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Mother of Thyme Thymus serpyllum

Other Common Name(s):

Other plants called Mother of Thyme:

Previously known as:

  • Origanum serpyllum
  • Serpyllum vulgare
Phonetic Spelling
THY-mus ser-PIE-lum
Description

Creeping Thyme is a dwarf, low-growing, creeping, woody evergreen. It is grown primarily as an ornamental groundcover. The plant's leaves are aromatic, but it is not typically used in cooking. It measures 2-3 inches tall and 3 to 12 inches wide. The plant has other common names, including Mother of Thyme, Wild Thyme, and Breckland Thyme. There are numerous cultivars with varying sizes and may be either creeping or upright. The cultivar's flowers range from white, pink, red, or purple. The leaf colors of the cultivars vary from dark green, gold, or variegated.

Creeping Thyme is native of Northern Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. 

The origin of the word "thyme" is from the Greek word thumos, which means "courage." During the Medieval Times, thyme was thought to have been an emblem of bravery. The word "thyme" may also be derived from the Greek word thymos, meaning "perfume."  The plant is fragrant and aromatic. The species name serpyllum is Greek and means "creeping or trailing growth habit."

The plant is hairy, prostrate, and creeping. It prefers full sun and tolerates poor soil. It thrives in sandy, gritty, or rocky soil. It is drought tolerant and prefers average to dry medium moisture. It will remain evergreen during mild winters.

Creeping Thyme is low maintenance, but it does require pruning to control growth and decrease woody stems.

The most common method of propagation is by seed. Cultivars are best propagated by division, seed, or cuttings.

The flowers are tiny tubular bell-shaped blooms that are deep pink to purple. The blooms appear on the upright stems from June to September. The leaves are tiny, pubescent, and blue-green in color. The stems are thin and woody.

Creeping Thyme would make a wonderful addition to a home garden. It provides groundcover for borders, patios, and pathways. The plant will fill in crevices of stepping stones or sprawl over rocks. It may also be grown in containers.

Bees and butterflies are attracted to the nectar of the flowers. The plant is deer and rabbit resistant.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Elliptical, round-tipped leaves are 1/4 inches long, pubescent, and fragrant
  • Tiny deep pink to purple tubular-shaped flowers occur along a raceme
  • Creeping, prostrate, woody base which grows up to 3 inches tall and 12 inches wide

Pests, Insects, and Other Plant Problems:  There are no serious insect or disease problems. The plant is susceptible to rot if overwatered or if the soil is poorly drained. Spider mites may occur during a hot, dry summer.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Backyard Patio
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Coccineus', 'Elfin', 'Magic Carpet', 'Pink Chintz'
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#showy flowers#drought tolerant#low growing#fragrant leaves#salt tolerant#rabbit resistant#air pollution tolerant#cpp#deer resistant#woody groundcover#groundcover#rock gardens#stepping stones#poor soils tolerant#patio planting#dry soils tolerant#banks
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Coccineus', 'Elfin', 'Magic Carpet', 'Pink Chintz'
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#showy flowers#drought tolerant#low growing#fragrant leaves#salt tolerant#rabbit resistant#air pollution tolerant#cpp#deer resistant#woody groundcover#groundcover#rock gardens#stepping stones#poor soils tolerant#patio planting#dry soils tolerant#banks
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Thymus
    Species:
    serpyllum
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Northern Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa
    Distribution:
    Native: Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Buryatiya, Central European Russia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Netherlands, North European Russia, Northwest European Russia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, West Siberia
    Wildlife Value:
    Host plant to the common blue butterfly and the large blue butterfly.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Fragrance
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer, rabbits, drought, air pollution, salt, and dry soil
    Edibility:
    This plant is primarily ornamental and is rarely used in cooking.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 2 in. - 0 ft. 3 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 3 in. - 0 ft. 10 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Semi-evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Creeping
    Dense
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Very Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Schizocarp
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a schizocarp and has four locules or small separate cavities. When the fruit dries, it will split into four sections. Each section contains the seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are tiny, tubular, and bell-shaped. They are two-lipped in shades of deep pink to purple. They occur mostly on the terminal ends of the stems, but they sometimes are seen axillary. They bloom from June to September.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Semi-evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are tiny, opposite, glossy, pubescent, and blue-green in color. The elliptical-shaped leaf has a rounded tip and measures 1/4 inch long. The leaves have the fragrance of mint, but they are not of culinary quality.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are thin, slightly woody, and prostrate. The creeping stems measure up to 3 inches long and are covered with leaves.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Rock Wall
    Slope/Bank
    Small Space
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Poor Soil
    Rabbits
    Salt