Grow Red Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecox): Pink Ground Cover Plant Tips

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | February 20, 2024

Man standing in front of a brick wall looking at the ground covered in red creeping thyme (thymus praecox) and wonders if there is a guide to growing pink ground cover and how to identify creeping thyme leaves and flowers.

Red Creeping Thyme is an ornamental floral groundcover plant that is also valued as a culinary herb and fragrance.

This plant is prized for its use as a floral groundcover blanket on yards, lawns, and landscapes.

Red Creeping Thyme flowers are iconic for their attention-grabbing hues of red,8 magenta, reddish pink, pink, deep crimson, and purple. In fact, the evergreen shrub produces very hardy flowers that can withstand regular but light foot traffic.

And they release a pleasant fragrance when walked on!

Not only does it look stunning, this plant is an excellent solution for controlling erosion and helping pollinate nearby trees and flowers.

Red Creeping Thyme is a great choice as a floral lawn cover. Once you walk by or on a purple or crimson-colored floral ground blanket as a walkway, you will never forget the experience.

This guide to Red Creeping Thyme explains everything you need to know about cultivating this beautiful ground cover plant, as well as growing locations and care tips to keep your looking its best.

Benefits of Red Creeping Thyme

You can get many benefits from planting Red Creeping Thyme shrubbery on your landscape or property.

  • Use as an alternative to green grass lawns which use too much water
  • Grow your own Thyme herbs
  • Ornamental and floral landscape design
  • Able to withstand drought conditions
  • Useful for erosion control strategies
  • Shrubs are powerful carbon-sequestration engines.
  • Pleasantly aromatic flowers
  • Use the flowers to make essentials oils or disinfectant.
  • A proven pollinator that attracts the notice of butterflies and bees
  • Proven to deter wildlife

The undeniable benefits of owning a Red Creeping Thyme landscape or garden will be proven to you in this guide.

Red Creeping Thyme: 101

Red Creeping Thyme is a shrub that is very adept at self-propagation. Many experts view Red Creeping Thyme more as a weed than as an herb.

Its ability to grow and sprawl horizontally means that it can become an invasive plant and very difficult to remove.

Its leaves can be dark green in color or a beautiful hue of greenish blue. Additionally, the leaves are covered in fine, fuzzy, and tiny hair-like protuberances.

Its magnificently colored flowers are small and tube-shaped. The flowers can be primarily crimson, reddish pink, or purple in color.

Red Creeping Thyme shrubbery grows horizontally and hugs close to the ground like a floral mat, so it usually does not grow taller than six inches, and it is this particular growth aspect that allows it to aesthetically resemble a floral mat on the ground as it grows.

Related Reading: Identify Weeds By Photo: 117 Common Weeds by Photo

Red Creeping Thyme

(Thymus praecox)

Red Creeping Thyme in oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Genus: Thymus praecox, which is sometimes interchangeably referred to as Thymus serpyllum
  • Leaf: Glossy-textured ovate leaf that is usually green or greenish-blue in color
  • Seed: Self-spreads and propagates its own seeds as grows horizontally
  • Blossoms: Spring or early summer
  • Native Habitat: Europe and the Mediterranean
  • Type: Evergreen

Red Creeping Thyme is a creeping and very fragrant herbaceous shrub. It usually grows to a height ranging anywhere between three to six inches.

The plant gains its “creeping,” moniker due to the fact that its stems grow out horizontally.

As Red Creeping Thyme grows and expands outward, it covers the ground in a mat or blanket of low-laying and beautifully hued flowers. Red Creeping Thyme visually looks like it is slowly creeping in movement as it grows.

This shrub is usually grown for its aesthetic attributes as a decorative ground-cover floral blanket and grass alternative.

It is especially fragrant too – depending on the species it may have a lemony or oregano-like scent. Although Red Creeping Thyme is edible, it is not usually grown for use as an herb or for culinary purposes.

Although Red Creeping Thyme is originally native to Europe and nearby regions, species variants of the plant are also native to Eastern and Northwestern North America.

Red Creeping Thyme is evergreen, but it is also a perennial herbaceous plant.9 In much colder climates the plant actually dies, retreats into the soil, and then grows again anew from the soil in the spring.

Your Red Creeping Thyme could live for a year or two, die, and withdraw into its root system in the soil, and then reanimate itself and grow back.

Thymus praecox Native Origins

Red Creeping Thyme is native to Europe, the Mediterranean, Turkey, and Greenland. No one knows the exact origins of the plant’s etymology, or how its name was coined.10

The word, “Thyme,” may be derived from the ancient Greek word, “thumos.” It may have meant, “courage.”

Closeup of Red Creeping Thyme showing lavender-colored flowers blooming at the end of stem.

(Image: Wälz20)

However, experts are not sure. The herb thyme may have been a ubiquitous symbol of bravery and courage in the ancient past.

But thyme may also have been coined from the Greek word, “thymos.” Thymos means, “perfume,” since thyme is very aromatic and prized as a culinary spice.

The mystery deepens further. Red Creeping Thyme’s species classification, praecox, is an ancient Latin term that roughly translates to the phrase, “very early.”

No one knows for sure, but it could be a reference to how Red Creeping Thyme usually blooms early in spring or summer.

Red Creeping Thyme Scientific and Alternative Names

Red Creeping Thyme’s official scientific genus name Thymus praecox.11 It is sometimes also called Thymus serpyllum, which is another closely related species.

Red Creeping Thyme is in the Lamiaceae family tree.12 That means that it is related to sage, Dead Nettle, and even mint.

Red Creeping Thyme is sometimes called Wild Thyme, Mother of Thyme, or Creeping Thyme.

Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’ (Red or Pink Creeping Thyme)

There are many cultivar variants of Red Creeping Thyme.1 A cultivar is a selectively bred part of a plant.

Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’ is a cultivar of Red Creeping Thyme that is desired for its deep pink colored flowers.

How To Identify Red Creeping Thyme

Red Creeping Thyme typically resembles a floral mat or ground blanket of beautifully colored flowers.

It’s fairly easy to identify when in bloom, but there are other clues that you can use as well.

Red Creeping Thyme identification chart showing full-grown Red Creeping Thyme with average height range, Red Creeping Thyme leaf, Red Creeping Thyme flower, and Red Creeping Thyme stem images in circle frames on a green background.

Here are some characteristics and descriptions of the different parts of the Red Creeping Thyme.

Red Creeping Thyme Leaves

Red Creeping Thyme leaves are relatively small and egg-shaped. When it comes to the color they are usually green or a greenish-blue hue.

The leaves have a glossy sheen aesthetic and texture. They are also covered in tiny, fuzzy hairs.

Red Creeping Thyme Flower

The aromatic flowers that bloom on Red Creeping Thyme are tubed-shaped. And they can be purple, pink, red, or some similar hue.

Red Creeping Thyme flowers typically flourish early in spring or the summer.

Red Creeping Thyme Seeds

Red Creeping Thyme self-propagates easily and in a pest-like or nuisance manner if you are not prepared for it. As it grows horizontally and sprawls outward, it spreads its seeds.

Pollinating types of bees and foraging small animals also spread Red Creeping Thyme seeds further out.

It is difficult to eradicate. You would have to dig it up to get rid of it, and that act will only spread its seeds after removal.

The use of an organic herbicide might be required to prevent continued growth.

How To Plant Red Creeping Thyme

Most people plant Red Creeping Thyme as a decorative groundcover floral mat for their lawn or landscape. Red Creeping Thyme is extremely low maintenance.

It requires well-draining soil but you don’t water it too much.

Although it may not be the best idea, you could certainly plant Red Creeping Thyme in less-than-ideal or lousy soil conditions. As long as it is planted in well-draining soil and has six hours of sunlight, it will grow.

Red Creeping Thyme will even grow when planted in rocky gravel.2

Is Red Creeping Thyme Invasive?

Yes. The way that its stems and roots grow out horizontally in a creeping sprawl makes it an invasive weed if you plant it in the wrong location.

You should be 100% certain before planting Creeping Thyme. It’s extremely hard to eradicate it afterward.

However, its horizontal growing stems and roots grow outwards exponentially. To get rid of Red Creeping Thyme, you will have to find and completely dig up the rootball and complete root system.

Still, doing this could cause Red Creeping Thyme seeds to spread out even further as you dig it up.

To ensure you don’t deal with the plant growing again sooner than later. You may need to spread an organic herbicide around the area you dig up.

Red Creeping Thyme does not share resources well with other plants, so be sure to plant them away from other species.

Also, remember that Red Creeping Thyme is a perennial. It can live for 12 to 24 months, die in cold weather, withdraw into its root system, and regrow itself in the spring.

Make sure that you want to keep this herbaceous plant before planting.

Red Creeping Thyme is resilient. However this is not true to some trees or plants. For example, using the wrong soil or pruning incorrectly can kill a Lavender tree.

Best Locations To Plant Red Creeping Thyme Lawn

Even though it is edible, Red Creeping Thyme is more desired for its aesthetics in landscaping amongst other reasons.

You can use it to grow a beautiful and decorative groundcover carpet sprawl of colorful flowers over a lawn, patio, or sidewalk.

Red Creeping Thyme is a great landscaping solution if you want to cover rocks or aesthetically unpleasant patches of your property with a floral carpet sprawl.

Closeup of Red Creeping Thyme Plant growing next to a large rock showing small glossy leaves and small light lavender flowers.

(Image: AnRo000221)

Use Red Creeping Thyme to aesthetically liven up and grow around stepping stones and rock walkways. It grows wonderfully on lawns and areas that channel water away quickly.

Red Creeping Thyme is very resilient and hardy and can handle being walked on. You use it as an ornamental foot traffic turf mat.

And as people walk on it, the plants will release their inherent fragrance even more.

The sprawling floral carpet ground cover of Red Creeping Thyme is also perfect for use as a natural border to demarcate boundary lines between neighbors and property.

What Are the Best Growing Conditions for Red Creeping Thyme?

Plant it in neutral or alkaline soil. Honestly, Red Creeping Thyme can grow in poor soil conditions, even in gravel.

Water it biweekly, or when the soil seems less moist, and make sure it has access to six hours of sunlight.

Planting Tips for Red Creeping Thyme

Plant it in an area where you won’t mind its sprawling horizontal growth. It won’t be easy to get rid of afterward.

You can prune and trim as desired.

How Far Apart To Plant Red Creeping Thyme

Plant Red Creeping Thyme plants by a foot or more. The further, the better.

The plant’s horizontal sprawl might occur faster than normal if they are planted too close together.

Companion Plants For Growing Red Creeping Thyme

Companion plants can help deter pests from your whole garden. And there are several companion plants that you can grow alongside Red Creeping Thyme, albeit at a distance of a foot or better.

These companion plants include, but are not limited to:

  • Rosemary
  • Potatoes
  • Roses
  • Lavender
  • Eggplant
  • Shallots
  • Tomatoes

What Are Great Red Plants To Grow?

As an alternative to Red Creeping Thyme, there are many kinds of red plants you can grow. Examples of red plants you can grow include:

  • Hyacinth
  • Red Poppies
  • Canna Lilies
  • Gerbera Daisies
  • Red Azaleas
  • Petunias

How To Grow Creeping Thyme Ground Cover

To grow Red Creeping Thyme as a decorative and floral ground cover, you need to pick an area where you won’t mind its horizontal and slow creeping growth.

Closeup of Red Creeping Thyme plant showing young stems with small lavender-colored flowers growing on the end.

(Image: Stefan.lefnaer22)

Red Creeping Thyme stems and roots grow horizontally and spread out instead of vertically. Plant individual Red Creeping Thyme Plants a foot or more apart.

Several Red Creeping Thyme Plants that are planted and spaced a foot or more apart have enough room to grow out into an aesthetically pleasing floral carpet sprawl.

Are Creeping Thyme Plants Good for Xeriscaping Purposes?

Yes. Red Creeping Thyme is a perfect alternative to planting a green grass lawn.

It is often used in xeriscaping water conservation practices. Xeriscaping involves landscaping and gardening with plants that are low maintenance and use very little water.3

Iconic green grass lawns are undeniable symbols of suburbia and progress. But they have an insatiable and expensive thirst for water.

Billions of gallons of water are wasted annually on landscaping and especially on lawns. Xeriscaping with Red Creeping Thyme could be a partial solution to this problem.

Over 70% of the Earth is covered in water, but less than 2.5% of that water is potable freshwater.13

Still, some believe that there is over 3% of freshwater available in the world. Even if that were true, about two-thirds of that water is frozen in polar glaciers.

Over half the people on Earth have limited access to clean water or access to contaminated water.4 Over two-thirds of the world could potentially suffer from water scarcity by 2025 or 2050 at the latest.

International wars could be fought over water access in the future.5 Water scarcity is not just a third-world problem either.

In 2022, the city of Jackson Mississippi declared its water supply contaminated and undrinkable.6 Similar and recurring problems have occurred in Michigan and California for years.

The world is running out of clean water. Xeriscaping with Red Creeping Thyme could be a partial solution if more people practice it.

American families use 30% to 50% of their household water resources on lawns,14 gardens, or hosing off their sidewalks.

Californians use over 60% of their water resources outside the home.15 Americans collectively may waste a trillion gallons of water annually.16

Americans probably dump over 9 billion gallons of water on their green lawns and landscapes annually. Xeriscaping plants like Red Creeping Thyme can be watered biweekly in well-draining water and don’t need irrigation.

Aside from the Red Creeping Thyme, the Serviceberry tree is also grown for landscaping and its delicious berries. Learn more about it.

Is Red Creeping Thyme Toxic to Pets?

No. Red Creeping Thyme is edible, used to make culinary spices, and is used as a three to six-inch sprawling floral ground cover on lawns and sidewalks where it is always accessible to animals and pets.

Red Creeping Thyme plant growing on rocks showing small glossy leaves.

(Image: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz23)

So, it is obvious that Red Creeping Thyme is non-toxic and very safe to grow around pets.

Just like the Red Creeping Thyme, the Mesquite tree grows edible seeds and flowers and can be used for a variety of purposes. Learn about the 77 Mesquite species.

What Is the Red Creeping Thyme Growing Zone?

You can find Red Creeping Thyme growing wild and domestically in the Northwestern portion and Eastern North America primarily, among some other areas.

Red Creeping Thyme grows optimally in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 9.

Can You Grow Red Creeping Thyme in USDA Hardiness Zone 9b?

Yes. USDA Hardiness Zone 9b mostly covers areas of southern states from Florida to California. These states have areas that experience cold and frosty weather as cold as 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Red Creeping Thyme is a perennial that can survive very cold weather.

Disease Prevention

Red Creeping Thyme is a plant that thrives in adverse conditions. It is typically not affected by most plant diseases since it is a weed.

Make sure to never plant it in soil that never drains.

It will survive occasional underwatering, but constant overwatering will kill it.

Natural Pest Control for Red Creeping Thyme

You can sprinkle diatomaceous soil around your Red Creeping Thyme.19

Diatomaceous soil is soil that contains the fossilized remains of ancient organisms. Snails get irritated whenever they slide across diatomaceous soil and will avoid it.

How To Stop Red Creeping Thyme Disease

There is one disease that can afflict Red Creeping Thyme besides root rot, and it is called Alternaria Blight, or Red Creeping Thyme disease. It causes a local climate of micro-humidity to occur in Red Creeping Thyme plants that have been planted less than a foot apart.

A vital telltale sign of Alternaria Blight is black, yellow, or brown spots or rings appearing on the leaves of the plant. After that, the leaves will develop holes, droop, and fall off the stem.

The plant will wither up and die sometime afterward.

Prevention and vigilance is the only way to stop Alternaria Blight. Always plant Red Creeping Thyme plants spaced apart by at least a foot or better.

Red Creeping Thyme is a shrub. Shrubs are natural sequesters of carbon.

Planting some Red Creeping carbon today could help fight the global warming crisis.

Top shot of Red Creeping Thyme growing on gravelly soil showing woody stems and green leaves.

(Image: Agnieszka Kwiecień24)

Carbon sequestration is the natural process in which the planet’s ecosystem absorbs carbon from the environment and then slowly releases it back into the ecosystem.17 Carbon sequestration is a carbon recycling process in nature that can take decades or centuries to facilitate.

Carbon is an element. Carbon can exist as solid, dissolved, or liquid matter.

Charcoal briquettes, graphite, and even diamonds are made of carbon. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a greenhouse gas that is created by a merging of oxygen and carbon molecules.

Along with the carbon that is naturally created in the planet’s ecosystem, humanity has been creating excessive carbon through the use of fossil fuels and related activities since the 1880s. These activities have been incrementally increasing the planet’s temperature every year since then.

2020 has been the hottest year on the planet since records tracking global heat averages started in the 1880s.18 And if humanity doesn’t reverse the progressive worsening of its annual carbon footprints, then it could reach a literal rubicon where the damage might not be reversible for a long time, if at all.

A potential and partial solution to this problem could be carbon sequestering via the mass-scale cultivation of shrubbery.

Hundred or thousands of shrubs that are planted throughout a 2.4-acre plot of land could naturally sequester over 15.4 tons of carbon annually.7 Scientific research has proven the viability and effectiveness of such measures.

While you may not be able to plant shrubbery on such a mass scale, you could your own small part in fighting global warming and reducing your local carbon footprint by planting Red Creeping Thyme today.

Related Reading: How Much CO2 Does a Tree Absorb? 29 Trees & Plants Ranked by Most CO2

Red Creeping Thyme Facts

Red Creeping Thyme has numerous unknown benefits that could help you.

Red Creeping Thyme is a natural deterrent for rabbits and deer. If you want to deter wildlife from your home or property, a sprawling floral ground cover of Red Creeping Thyme could be your solution.

Top shot of Red Creeping Thyme covering a home garden showing green leaves and lavender-colored flowers.

(Image: Agnieszka Kwiecień25)

Red Creeping Thyme could attract pests like slugs, snakes, and snails which could make the floral mat their home, so be on the lookout.

If you are a beekeeper or concerned about safeguarding the regular pollination levels of the local plants and fauna, then plant Red Creeping Thyme. It is a natural pollinator that attracts bees, butterflies, and curious birds.

Planting Red Creeping Thyme is a great form of erosion control to protect soil.

If you want to have a visually stunning floral ground cover mat that smells great, can act as a natural border, deter wildlife, and act as erosion control, then plant thyme shrubbery.

By planting Red Creeping Thyme, you’ll have a beautiful ground cover that is both hardy and attractive.

Frequently Asked Questions About Red Creeping Thyme

What Are the Watering Needs for Red Creeping Thyme Plants?

Water it when the soil seems less than moist but not bone dry. Or just generally water it every 10 to 14 days.

What Is the Time Frame on How Long It Takes To Grow Red Creeping Thyme?

Red Creeping Thyme could take a year to a year and a half to fully grow.

What Season Is the Best on When To Plant Red Creeping Thyme for the Best Yield?

Plant in the early weeks of spring or summer. Plant in February if you live in a colder climate like Zone 9b.

What Are the Optimum Growing Zones for Red Creeping Thyme (Where To Grow)?

Red Creeping Thyme grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 9.

Is Growing Red Creeping Thyme From a Seed Wise?

Yes. Just put in the soil and water it.

How Hard Is It Growing a Red Creeping Thyme From a Cutting?

It isn’t. It may be a good idea to first apply some root hormone to the root end before planting it.

Is Growing a Red Creeping Thyme From a Seedling Possible?

Yes. You can plant directly in the ground or grow the seedling in a pot or nursery first.

How Much Sunlight Does Red Creeping Thyme Need Each Day?

Make sure it has six hours of direct sunlight exposure daily. It can grow in indirect sunlight conditions too, but it would not be ideal for healthy growth.

What Are the Common Pests of the Red Creeping Thyme?

Common pests of Red Creeping include snails, snakes, and slugs. They use the canopy of floral ground cover to make homes.

What Is Thymus (Plant)?

It is the genus name for Red Creeping Thyme.

Is Red Creeping Thyme the Same as Purple Creeping Thyme?

Yes. The same plant, genus, and species can have red, pink, or purple colored flowers.

Can I Plant Creeping Thyme in the Fall?

It’s better to plant Red Creeping Thyme in early spring or summer. If you live in a colder climate, like in USDA Hardiness Zone 9b, you could plant Red Creeping Thyme as early as February.

Is Red Creeping Thyme Safe for Dogs?

Yes. It is non-toxic and safe for dogs and household pets unless your dog is sensitive to very fragrant plants.

Is Red Creeping Thyme Native To the United States?

No, it is native to Europe, Turkey, the Mediterranean, and Greenland.

What Are the USDA Hardiness Zones for Red Creeping Thyme Florida?

USDA Hardiness Zones 8a through 11a.

What Are the USDA Hardiness Zones for Red Creeping Thyme Oregon?

USDA Hardiness Zones 4a through 9b.

What Are the USDA Hardiness Zones for Red Creeping Thyme Utah?

USDA Hardiness Zones 4a through 9a.

Read More About Red Creeping Thyme


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21Thymus praecox Photo by AnRo0002 / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

22Thymus praecox subsp. praecox Photo by Stefan.lefnaer / Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

23Thymus praecox ‘Doretta Klaber’ Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz / Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

24Thymus praecox Coccineus Photo by Agnieszka Kwiecień, Nova / Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

25Thymus praecox Coccineus 2015 04 Photo by Agnieszka Kwiecień / Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). Resized. From Wikimedia Common <>