Red Creeping Thyme: Fact, Caring and Growing

‘Thymus praecox Coccineus’ or red creeping thyme is one of the many woody-stemmed perennial varieties of the plant ‘Thymus’ or thyme. It’s a pretty and prolific plant that adds a pop of color and lots of ground cover in driveways and gardens.

This hardy and low-growing thyme variety are well-known for its stunning and aromatic magenta-red flowers, making it an excellent ground accent. Red creeping thyme, like most thyme varieties, is easy to maintain and stays attractive all season.

If you’re thinking of adding this colorful plant to your garden, here’s everything you need to know about the red creeping thyme and how to take care of it.

Red Creeping Thyme Plant Profile

  • Other Names: coccineus, creeping thyme, mother of thyme
  • Plant Type: herbaceous perennial plant
  • Native Area: Southern Europe
  • Plant height: 2-4 inches
  • Plant Spread: 12 inches
  • Spacing: 16 inches
  • Flower Colors: pink shades, red shades
  • Foliage Color: green shades
  • Maintenance Category: easy
  • Bloom Time: Early summer, midsummer
  • Attracts Wings: butterflies
  • Critter Resistant: deer
  • Other Plant Features: drought-tolerant, salt-tolerant, fragrant foliage, fragrant flowers

How to Grow Red Creeping Thyme

As part of the thyme family, the red creeping thyme has the same pleasant herbaceous smell. You can easily notice it when you’re nearby this plant, but it has an undeniably spicy smell when you crush the leaves.

Although it’s a hardy plant, growing red creeping thyme in its preferred conditions helps it stay attractive year after year.

Soil

As it is a highly tolerant perennial plant, you won’t have a lot of problems when choosing the best soil type for planting red creeping thyme.

However, creeping thyme, including the red variety, grows best in neutral soil or slightly alkaline soil. You can plant red creeping thyme in fertile soil, but like other herbs and thyme varieties, this perennial isn’t too picky when it comes to soil fertility requirements. Red creeping thyme will still strive when planted on average soil and can even tolerate poor soils, like most herb plants.

Soil pH and fertility are not a major concern when planting red creeping thyme. However, it will appreciate good drainage.

Red creeping thyme grows best in well-draining soil, especially when potted, as this plant is susceptible to root rot when planted in a too-moist soil. Forget about wet clay when planting this perennial. Instead, choose loose, sandy, or even rocky soil, or well-draining loam soil.

If you’re planting the red creeping thyme as a ground cover on moist soil, you can add sand or gravel around its base to prevent root rot.

Sun

Red creeping thyme, among other thyme varieties, is a sun-loving herb. It prefers dryer climates and grows extremely well when planting under full sun.

Although red creeping thyme will do alright in shaded areas, you can get the most out of this thyme variety when planted in a sunny spot.

Water

Watering is often a problem when it comes to plants but like most thyme varieties, you won’t have any problem with red creeping thyme. It’s a drought-tolerant herb plant, so you’ll most probably be okay if you forgot to water it once in a while.

However, it’s important to keep the red creeping thyme watered adequately until they are more established. Keep the roots moist without them sitting in water.

Once established, the challenge is not to overwater your red creeping thyme to avoid root rot. If you planted it in well-draining soil, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Fertilizer

Any herb plant will thrive well in well-prepared soil, but you don’t need to stress about feeding your red creeping thyme unless your soil is poor. In that case, you can use delayed-release fertilizers or whatever general plant food you often use in your garden.

If you do decide to fertilize your red creeping thyme, it’s best to do it early in the summer before the plant starts its growing season.

Red Creeping Thyme Maintenance

The beauty about red creeping thyme is it requires little to no maintenance. If you’re using it as ground cover, you can skip on the mower. However, once the blooming season ends and those beautiful and colorful flowers dries, you might want to remove the dead flowers.

When planting red creeping thyme around other plants, it might need a little upkeep as it spreads rapidly and can creep around nearby plants’ roots. You can prune the stems invading the space of your other herns and plants. Trimming them once or twice per season should be enough.

Also, when the foliage starts to look rough and leaves fall, you might want to trim off any affected areas. These problems usually happen when you plant red creeping thyme in a humid area, but trimming the damaged stems and improving air circulation between the plant stem and the soil should take care of it.

Planting Red Creeping Thyme

Start transplanting red creeping thyme late in the spring or early summer, as long as you’re sure there’s no risk of frost. This way, the plant has ample time to root sufficiently so it can survive the winter season into the next spring.

How to Propagate Red Creeping Thyme

Red creeping thyme is available in many local garden stores, especially during planting season. You can buy it in small potted cuttings or plugs. You can also find creeping thyme seeds in select garden stores or online.

If you already have established red creeping thyme in your garden, you can propagate it through cuttings. Here’s how to propagate this thyme cultivar.

  1. Take a cutting from a thriving stem around late spring or early summer.
  2. Pluck out the leaves at the bottom or up to the third of the stem.
  3. Plant the cuttings in a planting tray with your growing medium. You can also dip it in rooting hormone powder before planting it into the soil.
  4. Keep the cutting moist until it’s time to transplant them. You make cover the planting tray with plastic to help retain moisture, but place it in an area where it can get at least four hours of sun.

Rooting your cuttings should take a couple of weeks, and you can test it by pulling on the stem gently. If the cutting resists, it’s already grown roots and now ready for transplanting.

Tips When Planting/Transplanting Red Creeping Thyme

  • Moisten the soil before transplanting red creeping thyme, whether you are planting seeds or plugs.
  • If planting with seeds, scatter it evenly all over our preferred area and cover it with a thin layer of well-draining soil.
  • If transplanting plugs, dig out enough space to house the size of plugs you have, drop the seedling into the hole, then firm in the soil around the plant roots.
  • When transplanting plugs, plant them in staggered rows, around 18 inches to two feet apart. This way, the plants have ample space to spread out nicely instead of giving off a patchy look.
  • Although thyme is pretty drought-tolerant, it’s important to add extra care to your newly planted red creeping thyme. Make sure the soil remains moist in the early weeks after planting, but avoid getting the soil too soggy.

How to Prepare Red Creeping Thyme for Winter

Preparing red creeping thyme for winter will depend on your location. In most cases, this plant will remain evergreen. In some instances, some stems might die and the plants will lose some of their leaves through the winter but should get back to normal as soon as spring comes.

There is no reed to prune the red creeping thyme for winter, but if you want to preserve as much of it, you can cover the plant with thin sand or gravel. However, when doing this, ensure that the area has ample drainage to avoid rotting.

Red Creeping Thyme Uses

Red creeping thyme is well-known for its abundant, stunning rose flowers, especially during its blooming season early to mid-summer. Its round leaves are also attractively fragrant and remain dark green all year round.

Besides the impressive combination of its evergreen leaves and vibrant, colorful leaves, red creeping thyme is also a dense herbaceous plant with an excellent ground-hugging habit. It can bring a delicate burst of color and fine texture that fits any garden composition, and you can benefit from using this plant to its full effect.

Red creeping thyme is best recommended for landscape applications like:

  • Groundcover
  • Border edging
  • Fillers between stepping stones
  • Grass alternative
  • Weed control
  • Fragrant plant for aromatic or scent gardens

Planting red creeping thyme in your garden can also help resist deer and rabbits. It’s also a great perennial plant to attract bees in your garden, especially during summer mornings, to help facilitate pollination.

Can You Cook Red Creeping Thyme?

Red creeping thyme, like other creeping thyme cultivars, is famous as ground covers and not often harvested. However, like other thyme varieties, red creeping thyme is edible and you can use it as a culinary herb or make it into teas, and as an herbal component in folk medicine.

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