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Thymus praecox

Phonetic Spelling
THY-mus PRAY-koks
Description

Creeping Thyme is a low-growing, creeping, woody-based perennial. It is a member of the Lamiaceae or Mint family. The plant has a spicy fragrance and may be used as a lawn substitute. Due to its creeping habit, it forms a dense mat that tolerates moderate foot traffic. Although it is a member of the thyme family, it is rarely used as a culinary herb. Other common names for this plant include Mother of Thyme and Woolly Thyme.

This herbaceous perennial is a native of Greenland, Europe, and Turkey.

The origin of the word "thyme" is from the Greek word thumos, which means courage. In the past, thyme was thought to have been an emblem of bravery. The word "thyme" may also have been derived from the Greek word thymos, meaning "perfume." The plants of this genus are typically fragrant. The species name, praecox, is Latin and means "very early." This may refer to its early flowering.

Creeping Thyme performs best in full sun and well-drained soils. The plant does well in sandy or rocky soils. It is intolerant of wet or poorly drained soils. The plant requires very little maintenance. It will remain evergreen during mild winters. Pruning of the stems is recommended to maintain their appearance. 

The common method of propagation is by division in the spring or late fall. Semi-hard cuttings may be obtained in mid to late summer.

The stems tend to spread out horizontally and take root to form a flat mat. The plant measures 3 to 6 inches tall. The leaves are fuzzy, fragrant, and bluish-green in color. The flowers are tiny, tubular, pinkish-purple blooms that appear from June to September. The fruit is a schizocarp.

Creeping Thyme attracts bees and butterflies. It is deer and rabbit resistant. It may be used as a container plant, groundcover, or as a border for patios or sidewalks. It may also be grown to sprawl over rocks, ledges, or cover a dry bank. Since it tolerates foot traffic, it makes a lovely groundcover as a lawn substitute or to fill in between pavers.

Quick ID HInts:

  • Leaves hairy, ovate, bluish-green
  • Spicy fragrance
  • Tiny tubular pinkish-purple flower, depending on the cultivar
  • Hairy, creeping, horizontal stems
  • Groundcover

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: 

There are no significant insect or disease problems except for possible slugs. It may be affected by root rot when planted in areas with poor drainage.

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Rock Herb Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Albus'
    White flowers
  • 'Annie Hall'
    Pink flowers, tolerates foot traffic better than species
  • 'Coccineus'
    Rose red flowers, also sold as Red Creeping Thyme
  • 'Minus'
    Lilac pink flowers, tiny blue green leaves
  • 'Pseudolanuginosis'
    Densely hairy leaves
'Albus', 'Annie Hall', 'Coccineus', 'Minus', 'Pseudolanuginosis'
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#fragrant leaves#nectar plant#lawn alternative#rabbit resistant#air pollution tolerant#cpp#herbaceous#deer resistant#herbaceous perennial#groundcover#rock gardens#pollinator plant#rocky soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#foot traffic tolerant#patio#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#container plants
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Albus'
    White flowers
  • 'Annie Hall'
    Pink flowers, tolerates foot traffic better than species
  • 'Coccineus'
    Rose red flowers, also sold as Red Creeping Thyme
  • 'Minus'
    Lilac pink flowers, tiny blue green leaves
  • 'Pseudolanuginosis'
    Densely hairy leaves
'Albus', 'Annie Hall', 'Coccineus', 'Minus', 'Pseudolanuginosis'
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#fragrant leaves#nectar plant#lawn alternative#rabbit resistant#air pollution tolerant#cpp#herbaceous#deer resistant#herbaceous perennial#groundcover#rock gardens#pollinator plant#rocky soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#foot traffic tolerant#patio#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#container plants
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Thymus
    Species:
    praecox
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Greenland, Europe to Turkey
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Foroyar, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, North Caucasus, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sicilia, Spain, Sweden, Transcaucasus, Turkey, and Yugoslavia; Introduced: USA--IL
    Wildlife Value:
    The nectar from flowers attracts bees and butterflies.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer and rabbit resistant. This species has no serious insect or disease problems.
    Edibility:
    This species is rarely used as a culinary herb.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 3 in. - 0 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 3 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Creeping
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Schizocarp
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a schizocarp and not ornamentally significant.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are clusters of tiny, tubular pinkish-purple blooms that appear from June to September. Some cultivars' flowers are red, pink, or white.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The 1/4 inch ovate leaves are a fuzzy bluish-green color and appear opposite. They have a spicy fragrance.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The woody stems spread out horizontally over the surface of the ground. The stems root easily upon contact with the soil and form a flat mat.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Lawn
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Rock Wall
    Slope/Bank
    Small Space
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Fairy Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Foot Traffic
    Poor Soil
    Rabbits