Content Detail

While thyme is usually thought of as an herb, this species is used as a ground cover, rather than for cooking. Well-drained soil is a must for this plant.

  • Family (English) Mint
  • Family (botanic) Lamiaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Perennial
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Low-growing plant (under 6 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Dry soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest midwinter, early spring, mid spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Purple
  • Shape or form Creeping
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and method of spreading:

Mother-of-thyme is a very low-growing, trailing-root ground cover, seldom growing higher than 3 or 4 inches. Trailing-rooting ground covers have trailing stems that spread out horizontally from a central root system. They can root where they come in contact with the soil and new shoots will be formed at the point where rooting occurs.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Mother-of-thyme is native to Europe and Asia.

Leaf description:

The opposite leaves are hairy and very tiny (1/4″) and range gray-green to blue-green in color. Leaves can be semi-evergreen in mild winters.

Flower description:

It has upright clusters of tiny fragrant pink-purple flowers covering the plant from June through September.

Fruit descriptions:

The fruit are small nutlets and are not ornamentally important.

Plant care:

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

List of pests and diseases:

Slugs can be a problem. In wet sites, root rot can occur. It is resistant to deer.

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

Elfin mother-of-time (Thymus serphyllum ‘Elfin’):

This is a dwarf cultivar.

Pink Chintz mother-of-time (Thymus serphyllum ‘Pink Chintz’):

A dwarf cultivar with salmon-pink flowers.

Wooly mother-of-time (Thymus serphyllum ‘Lanuginosus’):

It has fuzzy leaves and seldom produces flowers.


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