeping thyme to grow

  • Creeping thyme, Thymus serpyllum – native to the British Isles and perfect for growing in a rockery or in pots. Height x Spread: 10cm x 40cm
  • Red creeping thyme, Thymus serpyllum ‘Coccineus’ – one of the best thymes for summer colour, with deep pink flowers and bronze green foliage. H x S: 10cm x 40cm
  • Woolly thyme, Thymus pseudolanuginosus – fuzzy green foliage and occasional pink flowers. H x S: 5cm x 60cm