Does Creeping Thyme Grow In Shade?

Are you interested in planting Creeping Thyme as ground cover for their beautiful flowers and aromatic scent? You may be wondering if they will thrive well under the shade of your garden trees and tall shrubs. It is a good thing we have researched the answer for you.

Creeping Thyme does not grow well in the shade. It prefers full sun and may tolerate a little shade but will turn woody in fully shaded areas. 

Now that we have answered that question, you may decide to use them in your garden and know how to plant them, what varieties are the best to plant, and also find out about alternatives for shady areas. Read on as we give you the answers to these questions.

Does Creeping Thyme Grow In Shade?

History and Uses of Creeping Thyme

Thymus serpyllum purple flowers closeup, Does Creeping Thyme Grow In Shade?

Creeping Thyme originated in the Mediterranean, where the Greeks and Romans cultivated culinary varieties and used them in cooking for their aroma. They were also used by both cultures as incense for religious purposes and by the Egyptians to embalm their dead. During the Middle Age, they were placed under pillows to ward off nightmares.

Most varieties of Creeping Thyme have aromatic scents like their culinary cousins and have been used as ornamental ground cover. They retain soil moisture and prevent weeds from growing as a ground cover. They are also used as border edging and in between pavers and garden paths. A final benefit of Creeping Thyme is that they attract pollinators.

Can You Cook With Creeping Thyme?

It is possible to cook with Creeping Thyme since they are edible and have an aroma. However, picking enough for cooking will be laborious as they are not easy to harvest, and the stems tend to break off when the leaves are stripped. If you do intend to try, the best time to harvest will be in the morning, just after the dew has dried. 

How Do You Plant Creeping Thyme?

Breckland thyme, wild thyme

Creeping Thyme requires full sun and frequent watering when they are not yet established. They should be planted in well-draining, neutral to alkaline soil and may be paired with Lavender, Sage, or Rosemary. They thrive well in raised beds. Most varieties will grow in USDA Hardiness Zone 5 to 9 but do not like overly wet or hot conditions. Finally, be sure to add organic compost when planting to help it establish. 

Check out this Organic Compost from Amazon.

Planting By Seed

You can plant them either by sowing seeds or plant starts. To seed, you may first germinate and grow them into seedlings indoors or in a greenhouse. It takes 7 to 21 days for the seed to germinate using organic potting soil. Sprinkle the seeds and lightly cover to 1/16th of an inch in depth, maintaining constant moisture until germinated.

You can thin 2 to 3 seedlings per container as they grow and are ready to plant as soon as they establish roots and have grown 2 inches in height. Make sure to acclimate the seedlings first to harden before planting outdoors. You can do this by exposing them outside and increasing their exposure by an hour daily.

Check out these Seedling Trays from Amazon.

Sowing Direct 

To sow directly, prepare the planting area by removing any weeds that compete for nutrients with the seed. Make sure that the soil is well draining and aerated. You can do this by either loosening the soil and/or amending it with compost. 

Once prepared you can start scattering the seeds or planting them in rows 12 inches apart. Plant them at 1/16th of an inch deep. Once planted, water them, ensuring that the water is sprayed and not concentrated on preventing the water from washing the seeds away. The important thing to remember is to keep the soil constantly moist until they are established.

Planting by Seedling or Transplanting

Plant nursery seedlings in spring, spacing them 8 to 12 inches apart. Make sure that the hole fits the entire root ball and that the surface soil reaches the base of the plant. Water regularly as soon as the plant is established. Once established you can cut back on watering.

What Variety of Creeping Thyme Should You Plant?

Creeping Thyme is considered "the Mother of All Thyme", and out of more than 300 types of Thyme, there are several that may be properly called Creeping Thyme. Here are some excellent varieties you may choose from:

Pink Chintz

This popular low-growing Creeping Thyme is considered a dwarf variety. It has small, rounded "wooly" dark green leaves that contrast with salmon-pink-colored flowers. This variety attracts a lot of bees, having sweet nectar.

Arctic flowers close up tundra view

Purple Carpet 

This is a mounding, ground-hugging variety with small dark green leaves and bright mauve-purple flowers. Another popular variety is because of its fragrant dainty flowers.

Purple blooming thyme

Mediterranean Creeping Thyme

Not to be confused with Pink Chintz, this Creeping Thyme produces deep pink flowers that form in big clusters. Mediterranean Creeping Thyme grows up to 18 inches. Another great attractant for butterflies and bees.

Thyme, (thymus vulgaris).

Caraway Thyme

This variety has pointed leaves on red stems. It is a spreader and is known for its fragrant caraway scent.

Macrophotography, Bee on a flower of caraway thyme (Thymus Herba Barona) on a sunny day.

Wooly Thyme

This Creeping Thyme, also known as Monrovia, is known for its ability to withstand hot, sunny locations. It got its name because it is known as the woolliest of Creeping Thymes. 

Thymus lanuginosus Woolly Thyme garden groundcover plant

Breckland Thyme 

Also known as Wild Thyme is a flowering plant native to Europe and North Africa. The flowering parts may be used as medicine for respiratory, kidney, and blood circulation problems. It has oval evergreen leaves with pink-purple, magenta, lilac, or white flowers.

Wild Thyme or Creeping Thyme. typical alpine plant. Spice. thymus serpyllum.

What Can You Plant Next To Creeping Thyme?

Creeping Thyme may choke out other plants, so you must know what companion plants they like to grow with. You can plant them in front of taller Mediterranean herbs such as Lavender, Rosemary, or Sage. They can also grow with other herbs such as Dill, Oregano, Bay, and Parsley.

How Fast Does Creeping Thyme Grow?

The speed of growth of Creeping Thyme will depend on the variety. However, as a general rule, Creeping Thyme grows slowly in its first year and speeds up growth in its second year.

What is The Shortest Growing Creeping Thyme?

Serpyllum Elfin is considered the shortest-growing Creeping Thyme. It grows no more than 1 to 2 inches in height. Like other Creeping Thyme, it has a fragrant smell and will have either purple or pink flowers.

Can You Walk on Creeping Thyme?

You can walk on Creeping Thyme, which is considered a hardy plant that requires less water than traditional grass turfs. This is why many gardeners choose to replace grass turfs with Creeping Thyme because it is drought resistant and because you can plant different varieties to add to its aesthetics.

What Ground Cover Can Grow In Shade?

Now that you know Creeping Thyme will not grow well in the shade, you may want to find alternatives for ground cover, especially in garden areas with shady trees. 

The following alternatives may be used in shady areas:

Yellow Archangel

 Lamium Galeobdolon - Yellow Archangel

Also known as Artillery Plant, Aluminum Plant, or Yellow Weasel-Snout, this wildflower is common in Europe and has been introduced as a garden plant.


White bunchberry flowers in the Pacific Northwest. More Pacific Northwest Images

Also called Canadian Bunchberry, Crackerberry, Creeping Dogwood, and Quatre-Temps. It is a creeping perennial herb of the Dogwood family. It produces small yellow flowers that are surrounded by four large white-colored bracts that in turn produce clusters of red fruit.

Sweet Woodruff

sweet woodruff - blossoms

Another term for Sweet-scented Bedstraw, this flowering perennial plant is native to Europe, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and the Caucasus. It grows well in shady areas and is widely cultivated for its sweet-smelling foliage. Because of this, the plant is widely used when dried as potpourri and as a moth deterrent.

Bishop's Hat 

Barrenwort (Bishop's hat)

It is sometimes called Barrenwort, Fairy Wings, or Horny Goat Weed. This plant is endemic to China and parts of Asia and the Mediterranean. They are long-lived, low-growing perennial foliage with delicate spring flowers.

Creeping Juniper 

Top view of a decorative juniper that grows surrounded by white stones.

Also known as Creeping Cedar, this is a low-growing juniper native to North America and most of Canada. It has plume-like branches that spread and are colored blue-green in summer, changing to a plum-colored tint in winter.

Ice Plant 

Trailing Ice Plant close up

Also known as Carpet weed, this plant is a hardy, succulent, perennial ground cover known for its daisy-like flowers. It has tiny hairs that reflect light creating the illusion of frost or ice-crystal shimmer. This plant comes in several varieties with colors ranging from purple, yellow, white, and pink colored flowers.


Creeping Thyme is an exceptional hardy ground cover that adds color and aroma to your garden. Because it is drought resistant, it can be an attractive replacement for traditional grass turf.

However, if you are looking for its flower blooms it will not grow well in shade. Because of this, you may choose the listed alternatives that will thrive under the canopy of your garden trees.

Finally, before we part ways, you may be interested in reading these other related articles from

Gladiolus Vs Hollyhock: Which To Choose?

When And How To Transplant Hellebores?


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