Creeping Thyme Lawn: Pros and Cons (Guide To Planting & Maintaining)

Last Updated on September 9, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

Lawns have been a staple of home landscaping for centuries, but traditional grass lawns can often be high-maintenance and require a significant amount of water. As homeowners become increasingly conscious of their environmental footprint, many are seeking out more sustainable alternatives. Enter creeping thyme, a hardy, low-growing plant that offers a beautiful and practical solution for those looking to replace their traditional lawn.

Creeping thyme, known scientifically as Thymus serpyllum, is an evergreen herb that forms a dense mat of tiny, aromatic leaves and delicate flowers. A native of Europe, this plant has been cultivated worldwide for its resilience and adaptability. It’s not just a plant; it’s a game-changer for those who want a green space without the high maintenance that comes with a regular lawn.

In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about creeping thyme lawns – from why you should consider them to how to plant and care for them. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner looking for a greener lawn alternative, this guide has got you covered. Welcome to your ultimate guide to creeping thyme lawn.

What is Creeping Thyme?

creeping thyme lawn

Creeping thyme, or Thymus serpyllum, is a dwarf, aromatic shrub primarily used as a ground cover. The plant forms a low cushion of tiny, pointed, glossy blue-green leaves. It is native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe and is a sun-loving plant that requires at least six hours of sunlight each day.

Creeping thyme is also commonly known as ‘Mother of Thyme,’ and it’s a spreading thyme variety that’s easy to grow. It’s a short-lived woody perennial covered in foliage, which lasts around 3 to 5 years before becoming unproductive and spindly. Despite its relatively short lifespan, creeping thyme is highly valued for its resilience and adaptability.

The plant thrives in sandy, silty, or rocky soils that provide excellent drainage. It can also tolerate poor soil but should be avoided in heavy clay or in low, damp areas. Creeping thyme will flourish even in hot conditions; however, for optimal growth, it needs moist soil that isn’t overly wet.

There are several varieties of creeping thyme. One popular variety is the red creeping thyme, which grows into attractive red blooms. Another variety is Thymus praecox, a low-growing, creeping, woody-based perennial in the Lamiaceae (mint) family native to Greenland, Europe, and Turkey.

Sources: Thymus praecox (Creeping Thyme, Mother of Thyme, Woolly …)

Benefits of a creeping thyme lawn

Creeping thyme lawns offer several benefits, making them an excellent alternative to traditional grass lawns:

  1. Low Maintenance: Creeping thyme requires less care than regular grass. It doesn’t need frequent mowing, fertilizing, or aerating.
  2. Drought Tolerant: This plant is highly drought-resistant, making it an excellent choice for areas with water restrictions or low rainfall.
  3. Aesthetically Pleasing: With its small, fragrant leaves and colorful flowers, creeping thyme adds beauty to any landscape. The flowers bloom in the summer, providing a stunning display of color.
  4. Eco-Friendly: Creeping thyme requires less water and fertilizer than traditional lawns, reducing its environmental impact.
  5. Attracts Beneficial Insects: The flowers of creeping thyme attract bees and other pollinating insects, promoting biodiversity in your garden.
  6. Resistant to Foot Traffic: Despite its delicate appearance, creeping thyme can withstand light foot traffic, making it a good choice for pathways or between stepping stones.
  7. Weed Suppressing: The dense growth of creeping thyme helps to suppress weeds, reducing the need for chemical herbicides.
  8. Aromatic: When crushed or walked upon, the leaves of creeping thyme release a pleasant fragrance, adding another sensory element to your garden.

Downsides of Creeping Thyme Lawn

Despite the many benefits of creeping thyme lawns, there are also a few downsides to consider:

  1. Invasive: Creeping thyme can spread quickly, which can be problematic in some gardens. It might outgrow its designated area and invade other parts of your garden.
  2. Expensive: Starting a creeping thyme lawn from scratch can be more costly than planting a traditional grass lawn due to the higher cost of the plants.
  3. Susceptibility to Disease: Creeping thyme is prone to some fungal diseases, such as rust.
  4. Limited Foot Traffic: While creeping thyme can withstand light foot traffic, it may struggle under heavy foot traffic, making it less suitable for play areas or heavily used pathways.
  5. Drainage Requirements: Creeping thyme needs excellent drainage. It can struggle in areas of the garden where water tends to pool or in soils that retain a lot of moisture.

Why Choose Creeping Thyme for Your Lawn?

Choosing creeping thyme for your lawn can bring multiple benefits, from environmental advantages to aesthetic appeal and low maintenance.

Environmental Benefits

  1. Water Conservation: Creeping thyme is drought-tolerant, meaning it requires less water than traditional lawns. This makes it an excellent choice for areas prone to dry spells or water restrictions.
  2. Attracts Pollinators: The flowers of creeping thyme attract bees and other pollinating insects, promoting biodiversity in your garden.
  3. Chemical-Free: Because creeping thyme naturally suppresses weeds, there’s less need for chemical herbicides. Plus, it typically doesn’t require fertilizers to thrive.

Aesthetic Appeal

  1. Vibrant Colors: Creeping thyme blooms in the summer, producing beautiful pink, purple, or white flowers that add color to your landscape.
  2. Texture and Form: The dense, low-growing habit of creeping thyme adds interesting texture and form to your garden. It’s especially attractive when used between stepping stones or in rock gardens.
  3. Fragrance: When crushed or walked upon, creeping thyme releases a pleasant, aromatic scent, adding another sensory element to your garden.

Low Maintenance

  1. Less Mowing: Unlike traditional grass, creeping thyme does not require regular mowing. It grows slowly and stays short, reducing the time and energy spent on lawn care.
  2. Disease and Pest Resistance: Creeping thyme is resistant to many common lawn diseases and pests, reducing the need for treatments.

How to Plant Creeping Thyme

Choosing the Right Location and Soil Conditions

Creeping thyme thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. It can be grown in a variety of sites including rockeries, raised beds, border edges, window boxes, and living walls.

Although it prefers well-drained lightly textured soils, it will grow quite well even in less than ideal conditions. If you’re planting creeping thyme in containers or window boxes, use a high-quality potting mix with good drainage.

Step-by-Step Planting Guide

  1. From Seeds: Direct sow seeds outdoors in late spring when temperatures are consistently in the high 60’s or above. Seeds can also be started indoors 8-10 weeks before your last expected frost.
  2. From Seedlings or Potted Nursery Starts: To transplant creeping thyme seedlings, dig holes about four inches (10cm) deep, with 12 to 18 inches (30-60cm) between holes. If you’re planting from a container, dig a hole the same depth as the container, gently remove the plant from the pot, and place it in the hole.
  3. From Squares: Cut 1.5” squares from a mat of creeping thyme and plant them approximately 4” apart.

Tips for Successful Germination and Growth

  1. Watering: Keep the soil moist during the first week after planting to help the plants establish.
  2. Growth Rate: Creeping thyme is a slow-to-moderate grower in its first year, but once established, it will spread more quickly.
  3. Planting Time: Creeping thyme is best planted in the spring or early autumn when the soil is moist, and temperatures are moderate.

Caring for Your Creeping Thyme Lawn

Watering and Feeding Requirements

Creeping thyme is a drought-tolerant plant, which means it doesn’t need frequent watering once established. Water thoroughly but infrequently, letting the soil dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so be cautious.

As for feeding, creeping thyme is not a heavy feeder, but a light application of an all-purpose fertilizer in the spring can promote denser growth and better blooming.

Pruning and Weeding

Prune or shear back plants after flowering to maintain a tidy form and stimulate new growth. Creeping thyme naturally suppresses weeds due to its dense growth habit, reducing the need for weed control efforts. However, if weeds do emerge, remove them by hand to avoid disturbing the thyme plants.

Dealing with Pests and Diseases

Creeping thyme is generally resistant to pests and diseases. However, it can occasionally suffer from root rot if its growing conditions are too wet.

If you notice signs of disease (such as wilting or discoloration), consider improving drainage or reducing watering.

In terms of pests, aphids can sometimes be a problem, but they can usually be managed with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Common Challenges and Solutions for Growing a Creeping Thyme Lawn

While creeping thyme is generally low-maintenance, several common challenges can arise. Here are some potential problems and their solutions:

  1. Poor Drainage: Creeping thyme prefers well-drained soil and can suffer from root rot if the soil retains too much water. To avoid this, ensure your soil has good drainage by adding compost or sand, or consider planting in raised beds or slopes where water naturally drains away.
  2. Inadequate Sunlight: Creeping thyme thrives best in full sun, and insufficient sunlight can lead to weak, leggy growth. If your lawn doesn’t get enough sun, try trimming back overhanging trees or shrubs to let in more light.
  3. Weed Invasion: Although creeping thyme is a natural weed suppressor, some persistent weeds may still emerge. Hand-pull any weeds that appear, trying not to disturb the thyme plants. Using a weed-suppressing membrane before planting can also help.
  4. Pests and Diseases: Creeping thyme is generally pest and disease resistant, but it can occasionally be affected by aphids or root rot. For aphids, treat with insecticidal soap or neem oil. For root rot, improve drainage and reduce watering.
  5. Slow Establishment: Creeping thyme can be slow to establish and spread. To speed up coverage, plant creeping thyme plugs or squares closer together.

How creeping thyme adapts to different seasons

Creeping thyme is a resilient plant that adapts well to different seasons.

Spring and Summer: Creeping thyme’s growth and spread are most active during these warmer months. It typically blooms in late spring or summer, adding a seasonal pop of color to your landscape. The plant thrives in full sun and can tolerate dry conditions due to its drought-resistant nature.

Fall: As a perennial herb, creeping thyme continues to grow in the fall, although at a slower pace. The plant retains its foliage, providing ground cover and visual interest in your garden.

Winter: In temperate climates, creeping thyme usually remains evergreen throughout the winter. In colder regions (hardiness zones 5-9), creeping thyme may lose its foliage but will bounce back with new growth once temperatures rise.

If possible, and if the plant is potted, it can be brought indoors during harsh winter periods to protect it from extreme cold.


Choosing a creeping thyme lawn offers numerous advantages. Its resilience and adaptability make it suitable for various climates and seasons.

With its drought-resistant nature, it requires less water than traditional lawns, making it an eco-friendly choice. It’s a natural weed suppressor and generally pest and disease resistant, reducing the need for chemical treatments.

Creeping thyme also adds aesthetic appeal to your landscape. Its dense, lush carpet of greenery is punctuated by vibrant blooms in spring and summer, creating a picturesque scenery. And let’s not forget the pleasant aroma when thyme leaves are crushed underfoot, adding a sensory delight to your outdoor space.

Though it comes with its set of challenges like any plant, the solutions are simple and manageable. From ensuring proper drainage and sunlight to occasional pruning and feeding, caring for a creeping thyme lawn is relatively low-maintenance.

In conclusion, if you’re seeking a beautiful, hardy, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional grass lawns, consider the charming and versatile creeping thyme. Its benefits far outweigh the challenges, and with proper care, it can transform your garden into a stunning and fragrant haven. Happy gardening!