Although not as commonly used in cooking, creeping thyme is still an incredibly popular herb. Most people purchase this plant because it is aromatic and has a beautiful appearance, especially when the flowers bloom. Growing creeping thyme is very similar to growing other varieties of thyme. Still, there are a few differences. So, when do you plant creeping thyme?
In the full guide below, you’ll find out why you might want to grow creeping thyme, when to plant creeping thyme seeds, whether you can plant them at other times of the year, whether creeping thyme can survive winter, how long it takes to grow and my top tips for planting creeping thyme so it’s as healthy as possible.
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Why Grow Creeping Thyme?
Grow Creeping Thyme for Appearances
Most people grow creeping thyme because it looks nice in their garden. It is a low-growing plant, usually only growing to a couple of inches. It’s very rare that you will see creeping thyme growing more than 3 inches in height.
However, creeping thyme spreads out. It doesn’t grow as quickly as mint, so you don’t have to worry about it taking over your garden, but it does provide a nice ground cover. Most people appreciate the beautiful pink, purple, or white flowers that the plant produces.
If you want to read more about the best thyme for ground cover, click here.
Grow Creeping Thyme for Cooking
Although it’s not as common to use creeping thyme for cooking, it is still possible. Creeping thyme is just as edible as other varieties of thyme, so you might as well use it if you have it at your disposal.
Purchasing fresh thyme from the grocery store can get quite expensive. Even purchasing dried thyme can be expensive. Many people get around this by growing thyme in their garden and then collecting the leaves.
Even if you don’t want to harvest your leaves all the time, that’s okay. Do a large harvest once or twice a year and then preserve the leaves for later. Freezing and drying is a great way to preserve your thyme leaves to keep them fresh for months.
Grow Creeping Thyme for Pests & Pollinators
Another good reason to grow creeping thyme is because of its smell. It has a strong smell that is similar to mint and helps keep pests away.
In addition to that, creeping thyme’s scent successfully draws in good bugs. Bees will flock toward thyme plants. So, if you’re trying to get more pollinators to come to your garden, thyme might be a good solution.
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When To Plant Creeping Thyme
When is the best time to plant creeping thyme? Spring!
Springtime is best to plant creeping time. In spring, the weather is still cool, but it’s also warm. Summer isn’t ideal because it just gets too hot, and fall and winter are often too cold. Thyme will still grow during the fall and summer seasons, but it won’t grow as well.
The springtime months also see an increase in rain. This provides plenty of moisture for your thyme plant to grow. As long as you plant your thyme in well-draining soil, the extra rain will be helpful.
All in all, thyme simply grows faster and healthier in the springtime months so this is the answer to when to plant creeping thyme seeds outdoors.
Can You Plant Creeping Thyme At Other Times Of The Year?
But, maybe you can’t, or don’t want to plant your seeds in the spring. You might be wondering, “when can I plant creeping thyme?”
Although I recommend planting in spring, you can plant throughout the summer months as well. In some climates, you can even plant into early fall. Thyme can be planted after the last frost of spring up to three months before the first frost of fall.
In some climates, this rule gives you a lot of extra time to plant your thyme.
Also, if you’re planting your thyme inside, you are free to plant at any time of the year. Thyme grows best at temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, so it will do really well inside no matter what time of year it is.
Similarly, people who start their seeds inside will usually begin growing their seeds a few weeks before the last projected frost. By doing this, the seeds get their start inside, and they can be moved outside as seedlings at the beginning of spring.
Will Creeping Thyme Survive Winter?
Thyme in general is a fairly cold-hardy plant. Creeping thyme is even more cold hardy. Most thyme can survive in USDA hardiness zones as low as 5. However, creeping thyme can even survive in zone 4.
This means that creeping thyme can survive in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even though your creeping thyme can survive these freezing temperatures, you’ll still want to prepare it for winter. Although creeping thyme is usually tolerant of frost, it can sometimes be susceptible to it.
The best thing you can do for your creeping thyme is to cover its roots with mulch. When the temperature begins to drop, you’re going to cover the roots with 2-3 inches of mulch. The mulch will help keep the soil warm throughout the winter and will prevent the frost from damaging the roots.
To learn more about protecting your creeping thyme throughout the winter months, check out our full article.
How Long Does Creeping Thyme Take To Grow?
Thyme is a pretty slow-growing plant, especially compared to other herbs like mint. If you’re growing creeping thyme from a seed, it can take anywhere from 7 to 21 days for the seed to germinate.
It will take up to a full year for your creeping thyme to completely establish itself. Creeping thyme can keep spreading for as long as you allow it, but it’s really easy to maintain because of how slow it grows.
Many people are fearful of mint because of how quickly it spreads. It’s recommended to keep mint contained to prevent it from spreading too much and taking over your garden.
This isn’t necessary with creeping thyme, though. Because it grows slowly, you can keep it at a decent size just with regular pruning. In fact, it’s recommended to prune it once before the flowers bloom to keep it healthy and at a decent size. Then, you should prune it again after the flowers have bloomed to keep it healthy and get rid of any of the dead material.
Tips For Planting Creeping Thyme
Creeping thyme is a hardy plant and does best when left alone. However, there are some conditions under which it grows best.
Sunlight Guidance for Growing Creeping Thyme
Sunlight is one of the most important things for creeping thyme. Creeping thyme should receive 6-10 hours of full sunlight a day. Any less than that or more than that and the plant will suffer.
Soil Guidance for Growing Creeping Thyme
Another very important thing for creeping thyme is the soil. It needs well-draining soil that is sandy or loamy. This prevents the plant from becoming overwatered.
Water Guidance for Growing Creeping Thyme
Like any plant, creeping thyme needs water to survive, but less is more. It is actually better to underwater your creeping thyme than it is to overwater it.
You’ll only want to water your creeping thyme after the soil has completely dried out. Watering it more than that can cause too much moisture leading to root rot.
Temperature & Humidity Guidance for Growing Creeping Thyme
Creeping thyme is not picky and can grow in almost any kind of temperature or humidity.
Still, it grows best at temperatures of 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit with low to moderate humidity. It is a Mediterranean plant, after all, and is used to warm, dry conditions.
Fertilizer Guidance for Growing Creeping Thyme
Creeping thyme is used to growing in areas with low nutrient content, so fertilizer is not necessary.
However, if you’d like more foliage, you can add a bit of fertilizer, just don’t overdo it or you will harm your plant. Use only a half-strength fertilizer diluted with water.
Companion Plants Guidance for Growing Creeping Thyme
Creeping Thyme does great with other Mediterranean herbs that have similar growing requirements. Some of these herbs include:
The lovely aroma of creeping thyme also does well at deterring nasty pests. Here are some plants it can protect:
- Cabbage — protects from cabbage worms
- Strawberries — creeping thyme protects it from insects, but also encourages pollination from bees
When To Harvest Creeping Thyme
The best time to harvest creeping thyme is before the flowers begin to bloom. Flowers will reduce the essential oils in the leaves of the plant, reducing the overall aroma and taste.
This is very important if you plan to cook or make tea with the leaves. The timeframe for harvesting is usually late spring to the early summer months.
Also, because creeping thyme grows best during the spring and early summer months, it makes sense that this is when you should harvest it.
The best growing time is also the best harvesting time. Creeping thyme is going to taste best when it is growing at its finest.
Time Of Day Harvesting Tips for Creeping Thyme
As for what time of day, it’s recommended that you harvest creeping thyme early in the morning. The morning hours is when the thyme is going to be the most fragrant and have the most essential oils.
Make sure that you harvest on a sunny morning, though. The sun will dry any excess moisture off your leaves before you harvest them. If you’re planning on drying your leaves, you won’t want any moisture left on them.
Harvesting Young Thyme Plants
One thing you need to be cautious about is how soon you’re harvesting your creeping thyme. Creeping thyme doesn’t fully establish itself until about one year of age. You want to avoid harvesting from your plant during this time.
It’s never a good idea to harvest from a plant that is too young. Plants that are pruned while too young may develop problems with growing in the future. If you absolutely need to harvest before your creeping thyme reaches one year of age, make sure not to take too much.
Final Words on When to Plant Creeping Thyme
Creeping thyme is a great plant to grow in your home and your garden. Not only can you use the leaves to cook with, but it helps bring in pollinators, and it looks beautiful. Personally, I think that creeping thyme is nicer than other varieties of thyme because its a spreading plant that can make a large space of your garden look full.
The great thing about creeping thyme is that it’s not difficult to grow at all. It needs lots of sunlight, well-draining soil, and minimal water. You don’t even need to mess with it much because it grows best on its own. If you’re looking for an easy beginner plant, or just a nice addition to your garden, creeping thyme is a great way to go. I hope you have found this guide useful and now know the answer to when should I plant creeping thyme.
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