Red creeping thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’) is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family. It is native to Europe and Asia, where it grows in dry, rocky, and sunny habitats. Red creeping thyme is also known as crimson thyme, mother of thyme, or wild thyme.
Red creeping thyme is one of the best types of thyme for ornamental purposes. It has attractive, evergreen, needle-like foliage that forms a dense mat of greenery. In summer, it produces masses of tiny, deep pink flowers that attract butterflies and bees. The flowers also have a pleasant, lemony scent that fills the air.
|Scientific Name||Thymus serpyllum coccineus|
|Common Names||Red Creeping Thyme, Mother of Thyme|
|Family||Lamiaceae (Mint Family)|
|Height||2-4 inches (5-10 cm)|
|Spread||Up to 12 inches (30 cm)|
|Foliage Color||Deep green, turning crimson in sunlight|
|Flower Color||Pink to purple|
|Sunlight||Full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun)|
|Soil Type||Well-draining, pH 6.0-8.0|
|Watering||Moderate, let soil dry between waterings|
|Hardiness Zones||4-9 (may vary depending on the variety)|
|Maintenance||Low, prune after flowering|
|Uses||Ground cover, erosion control, culinary, medicinal, aromatic, ornamental, pollinator-friendly|
|Fragrance||Strong, pleasant thyme aroma when crushed|
|Medicinal Uses||Respiratory health, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial|
|Culinary Uses||Mild herbal flavor, use in dishes sparingly|
|Attracts||Bees, butterflies, pollinators|
|Invasive||Non-invasive, forms neat clumps|
|Aromatic Benefits||Natural air freshener, aromatherapy|
Red creeping thyme is an ideal plant for covering large areas of ground, such as walkways, borders, rock gardens, slopes, or lawns. It can also be grown in containers or hanging baskets. Red creeping thyme is easy to grow and care for, as it tolerates drought, heat, cold, poor soil, and light foot traffic. It also helps to suppress weeds and prevent soil erosion.
If you are looking for a low-maintenance and beautiful ground cover that will add charm and color to your garden, red creeping thyme is a perfect choice. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about how to grow and enjoy red creeping thyme.
What are the benefits of growing red creeping thyme?
Red creeping thyme is not only a decorative plant but also a useful one. Here are some of the benefits of growing red creeping thyme in your garden:
It adds color and texture to your landscape. Red creeping thyme has a stunning appearance that can enhance any garden design. The green foliage contrasts well with the bright pink flowers that bloom from late spring to early summer. The flowers also create a striking carpet of color when planted in large drifts or clusters.
It attracts pollinators and beneficial insects. Red creeping thyme is a magnet for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators that help to fertilize your plants and crops. It also hosts beneficial insects that prey on pests and diseases, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps.
It provides food and medicine. Red creeping thyme is edible and has a mild, lemony flavor that can be used to season salads, soups, sauces, meats, cheeses, and breads. It is also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential oils that have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, and antispasmodic properties. Red creeping thyme can be used to treat coughs, colds, sore throats, indigestion, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and skin infections.
It improves soil quality and prevents erosion. Red creeping thyme helps to improve soil quality by adding organic matter and nutrients. It also prevents soil erosion by holding the soil together with its roots and stems. Red creeping thyme can grow in poor or sandy soils that other plants may not tolerate.
It reduces maintenance and water use. Red creeping thyme is a low-maintenance plant that does not require much attention or care once established. It does not need frequent watering or fertilizing and can survive on natural rainfall or occasional irrigation. It also does not need mowing or pruning and can be left to grow naturally.
Health Benefits of Red Creeping Thyme
Red creeping thyme has been used traditionally to alleviate respiratory issues. It contains compounds like thymol, which have antispasmodic properties and may help relax the muscles of the respiratory tract. This can potentially ease symptoms of conditions like bronchitis and asthma.
Thymol and other antioxidants present in red creeping thyme may help combat oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is linked to various chronic diseases and aging.
Red creeping thyme contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the body. This may be beneficial for individuals dealing with conditions like arthritis.
Thymol, a key component in red creeping thyme, exhibits strong antimicrobial properties. It can help fight against harmful bacteria and fungi, potentially aiding in the prevention of infections.
Red creeping thyme has been used traditionally to promote digestion. It may help soothe digestive discomfort and reduce symptoms of indigestion.
The pleasant aroma of red creeping thyme, when crushed, can have a calming effect and help reduce stress and anxiety. Aromatherapy using thyme oil is a popular way to achieve this benefit.
Due to its antimicrobial properties, red creeping thyme can be used as an ingredient in natural mouthwashes and toothpaste. It may help combat oral bacteria and promote oral hygiene.
Some herbal remedies use red creeping thyme for its potential wound-healing properties. It may help disinfect minor wounds and promote faster healing.
The antioxidants and immune-boosting properties of red creeping thyme can contribute to overall immune system health, helping the body fend off infections and illnesses.
Red creeping thyme extracts are sometimes used in skincare products for their potential to combat acne and other skin issues due to their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
How to choose the best location for red creeping thyme?
- Creeping thyme plant is a sun-loving plant that needs at least six hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive. Choose a location that has full sun exposure or partial shade in hot climates.
- Creeping thyme plant also needs well-drained soil that does not retain too much moisture or become waterlogged. Avoid planting red creeping thyme in heavy clay soils or areas that are prone to flooding or standing water.
- Creeping thyme plant can grow in a variety of soil types as long as they are well-drained. It prefers neutral to slightly alkaline soil with a pH between 6.5 and 8.0 but can tolerate acidic soils as well.
- Creeping thyme plant can grow in containers or raised beds if you do not have suitable ground space or if you want more control over the soil conditions.
How to prepare the soil for red creeping thyme?
Before planting creeping thyme plant in the ground or in containers, you need to prepare the soil properly to ensure optimal growth and health.
Here are some steps to follow:
- Loosen the soil. Use a garden fork or a tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches. This will improve the soil aeration and drainage and make it easier for the roots to penetrate and spread.
- Amend the soil. Add organic matter such as compost, manure, peat moss, or leaf mold to the soil to improve its fertility and texture. Organic matter will also help to retain moisture and nutrients in the soil and feed the beneficial microorganisms. You can also add sand or gravel to the soil to improve its drainage if it is too heavy or compacted.
- Adjust the pH. Test the soil pH using a kit or a meter and adjust it if necessary. You can use lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it. Follow the instructions on the product label for the correct amount and application method.
- Level the soil. Use a rake or a hoe to level the soil and remove any rocks, weeds, roots, or debris. This will create a smooth and even surface for planting.
How to plant red creeping thyme?
You can plant red creeping thyme from seeds, cuttings, or nursery plants. However, seeds are slow to germinate and grow, and cuttings require more care and attention. Therefore, buying nursery plants is the easiest and fastest way to establish red creeping thyme in your garden.
Here are some tips on how to plant red creeping thyme from nursery plants:
- Choose healthy plants. Look for plants that have green, vigorous, and disease-free foliage and roots. Avoid plants that have yellow, wilted, or damaged leaves or stems or signs of pests or diseases.
- Water the plants. Water the plants thoroughly before planting them to moisten the root ball and prevent transplant shock.
- Dig holes. Dig holes that are slightly larger and deeper than the root ball of each plant. Space the holes about 12 to 18 inches apart for optimal coverage and growth.
- Plant the thyme. Remove the plants from their pots and gently loosen the roots with your fingers. Place each plant in a hole and fill it with soil, making sure that the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Firmly press the soil around the plant and water it well.
- Mulch the area. Apply a thin layer of organic mulch such as straw, pine needles, bark chips, or shredded leaves around the plants to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, moderate soil temperature, and add nutrients.
How to care for creeping thyme plant?
creeping thyme plant is a low-maintenance plant that does not require much care once established. However, there are some basic practices that you can follow to keep your creeping thyme plant healthy and happy.
Here are some tips on how to care for red creeping thyme:
- Watering. creeping thyme plant is drought-tolerant and can survive on natural rainfall or occasional irrigation. However, it needs regular watering during its first year of growth until it establishes a strong root system. Water your red creeping thyme deeply but infrequently when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Avoid overwatering or underwatering your creeping thyme plant as both can cause stress and damage.
- Fertilizing. Creeping thyme plant does not need much fertilizing as it can grow in poor soils. However, you can apply a balanced organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion, seaweed extract, or compost tea once or twice a year in spring and summer to boost its growth and flowering. Follow the instructions on the product label for the correct amount and application method.
- Weeding. Creeping thyme plant helps to suppress weeds by forming a dense mat of foliage that blocks out sunlight and competes for space and nutrients. However, you may still need to weed your red creeping thyme occasionally by hand-pulling or hoeing any unwanted plants that may appear.
- Pruning. creeping thyme plant does not need pruning as it grows naturally in a low and spreading habit. However, you can trim your creeping thyme plant lightly after flowering to remove any dead or damaged stems and flowers and maintain its shape and appearance.
- Dividing. creeping thyme plant can become woody over time and lose its vigor and attractiveness. You can rejuvenate your creeping thyme plant by dividing it every three to four years in spring or fall. To divide your creeping thyme plant, dig up a clump of it with a spade or a fork and cut it into smaller sections with a sharp knife or scissors. Make sure each section has at least one healthy stem and some roots attached. Replant the sections in prepared soil at the same depth as before and water them well.
How to propagate red creeping thyme?
Creeping thyme plant can be propagated by seeds, cuttings, or division.
Here are some methods on how to propagate creeping thyme plant:
- Seeds. You can sow creeping thyme plant seeds indoors in late winter or early spring, or outdoors in late spring or early summer. To sow indoors, fill a seed tray or a pot with moist seed-starting mix and sprinkle the seeds lightly over the surface. Do not cover the seeds as they need light to germinate.
Place the tray or pot in a sunny and warm location and keep the soil moist but not soggy. The seeds should germinate within two to four weeks. When the seedlings have two sets of true leaves, you can transplant them into individual pots or outdoors in prepared soil.
- Cuttings. You can take stem cuttings from creeping thyme plant in spring or summer when the plant is actively growing. To take cuttings, cut a 3 to 4 inch long stem tip with a sharp and sterile knife or scissors. Remove the lower leaves and dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder.
Insert the cutting into a small pot filled with moist potting mix and firm the soil around it. Place the pot in a bright and humid location and water it regularly. The cutting should root within four to six weeks. You can then transplant it into a larger pot or outdoors in prepared soil.
- Division. You can divide creeping thyme plant in spring or fall when the plant is dormant or less active. To divide red creeping thyme, dig up a clump of it with a spade or a fork and cut it into smaller sections with a sharp knife or scissors. Make sure each section has at least one healthy stem and some roots attached. Replant the sections in prepared soil at the same depth as before and water them well.
Red thyme is more than just a plant; it’s a versatile, visually captivating addition to your garden. Its benefits extend from enhancing biodiversity to controlling erosion and even offering potential health advantages. With its adaptability and beauty, red creeping thyme deserves a spot in your gardening repertoire. So, why wait? Embark on your gardening journey with this vibrant ground cover and unlock the magic of red creeping thyme
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is red creeping thyme easy to grow?
Absolutely! It’s a low-maintenance plant that thrives in various conditions.
How often should I water red thyme?
Water deeply but infrequently. Let the soil dry out between waterings to prevent root rot.
Can I use red creeping thyme in my indoor herb garden?
While it’s primarily an outdoor plant, you can grow it in a container indoors if it receives ample sunlight.
Does red creeping thyme attract pollinators?
Yes, its vibrant flowers are a magnet for bees and butterflies, making it an excellent addition to pollinator-friendly gardens.
Is red creeping thyme invasive?
No, it forms neat, non-invasive clumps that spread slowly.
Can I use red creeping thyme as a natural ground cover for weed control?
Absolutely. Its dense growth inhibits weed growth effectively.