Mother of Thyme for Garden and Kitchen

Thyme is valuable as a kitchen herb, feeds pollinators and makes a terrific ground cover. 

Creeping Thyme, Thymus serpyllum or Thymus praecox, also called Wild Thyme and Mother of Thyme, is a European native.  Cold hardy in zones 4-8, its wiry stems and woody trunk take most garden conditions. 

Thyme from the grocery store, is probably Thymus vulgaris, but I use Mother of Thyme for marinades, cooking and canning. 

The leaves are tiny, blue-green, opposite, and about 1/4th inch long. The stems that create the foliage mat, spread by rooting in soil or sand along their path.

The plants are covered with 4-to-6-inch tall stems of tubular flowers right now. Dozens of tiny bees and other insects cover them daily from now until fall. After the flowers are spent, the flower heads can be removed to re-shape the plants.

Mother of Thyme is easy to grow in dry to moist, well-drained soil, without fertilizer. We have it planted in four locations around the garden where the soil is dry or difficult and it does a reasonably good job of preventing weeds.

Our plants remain green until the first hard freeze. Late summer and in the spring, I prune them back and place the cuttings in a new location and gently press them into the soil with a bit of soil on top. Most of the time they root and slowly grow into a new mat that can be used to replace lawn, to fill in between stepping stones or to grow over walkways like our brick walk in the photo.

Bunnies and deer ignore scented plants and Mother of Thyme can even take foot traffic. 

The genus name Thymus is from the Greek word thymos which is the name used in ancient Greece for the herb Thyme.

There are many Thymus serpyllum cultivars with plants that range from creeping to upright and flower colors from white to red, pink and purple. Some cultivars have gold, variegated and dark green leaves.

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