Creeping Thyme Problems

When we first redid the landscape along the back of the house, we included a small stone walkway to get to the spigot.  It was a full sun location, and needed to take some light foot traffic.  We settled on Creeping Thyme.

Creeping Thyme

I thought it was no maintenance, but over the years it become more ingrown with grass and full of woody stems.  These plants look NOTHING like it’s supposed to.  I’ll put this in the truly embarrassing category.

Creeping Thyme

The only way I know of to really keep the grass out is to keep a clean cut edge with the lawn and pull it as soon as you see it sprouting.  You need to get right down to the roots, otherwise you’ve just “cut” the grass.  That means pulling back the thyme and getting under it to get the whole grass shoot. Rather tedious, but easier to do early rather then later.

The woody stem issue is something easier to deal with.  It simply requires some attention each spring.  After the first year, the plants can be lightly pruned back, about 1/3 max.  This keep the plants rejuvenated and full.  Be careful to cut above the new growth, or it will not regrow.  Cutting is also better than trying to pull out the dead, woody parts.  The plants have fairly shallow roots and you just end up ripping everything out.

Before:

Creeping Thyme

After:

Creeping Thyme

This is what it looks like now.

Creeping Thyme

I have a feeling this is going to be a multi-year process.  We’ll see how it looks in a couple of weeks.  If still looking peaked after a few weeks, I may need to add some fresh plants and chalk it up to a learning experience.  If it does seem healthy, I may be able to divide the plants and make new clumps.  You can also do this if the plant has become too woody in the center (oldest growth) and you want the outer, younger growth to grow unimpeded.

Overall, I think is still the best plant for the location, it just takes a little bit of care and attention.  No matter how it looks, it smells wonderful to work with and walk on!

What is your experience with Creeping Thyme?

Update: Check out what the creeping thyme looked a year later in this more recent blog post–August, Oops, September Garden Update 

Another Update: Still looking great but needs the infiltrating grass needs some attention —Creeping Thyme Update

6 responses to “Creeping Thyme Problems

  1. My experience is it died on me. I may have put it where there was too much shade, but I was also trying to get it to grow between stepping stones. I have a patch of thyme in my vegetable plot that is quite happy, however.

    • It really needs a sunny and dry location. Mine is about 10 years old. It looked great for many years, so I’m sure the location is fine. Just needed some tending along the way.

  2. Hi Stephie ~ Thanks for commenting on my blog Rosemary, Lavender and Thyme. This post on creeping thyme is really interesting to me, as I was thinking of planting some in a stone walkway that I have. I think I’ll wait and see how yours turns out before I try. Thanks so much for sharing this. 🙂

    • Thanks for visiting! As I mentioned, for many years the creeping thyme grew just fine and looked great. I wish I had known it needed just a little attention and it wouldn’t look like it does now. If the space you have is sunny and will only have light foot traffic, I’d use it.

  3. I live in central Alberta and use creeping thyme in the front garden where nothing else wants to grow. It definitely likes a sunny spot. It grows wonderfully, it gets very tall and seems to be overgrown but I’ve found a quick lawn mower over it every few years then racking up the cuttings works amazing. I have found ground nesters like Junco love to nestle inside the long creepers making bowls in the ground. Tiny orange butterflies seem to like it too

    • I used to be gentle with it, but I think it grows better with some hefty trimming to help refresh it. Running a lawnmower over it sounds perfect if it’s a pretty large area and I agree it’s really hardy in the right spot. I haven’t seen junco’s in mine, but the butterflies do like the blossoms. The scent is also a treat when it’s walked on.

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