Creeping thyme is a great plant to keep in your garden because it smells nice and looks great too. However, when choosing any new plant for your garden, you want to know what you’re getting into. How much does creeping thyme spread? Where should it be planted? Will it work well with my other plants?
Fortunately, creeping thyme is not invasive and will not quickly take over your garden. It’s a nice ground-covering plant that fills in empty spaces and does not get in the way of other plants.
Below, I cover why you may want to grow creeping thyme, whether it spreads like mint or is invasive and how quickly it spreads. I also discuss how to stop it spreading and whether it can be grown in pots before some growing tips.
Why Grow Creeping Thyme?
Most people grow creeping thyme for the aesthetics. It’s a pretty plant that grows a lot of colorful flowers in the summertime. It is a ground covering plant, so you can rely on it to fill in the empty spaces of your garden. It grows shorter, but wider than other varieties of thyme, so it’s great if you’re specifically looking for something to cover the empty soil in your garden.
A lot of people also like to grow creeping thyme because of how it smells. To us, it’s sweet-smelling, much like mint. It also smells nice to pollinators like bees, and other good insects, like ladybugs.
However, pests hate the scent. If you have trouble with pests in your garden, creeping thyme can help. The overwhelming aroma confuses bugs so that they can’t find the plant they really want to feast on. Some pests are so overwhelmed by the scent that they won’t enter your garden at all.
Lastly, although creeping thyme is not a variety usually used for cooking, the leaves are still edible. If you want, you can harvest the leaves and use them in your cooking or in your tea.
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Does Creeping Thyme Spread Like Mint?
Creeping thyme is a low growing plant. It only grows to about 1-4 inches in height, but the vines can grow to more than 24 inches in length.
Fortunately, creeping thyme does not spread as fast as mint, and it does not grow in the same way, either.
How Does Mint Spread?
Mint grows through rhizomes. Rhizomes are root-like structures that are hard, and grow horizontally under the ground. Because of their toughness, they’re able to grow through many obstacles.
Mint also grows so quickly because the rhizomes will shoot off more than one plant. What starts out as a single mint plant does not stay a single mint plant. The rhizomes will create multiple mint plants all connected by the same rhizome. This allows mint plants to grow incredibly fast and quickly get out of control.
How Does Creeping Thyme Spread?
Creeping thyme, on the other hand, grows with roots. The stems grow strictly above the ground, producing leaves. The plant will occasionally grow new roots along these stems, but they don’t do it as quickly or as frequently as mint does.
Creeping thyme is a moderately fast-growing plant. Still, it does not grow anywhere near as fast as mint. Creeping thyme is easily maintained with routine pruning, and you rarely need to worry about it taking over your garden.
Is Creeping Thyme Invasive?
Fortunately, creeping thyme is not an invasive plant, and it does not spread that fast. If you’re worried about having too much creeping thyme, you can easily prune it back, or even get rid of it altogether.
Unlike some nuisance plants, creeping thyme won’t come back after you get rid of the roots.
You can also trim your plant two or more times a year without harming it. This is good because it allows you to easily keep on top of the size of your plant. However, creeping thyme doesn’t grow that quickly to begin with, so you don’t have to worry about constantly pruning it.
Also, creeping thyme is not a weed and it doesn’t choke out other plants. In fact, it does very well with a lot of other plants, even protecting them from pests.
How Quickly Does Creeping Thyme Spread?
You can tell how quickly your creeping thyme is growing based on the space between the leaves. The closer the leaves are together, the slower your plant is growing. Long stems with sparse leaves is an indication of a fast-growing plant.
Creeping Thyme will take about 14-28 days to grow from a seed. It takes about one full year to become established in its area, and you will not see any growth until the second year.
How Can You Stop Creeping Thyme From Spreading?
Creeping thyme is not invasive and will not become a nuisance in your garden with regular pruning. It’s a pretty and aromatic plant that adds a nice ground cover to your garden. Still, if you don’t wish to have creeping thyme in your garden, there are ways to get rid of it.
The best way to get rid of creeping thyme is simply to pull it up by the roots. This is fairly easy to do, and once you get rid of the roots, the plant will not come back.
First, you’re going to want to get rid of any rocks or other debris in the area. This will simply make it easier for you to work. If the rocks are too large, don’t worry about moving them as you might hurt yourself. Instead, try to work around them.
Next, mow over the creeping time. This is the easiest way to get rid of the majority of the foliage. A weed trimmer will work well too, especially for hard-to-reach places.
Whatever is left should be raked up and disposed of.
At this point, all you should have left is the roots. You can now take a shovel and a hoe to break up the soil. Breaking up the soil should create an easy working environment for you to dig in and pull out the roots. Where your hands fail you, you can utilize the rake and shovel to get any remaining roots.
After removing the largest pieces of root, you’ll want to dig and rake through the soil again. Do this two or three times total to ensure that you’ve removed all the remaining plant and root pieces.
You can even save the soil if you’d like to reuse it. Many people remove creeping thyme if it has died off. Therefore, the soil can be reused for whatever you’re planting in its place. To do this, simply hold the plant up and shake out the roots.
As I said, creeping thyme is fairly easy to remove, unlike mint. The roots just need to be ripped up, and then you don’t have to worry about it growing back. For this reason, I don’t recommend using harmful chemical plant killers to get rid of it. It’s simply not necessary.
If you want to read more about the best thyme for ground cover, click here.
Can Creeping Thyme Be Grown In Pots? Does This Stop It Spreading?
Does growing creeping thyme in a pot prevent it from spreading uncontrollably? Yes and no.
If you’ve read my article on mint, then you know that mint can be grown in pots in the garden. In other words, a hole can be dug into the ground of your garden, a pot inserted in the hole, and the mint grown inside the pot.
By doing this, you’re preventing the rhizomes of the mint plant from spreading, successfully preventing your mint from growing out of control.
Unfortunately, this same tactic doesn’t quite work for creeping thyme.
Mint spreads because of the rhizomes underground – this is why a pot stops it from growing. Creeping thyme, on the other hand, spreads from the stems. The stems grow above ground and will produce new roots as it grows.
For this reason, you can’t grow creeping thyme in a pot in the ground and expect it to stop growing. The plant will simply grow over the top of the pot and take root in the surrounding soil.
However, growing creeping thyme in an aboveground pot will prevent it from spreading. If creeping thyme is kept in a pot on your porch or inside your house, it won’t have anywhere to grow. It needs extra soil to plant its roots to continue spreading.
So, if you grow creeping thyme in a pot, it will only grow to about 24 inches in length and then stop. This can actually look very nice, though. The plant will spill out over the side of the pot like a cascade. However, once it realizes there’s no soil to grow into, it’ll stop.
What Soil And Sun Conditions Help Creeping Thyme Thrive?
Like all thyme, creeping thyme is a Mediterranean plant that is accustomed to dry and warm climates. Because of the location it’s naturally grown, it is very hardy and is capable of growing in almost any condition.
Still, it does have preferences for where it’s grown that will help it grow even better. Oddly enough, these preferences are quite inhospitable and would kill most other plants.
Sunlight Requirements for Creeping Thyme
Creeping thyme does best with full sunlight and it needs full sun for 6-10 hours a day. It is used to hot temperatures, so anything less than 6 hours of full sun will cause its growth to be stunted. With this being said, it can grow in partial sun, it just won’t thrive.
Likewise, more than 10 hours of full sun is too much. Creeping thyme will likely begin to wilt if it receives too much.
Soil Conditions for Creeping Thyme
Creeping thyme likes lots of sun, so it makes sense that it also likes well-draining soil. Creeping thyme does not handle a lot of water well, so it needs sandy or loamy soil that drains easily.
Too much water can cause root rot, wilting, and even death, so it’s better to underwater than overwater.
Also, creeping thyme prefers a more neutral pH, somewhere between 6-7 when possible.
Final Words on Cultivating Creeping Thyme
If you’re worried about creeping thyme being invasive and taking over your garden, you don’t have to be. Creeping thyme does spread to cover the ground in your garden, but it does so in a manageable way. Creeping thyme does not choke out other plants. Most of the time, it simply fills in the extra spaces in your garden around your other plants. This is one reason people love it so much.
Still, if you’re worried about your thyme growing too much, you can prune it. It’s easily pruned, and you don’t have to do it that often. If you still don’t want creeping thyme in your garden, it can easily be pulled up by the roots.
Want to learn more? Click here to learn how fast creeping thyme grows and here for the best time to plant creeping thyme. You can also find all my guides to growing thyme here.
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