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Creeping Thyme in bloomOne of the best low growing ground covers is Creeping thyme. This versatile plant, Thymus serpyllum, can be used in countless ways to provide color, cut maintenance and its uses in the garden are almost unlimited.   Creeping thyme is one of those easy to grow plants that survive nicely with little or no care. It's a low maintenance plant that can take a lot of abuse too!

One of my neighbors has used a planting of creeping thyme, in place of lawn, in the parking strip in front of their home. I think this is a great choice, because it doesn't require mowing, much watering or care, yet it looks nice and can even tolerate being walked-on.

Uses - there are very few ground covers that can be walked-on, but creeping thyme is one of them. So it makes an ideal ground cover to use between stepping stones, near the patio adjoining walkways or at the base of a rockery. However, those are not the only uses for this versatile low growing ground cover. Because of its low growth habit, it can be used effectively in the foreground of just about any planting in the landscape. It is especially popular to use in spots where the plants can cascade over a rockery or fill-in between evergreen plants.

Growing habit - creeping thyme grows about two to four inches high and can spread up to two or more feet in width. The leaves are very small, but dense and cover the low growing plants. Foliage color varies in shades of light to dark green and the variety 'Woolly' thyme has attractive grayish foliage. The leaf color of the other varieties seems to vary with flower color, the lighter flowering varieties have lighter foliages. Flower colors range in shades of lavender, red, rose, or white. They flower in the late spring and early summer. The plants flower so prolifically, you can hardly see the evergreen leaves below. Creeping thyme is an easy plant to maintain, as it does not tend to take-over and can easily be confined to a specific area.

Location - these versatile plants will grow in full sun, part sun and shade and even full shade. However, they usually do not flower quite as well in full shade, and sometimes tend to grow a little more sparse in the shade.

Availability - most varieties are readily available at nurseries and garden outlets. They are usually sold in flats, trays or in pots. The typical four-inch pot can be planted in tact or cut and divided into two-inch squares. When divided in this manner they make about four small plants and each of those plants will grow into a nice plant about four to six inches across, during the first full growing season.

Creeping Thyme Dividing and transplanting - established plants can be dug and divided during the cooler spring months of March, April and may. When possible avoid fall transplanting, as the cold winter frosts can raise the plants and cause severe winter freeze damage.

Planting - at planting time, prepare the soil by mixing generous quantities of organic humus into the planting soil. Peat moss, processed manure, and compost (if available) are excellent soil additives. Mix them about 50% with your existing soil. You only need to prepare the soil about six to ten inches deep.

Fertilizing - fish fertilizer or any type of liquid plant food can be used to feed creeping thyme. The best time to fertilize is during the late spring and early summer.

Propagation - although dividing is the most popular method of propagation, new plants can also be started from seed. Unfortunately, very few companies carry the seed. If you find some, or collect your own seed, it can be sown directly into the garden anytime between may and august. Or if you have a greenhouse you can sow the seed in late winter. Cuttings can also be taken in late spring or early summer.

Needless to say, there are several other types of thyme. The common thyme' (thymus vulgaris) is a very popular herb, and is often used as a ground cover, but since it grows taller than the creeping varieties it is not suitable to walk-on. Other varieties include: lemon thyme, silver thyme and mother of thyme.

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