Best Thyme For Ground Cover [Full Guide]

Ground covering plants are a great option for your garden because they can act as a replacement for grass. Many people prefer ground covers over grass because it looks nicer and requires a lot less work.

Flowering thyme ground cover is one of the best plants to use for ground cover because it’s resilient and colorful. Many of these varieties are even sturdy enough to be walked on!

But, there are so many varieties of ground covering thyme out there. How are you to know which one to choose?

I’m going to cover several of my favorite varieties below. So, if you’re ready to replace your grass with creeping thyme, keep reading to find out which kind is best for you along with tips for how to best plant and grow it.

Why Grow Thyme?

Creeping thyme is great. It has all the benefits of regular thyme, but it stays small so that you can use it as ground cover.

The greatest benefit of thyme is that you can use the leaves in your cooking. It is a nice herb that adds a sweet flavor to your cooking. Creeping thyme is not as frequently used in cooking as other varieties, but it is edible.

Besides that, most creeping thyme smells very nice. Not only is this good to our senses, but it helps attract pollinators to your garden as well as deter pests.

Lastly, thyme just looks really pretty! The leaves come in a variety of greens and the flowers that bloom in summer usually come in whites, pinks, and purples.

Using Thyme As Ground Cover

Creeping thyme comes in so many varieties and colors that make it ideal for ground cover. Not only that, but the plants are very hardy, and can thrive under the harshest conditions.

ground cover thyme plants
Thyme as ground cover

What Can It Be Used For?

Ground covers are great in gardens because they’re versatile and can be used for many things.

You can plant them in big sheets to replace areas of grass. If you don’t want to cover up a large portion of your yard, you can use it for spotting as well. Many people use ground cover to obscure areas where their grass has died.

Some people use them as a border around the yard or garden. They can also create borders around the trunks of trees.

You can plant them between the stones of walkways to be used as an accent. Some people even plant them along stone walls where they cascade down the stone like a waterfall.

Why Creeping Thyme Is An Ideal Ground Cover

Creeping thyme makes a fantastic ground cover because it’s a perennial plant. It will continue to come back year after year. This is especially great if you’re someone who is looking to replace their grass with ground cover.

Not only that, but creeping thyme is a semi-evergreen. This means that it will continue to grow throughout winter, unless you live in an extremely cold place. This means that your yard will continue to look nice through the winter months because the thyme hasn’t died out.

When you’re first planting your ground cover, creeping thyme is nice because it grows relatively quickly.

It’s also very resilient and can handle being stepped on. Again, this is great if you’re replacing your grass with ground cover. It’s also ideal if you have kids or pets that frequently romp through the yard.

Creeping thyme stays short, so it can beautify your yard without taking away from your other plants.

Types Of Thyme Ground Cover

There are so many types of ground-covering thyme, that I couldn’t even list them all here. However, I’ve included some of my favorites.

Annie Hall Thyme Ground Cover

Annie Hall Thyme has small, narrow, dark green leaves. It’s a great plant to go between paving stones or in small areas of your lawn. It blooms in the late spring with flowers that are pale purple or pink in coloration.

This ground cover can be grown in zones 4-9. It will grow about 10 inches tall and about 18 inches wide.

Breckland Thyme Ground Cover

Breckland Thyme has greens leaves that are lanceolate shaped. The leaves are green and very fragrant. The flowers bloom June through August. They are small, shaped in whorls, and are pink or purple in color. The plant will even produce small nuts.

This ground cover can be grown in zones 5-9. It will grow about 2-3 inches tall and about 3-12 inches wide.

Caraway Thyme Ground Cover

Caraway Thyme has leaves that are tiny and pointed. The stems are usually red, which makes this particular ground cover unique. The flowers that bloom are pink, and the plant is very fragrant.

This is one of the ground covers that will grow the quickest, so you should have plenty of space if you plan to add this to your garden.

This ground cover can be grown in zones 5-11. It will grow about 2-4 inches in height and about 14 inches wide.

Doone Valley Thyme Ground Cover

Doone Valley Thyme has foliage that is yellow and green, making it one of the more colorful varieties of creeping thyme ground cover. The plant will bloom in the summer with clusters of pink flowers.

One of the best parts of this variety is its sweet, lemony aroma.

This ground cover can be grown in zones 4-9. It will grow about 3 inches tall and about 18 inches wide.

Dwarf Thyme Ground Cover

Dwarf Thyme has leaves that are small and round. The leaves are a pretty blue-green color. When the plant blooms, you will experience tubular, dark pink flowers. The flowers even smell like lemon.

This ground cover can be grown in zones 4-10. It will grow about 4-6 inches tall and about 18 inches wide.

Elfin Thyme Ground Cover

Elfin Thyme has foliage that is tiny and grayish-green in coloration. The flowers bloom in the late spring to early summer, and the flowers are lavender to pink in coloration.

This ground cover can be grown in zones 4-9. It will grow about 1-3 inches tall and about 12-18 inches wide.

English Thyme Ground Cover

English Thyme has small flowers that are grayish-green in coloration. The flowers will be white or pale purple in coloration.

This ground cover can be grown in zones 5-9. It is one of the taller ground cover thymes because it can grow up to 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide.

Highland Cream Thyme Ground Cover

Highland Cream Thyme is one of the most stunning ground covers. The foliage is variegated with small green leaves that have a creamy white margin. The flowers will bloom in late spring to early summer with flowers that are whitish pink in coloration and shaped like spikes.

One of the best things about this ground cover is that the foliage has a strong citrus scent.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 4-9. It will grow about 1-2 inches tall and about 8-12 inches wide.

Lemon Thyme Ground Cover

Lemon Thyme looks a lot like English Thyme. The foliage is elliptical and lance-shaped, and is also very small. During the summer, two-lipped flowers will bloom that are the color of lilacs.

The difference between Lemon Thyme and English Thyme is that Lemon Thyme smells strongly of lemon. It also tastes quite different.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 5-9. It will grow about 6-12 inches tall and about 12-18 inches wide.

Leprechaun Thyme Ground Cover

Leprechaun Thyme is named as such because the leaves are very small and the stems are very short. It also grows very slowly, which adds to its small nature. The flowers are petite as well and are scattered in bunches around the plant. They are light pink in coloration.

This plant also has a sweet, lemony aroma.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 5-11. This is one of the smallest ground covers because it only grows to 1/4-1/2 of an inch, but it can grow to about 12 inches in width.

Mother Of Thyme Ground Cover

Mother Of Thyme is a red thyme ground cover. It is one of the most beautiful forms of thyme ground cover. The flowers are a deep and vibrant red that stand out against dark green leaves.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 4-9. It will grow about 3 inches tall and about 18 inches wide.

Pink Thyme Ground Cover (Pink Chintz)

Pink creeping thyme ground cover grows quite flat. The foliage is tiny, fuzzy, and grayish-green in coloration. The flowers will bloom in early summer and are light pink in coloration.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 4-9. It will grow about 1-2 inches tall and about 18-24 inches wide.

Purple Thyme Ground Cover (Purple Carpet)

Purple Carpet Thyme has foliage that is round and dark green. During blooming season, the flowers are a lavender color and completely cover the plant.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 3-9. It will grow about 2 inches in height and about 18 inches wide.

Silver Needle Thyme Ground Cover

Silver Needle Thyme has foliage that is greenish-silver in coloration. The Needle-like shape of the leaves makes the leaves look hard to the touch, but they’re actually quite soft. The flowers will bloom in spring and are a dark lilac color.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 5-8. It will grow about 6-12 inches in height and about 9-12 inches wide.

Spicy Orange Thyme Ground Cover

The foliage is needle-shaped, small, and dark green. The flowers bloom in the early to mid summer with spiked flowers that are lavender-pink in coloration.

The best part of this plant is its spicy scent that smells like spiced citrus.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 4-9. It will grow about 2-3 inches tall and about 10-12 inches wide.

White Moss Thyme Ground Cover

White Moss Thyme has foliage that is tiny and light green in coloration. The flowers will bloom in early to mid summer and are snow white.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 2-9. It will grow about 2 inches tall and about 16 inches wide.

Wooly Thyme Ground Cover

Wooly Thyme has foliage that is a dusty grayish-green coloration. The foliage is furry in texture which is where it gets its name from. The flowers bloom in early to mid summer and are pink in coloration.

This ground cover can be planted in zones 5-8. It will grow about 1-2 inches tall and about 12-24 inches wide.

Best Thyme For Ground Cover

Personally, my favorite creeping thyme for ground cover is the Highland Cream Thyme. It is an incredibly beautiful plant with it’s whitish pink flowers and variegated leaves.

It is a short plant, only growing up to 2 inches, but it can spread out to 12 inches wide. This creates great matting that will be great ground cover for your yard.

One of the best parts of this plant is the strong citrusy smell. Not only will it help your garden smell lovely, but it will attract pollinators and repel pests.

When To Plant Creeping Thyme Ground Cover

The best time to plant creeping thyme is in the late spring after the last frost. Spring and summer is the ideal growing season for thyme. This is when the plant is in active growth and appears the healthiest.

However, creeping thyme is a very hardy plant, so it can be planted later as well. It can be planted up to 3 months before the first frost of fall. If you live somewhere warm where frost comes late in the season, this opens up a lot of extra time for you to plant your thyme.

How To Best Plant Ground Cover Thyme

If you’re using creeping thyme ground cover seeds, they can be started inside or outside. If you begin the seeds inside, you’ll want to start them about 5-8 weeks before the first frost.

To learn more about propagating thyme seeds, check out this article.

If you’re planting your creeping thyme outside — whether you’re planting thyme ground cover seeds, seedlings, or a juvenile plant — there are a few things you’ll want to do.

  • Remove all weeds from the soil and evenly shape the planting area
  • Water the soil several times before planting to allow it to settle — soil should not be fluffy
  • Decide on spacing — this depends on how much ground you want covered and how quickly — but you want your plants to be at least 12-18 inches apart

How To Maintain Thyme For Ground Cover

Creeping thyme is very hardy and resilient, but there are still things you can do to help it grow its best:

  • Sunlight: 6-10 hours of full sun every day
  • Soil: well-draining sandy or loamy soil
  • Water: minimal water — only water after soil has dried out
  • Temperature: Can withstand most temperatures, but does best in 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Humidity: Can withstand humidity, but does best in low to moderate humidity
  • Fertilizer: Not necessary, but half-strength fertilizer can encourage growth

Final Tips

The most important thing to remember about any kind of thyme is that it does best with minimal involvement.

Provide it with lots of sunlight, well-draining soil, and minimal water and it will do just fine. The more you mess with it, the more it seems to struggle, so give it a chance to thrive on its own.

Final Words

If you’re looking for a ground cover to replace the grass in your yard, or even just to create accents, I really recommend ornamental thyme ground cover. It is incredibly resilient and easy to care for.

It benefits the other plants in your garden. And best yet, it’ll beautify your garden for years to come.

Want to learn more? Click here to find out whether creeping thyme spreads and here for the best soil for thyme. You can also find all my guides to growing thyme here.