Thymus - Thyme @CSUtilXeriscapeGarden 9Aug2006 LAH202r-1APPEARANCE

This common thyme is a green foliage plant that grows 12-15 inches high and up to 2 feet wide with purple, white or pink flowers.  Although used for cooking, this variety is not reliably hardy over the winter. It is an attractive plant and worth considering for your garden. Your choices for thyme include many scented varieties as well as the creeping thymes that form wonderful groundcovers.


Thyme vulgaris requires 10-12 inches of spacing between plants, low to moderate water and well drained soil. It will tolerate dry conditions in full sun to partial shade in Zones 5-9. To prevent unattractive winter dieback, site in locations with good snow cover during the winter. Alternatively, water monthly during the winter.

Thyme comes in upright and prostrate forms and is considered non-aggressive. It may be started from stem cuttings or by dividing another plant. Harvest the aerial parts for cooking. Other reasons to grow thyme are to deter cabbage worms and encourage bees to visit.


This standard kitchen herb is rarely browsed by deer. Depending o the variety, thyme is useful as a creeper between stepping stones or as a turf substitute in some landscapes where foot traffic is light. This plant blooms profusely in early summer but does not compete with other plants.

Contributed by Nadine Salmons, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or

Photo courtesy of  Leslie Holzmann.

Q: I have an area with creeping thyme planted as a ground cover next to my lawn, and the grass is growing into the ground cover. How can I stop this from happening?

A: The bluegrass that most of us have in our lawns is a tenacious spreader and will generally out compete other ground covers if steps are not taken to physically separate the two areas. It will take some time and effort to change your situation. Here are some suggestions:

– First, make sure your the site where the thyme is growing meets its requirement for full sun. If not, consider using a ground cover more appropriate to the area so that it can grow as vigorously as possible.

– Next, take a look at how these areas are being watered. If they are getting the same amount of water and that amount is enough to keep the bluegrass green, consider changing your irrigation practices to water them separately, and water the ground cover less than the grass. Many groundcovers, such as sedum, creeping thymes, and vinca, require much less water than bluegrass, and they are perfect choices for using drip or soaker irrigation. The grass will not be as tempted to spread to a less frequently irrigated area. If the two areas are already watered separately, check and adjust sprinkler heads in the grass area so that they are not overspraying into the groundcover, and try reducing the irrigation in the ground cover. (more…)