fbpx Creeping thyme | The Morton Arboretum

Creeping thyme

Creeping thyme in flower.

Creeping time is generally used more as a ground cover than as an herb.  This low-growing fuzzy plant spreads out in a mat and is covered with beautiful flowers. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Thymus praecox

All Common Names:

Creeping thyme, woolly thyme, mother of thyme

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Ground cover,
  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk

Size Range:

  • Low-growing plant (under 6 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Dry soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Season of Interest:

  • Late spring,
  • Early summer,
  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Purple

Shape or Form:

  • Creeping

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate,
  • Fast

More Information:

Size and Method of spreading

Creeping thyme generally grows no more than 3 to 6 inches high.  It is a trailing-rooting ground cover.  Trailing-rooting ground covers have trailing stems that spread out from a central root system.  These stems spread out horizontally over the ground and can root where they come in contact with the soil.  New shoots will be formed at the point where rooting occurs.

Plant Care

This is a fairly low maintenance ground cover.  It grows well in poor soils as well as alkaline sites.  It is tolerant of drought.  Wet sites must be avoided or this plant will rot.  Full sun is best, but this plant will tolerate some light shade.

Disease, pests, and problems

Slugs can be a problem.  In wet sites, root rot can occur.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Resistant to deer.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Europe.

Leaf description

The opposite leaves are oval and very tiny (1/4").  Leaves can be semi-evergreen in mild winters.

Flower description

Upright clusters of tiny pink-purple flowers cover the plant early to mid-summer.   Some cultivars have flowers that are white or red.

Fruit description

Fruit are small nutlets; not ornamentally important.

Cultivars and their differences

Some cultivars may be sold under another species name or may be sold simply as 'thyme'.

Annie Hall creeping thyme (Thymus praecox 'Annie Hall'):  Pink flowers; withstands foot traffic better than the species.

Scarlet creeping thyme (Thymus praecox 'Coccineus'): Covered with rose-red flowers.  Also sold as red creeping thyme.

White creeping thyme (Thymus praecox 'Albus'): White flowers.

Wooly creeping thyme (Thymus praecox 'Pseudolanuginosis'): Densely hairy leaves.

Location of Thymus praecox (Creeping thyme) at the Arboretum