How To Plant Red Creeping Thyme [ Full Guide ]

Red creeping thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’) is a versatile and attractive ground cover plant known for its vibrant red flowers and aromatic foliage. It is an excellent choice for adding color and texture to rock gardens, pathways, and slopes. This perennial plant also acts as a natural weed suppressant and attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Planting red creeping thyme is a straightforward process, but understanding its specific requirements for location, climate, and soil is essential for ensuring successful growth and abundant flowering. In this guide, we will explore the detailed steps for planting red creeping thyme, including selecting the perfect location, understanding seasonal and climate needs, and preparing the ideal soil conditions.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Red Creeping Thyme

To plant red creeping thyme, follow these quick steps:

  1. Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil.
  2. Prepare the soil by removing weeds and debris.
  3. Plant the thyme in the prepared soil, spacing them appropriately.
  4. Water the newly planted thyme thoroughly.
  5. Mulch around the plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  6. Monitor the moisture levels and provide occasional watering as needed.

These steps provide a general overview, but let’s delve deeper into each aspect to ensure the optimal growth of red creeping thyme.

Choosing The Perfect Location For Planting

Selecting the right location is crucial for the successful establishment and growth of red creeping thyme. This plant thrives in full sun, making it essential to choose a spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Adequate sunlight is necessary to encourage flowering and promote healthy foliage.

When planning the location for planting red creeping thyme, take note of the soil drainage as well. The soil should be well-drained to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot and other issues. Additionally, consider the surrounding landscape and ensure that the area is free from competing vegetation that may overshadow or outcompete the thyme.

Ultimately, a sunny, well-drained location with minimal competing vegetation is ideal for planting red creeping thyme. It is also beneficial to consider the plant’s tendency to spread and fill in spaces, making it an excellent choice for areas where ground coverage is desired.

Red Creeping Thyme Season And Climate Requirements

Understanding the seasonal and climate needs of red creeping thyme is essential for successful cultivation. This plant is well-adapted to a variety of climates and is generally hardy in USDA zones 4-9. It can withstand colder temperatures in the winter and thrives in the warmth of the summer months.

When planting red creeping thyme, the ideal time is during the spring or early summer. These seasons provide the plant with ample time to establish its root system before facing more extreme temperatures. Additionally, planting during the active growth period allows the thyme to acclimate to its new environment and develop robust foliage and flowers.

In terms of climate, red creeping thyme prefers regions with moderate temperatures and good air circulation. While it can tolerate some drought conditions once established, it is important to provide consistent moisture, especially during the initial stages of growth. Be mindful of extreme heat or prolonged periods of moisture deprivation, as these can stress the plant and hinder its development.

It’s also worth noting that red creeping thyme is tolerant of coastal conditions, making it a suitable choice for gardens near the sea. Its ability to withstand salt spray and winds further expands its versatility in various climates and environments.

Soil Requirements For Planting Red Creeping Thyme

The soil composition and quality play a significant role in the successful cultivation of red creeping thyme. This plant thrives in well-drained, slightly alkaline soils with good fertility. Before planting, it is crucial to prepare the soil to create an optimal environment for the thyme to establish and flourish.

Begin by clearing the planting area of any weeds, rocks, or debris. This step ensures that the thyme’s roots can penetrate the soil without competition or obstruction. Once the area is clear, work the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches, incorporating organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure.

A soil pH level between 6.5 and 7.0 is preferable for red creeping thyme. If necessary, conduct a soil test to determine the pH and make adjustments using lime to raise the pH or elemental sulfur to lower it. Amending the soil to the appropriate pH range creates a favorable growing environment for the thyme and supports nutrient uptake.

When planting red creeping thyme, space the individual plants approximately 6-12 inches apart to allow for ample spreading and coverage. Gently loosen the root ball of each plant before placing it in the prepared soil, ensuring that the top of the root ball sits level with the surrounding ground. Once planted, backfill the holes and gently firm the soil around the base of each plant.

After planting, thoroughly water the newly established thyme to aid in the settling of the soil and provide essential moisture for the roots. It is beneficial to apply a layer of organic mulch around the plants, such as shredded bark or compost, to conserve soil moisture and suppress weed growth. Maintain a 2-3 inch layer of mulch, taking care to leave a small gap around the base of each plant to prevent moisture-related issues.

Planting red creeping thyme is a rewarding endeavor that yields beautiful, low-maintenance ground cover with aromatic foliage and vibrant red blooms. By carefully selecting the right location, understanding the plant's seasonal and climate needs, and preparing the soil accordingly, you can establish thriving red creeping thyme in your garden or landscape.

Remember to provide adequate sunlight, well-drained soil, and appropriate spacing when planting red creeping thyme. Consider the seasonal timing and climate suitability to ensure the best conditions for growth and establishment. By following these guidelines and paying attention to the plant's specific requirements, you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of red creeping thyme in your outdoor space. With proper care and attention, this versatile ground cover will flourish and enhance the visual appeal of your garden while attracting beneficial pollinators.

Preparing The Soil Before Planting

Red creeping thyme, also known as Thymus serpyllum ‘Coccineus’, is an evergreen groundcover that adds a splash of vibrant color to your garden. Its low-growing and sprawling nature make it a perfect option for filling in gaps between stepping stones or cascading over walls or garden beds. In addition to its stunning deep pink to red flowers, red creeping thyme has aromatic, tiny leaves that give off a pleasant fragrance when crushed. If you’re looking to enhance the aesthetics of your garden while also enjoying the benefits of its scent, planting red creeping thyme is an excellent choice.

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Before planting red creeping thyme, it’s essential to prepare the soil to provide the best growing conditions for the plant. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Choose a sunny location: Red creeping thyme requires full sun to thrive. Choose a spot in your garden that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day.

  2. Test the soil: Red creeping thyme prefers well-draining soil with a slightly alkaline pH between 7.0 and 8.0. Test your soil using a soil testing kit, or send a sample to a local agricultural extension service for analysis. If your soil is too acidic, you may need to amend it by adding lime to raise the pH level. Conversely, if the soil is too alkaline, you can lower the pH by incorporating organic matter such as compost or peat moss.

  3. Clear the area: Remove any existing weeds, rocks, or debris from the planting area. This will allow the red creeping thyme to establish itself without competition and ensure optimal growth.

  4. Loosen the soil: Use a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of about six to eight inches. This step will improve aeration and drainage, creating an ideal environment for the root system to develop.

  5. Incorporate organic matter: To enrich the soil, add organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure. Mix it into the soil thoroughly to enhance its fertility and provide essential nutrients for the red creeping thyme.

Best Time To Plant Red Creeping Thyme

The best time to plant red creeping thyme is during the early spring or fall season. These seasons offer moderate temperatures, which allow the plant to establish itself before the extreme heat of summer or the cold of winter. Ideally, aim for a planting date when the soil temperature is above 60°F (15°C).

Planting Red Creeping Thyme From Seedlings

Planting red creeping thyme from seedlings is the most common method, as it’s easier and quicker compared to starting from seeds. Follow these steps to ensure successful planting:

  1. Prepare the seedlings: If you have purchased red creeping thyme seedlings from a nursery, gently remove them from their containers. Carefully loosen the roots, freeing them from any compacted soil. This will encourage proper root growth.

  2. Dig the planting holes: Dig small holes with a trowel or your hands, spacing them about 6 to 12 inches apart. Ensure the holes are slightly wider and deeper than the root system of the seedlings.

  3. Place the seedlings: Set each seedling into its respective hole, making sure the top of the root ball is level with or slightly above the soil surface. Avoid burying the plants too deeply, as it can lead to rotting and hinder growth.

  4. Backfill the holes: Gently backfill the holes with the soil, taking care not to create air pockets around the roots. Press the soil lightly to secure the seedlings in place.

  5. Mulch the area: Spread a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or straw, around the seedlings. Mulching helps retain moisture, suppress weed growth, and maintain a more stable soil temperature.

  6. Water thoroughly: Immediately after planting, water the area thoroughly to help settle the soil and provide moisture to the newly transplanted seedlings. Be cautious not to drown the plants; a deep watering once a week should be sufficient.

Watering And Fertilizing Red Creeping Thyme

Proper watering and fertilizing are essential for the healthy growth of red creeping thyme. Follow these guidelines to maintain its vigor:

  1. Watering: While red creeping thyme is drought-tolerant once established, it requires regular watering during the initial establishment phase. Water deeply but infrequently, aiming for about an inch of water each week. Ensure the soil is moist but not soggy, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot. Once the plant is well-established, reduce the frequency of watering, as the plant can withstand short periods of dryness.

  2. Fertilizing: Red creeping thyme doesn’t require heavy fertilization. In fact, excessive fertilization can lead to leggy growth and fewer blooms. A light application of balanced slow-release fertilizer in early spring, following the manufacturer’s instructions, is usually sufficient. Avoid applying fertilizers during the flowering period, as it may affect the overall health of the plant. Instead, focus on nourishing the soil with organic matter, such as compost, which will provide essential nutrients over time.

  3. Pruning: Pruning red creeping thyme is not necessary for its health but can help maintain its shape and encourage bushier growth. If desired, trim back any leggy or overgrown branches in early spring before new growth emerges. Use sharp scissors or pruning shears to make clean cuts just above a leaf node or bud. Avoid cutting into old wood, as it may not regrow.

  4. Controlling weeds: Red creeping thyme is naturally dense and can help suppress weed growth. However, during the initial establishment phase, it’s essential to keep the area around the plants weed-free. Regularly inspect the area and remove any weeds by hand, being careful not to disturb the thyme’s shallow root system.

Planting red creeping thyme can transform your garden into a vibrant and aromatic space. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can ensure successful growth and beautiful blooms. Remember to prepare the soil, choose the right time for planting, and provide proper care in terms of watering, fertilizing, and pruning. With its low-maintenance nature and stunning appearance, red creeping thyme is sure to be a valuable addition to your garden.

Pruning And Maintenance Of Red Creeping Thyme

Red creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum ‘Coccineus’) is a low-growing perennial herb that is prized for its attractive red flowers, aromatic foliage, and ground-covering abilities. This versatile plant is an excellent choice for adding beauty and interest to various areas in the garden, including borders, rock gardens, and between stepping stones.

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Red creeping thyme is a relatively low-maintenance plant that requires little attention once established. However, there are a few key steps you can take to promote healthy growth and maintain its attractive appearance.

Planting Red Creeping Thyme

When planting red creeping thyme, it’s important to choose a suitable location that meets its needs. This herb thrives in well-draining soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0. It prefers full sun, although it can tolerate partial shade. Prepare the planting area by removing any weeds or grass and loosening the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. Thoroughly mix organic matter, such as compost, into the soil to improve its fertility and drainage.

Dig holes that are slightly larger than the root ball of the plant. Space the holes about 12-18 inches apart, depending on how quickly you want the thyme to fill in the area. Place the plant in the hole, making sure the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Gently fill in the hole with soil, taking care not to compact it too heavily.

After planting, water the thyme thoroughly to settle the soil and provide a good start for the plant. Water regularly, especially during dry spells, but be careful not to overwater, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot.

Pruning Red Creeping Thyme

Pruning red creeping thyme is essential for maintaining its compact form and encouraging healthy growth. Here are a few pruning guidelines to follow:

  1. Trimming after flowering: Red creeping thyme produces beautiful red flowers in late spring or early summer. As the flowering season ends, trim back the spent blooms, known as deadheading, to promote further flowering and tidy appearance.
  2. Trimming to control growth: If the thyme starts to spread beyond its designated area or encroach on nearby plants, trim back the outer edges to keep it within bounds. Use sharp pruning shears or scissors to make clean cuts just above a set of healthy leaves or stems.
  3. Renovation pruning: Over time, red creeping thyme may become woody and less vigorous. To rejuvenate the plant, perform renovation pruning by cutting it back severely in early spring, just as new growth begins to emerge. This will stimulate fresh growth and help maintain a healthy and vibrant thyme bed.

Common Pests And Diseases Affecting Red Creeping Thyme

While red creeping thyme is generally a hardy and disease-resistant plant, it may still encounter a few pests and diseases. Familiarizing yourself with these potential issues will help you identify and address them promptly.


  1. Aphids: These tiny, soft-bodied insects may attack red creeping thyme, causing yellowing leaves, distorted growth, and sticky residue (honeydew). Encourage natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings to control aphid populations, or use insecticidal soap or neem oil to treat infestations.
  2. Spider Mites: Spider mites are common on thyme plants, especially when humidity is low. They cause stippling, yellowing, and webbing on the leaves. Regularly misting the thyme to increase humidity can deter spider mites. Alternatively, wash the leaves with a strong spray of water or use an insecticidal soap.
  3. Slugs and Snails: These slimy creatures can damage the foliage of red creeping thyme by feeding on it. Use organic slug and snail control methods, such as copper barriers, diatomaceous earth, or handpicking to manage these pests.


  1. Powdery Mildew: Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that appears as a white powdery coating on the leaves. Ensure good air circulation around the plants by spacing them adequately. Avoid overhead watering and remove any infected plant parts to prevent the spread of the disease. Fungicidal sprays can also be used if necessary.
  2. Root Rot: Excessive moisture or poor drainage can lead to root rot, characterized by yellowing and wilting of the leaves. Improve the drainage of the planting area and avoid overwatering to prevent this disease. If root rot occurs, consider transplanting the thyme to a well-draining location.
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Taking proactive measures to prevent and control pests and diseases will help you maintain the health and vigor of your red creeping thyme plants.

Tips For Companion Planting With Red Creeping Thyme

Red creeping thyme is not only a beautiful and fragrant herb but also an excellent companion plant due to its ability to attract beneficial insects and discourage pests. Here are a few suggestions for companion planting with red creeping thyme:

  1. Rosemary: Planting red creeping thyme alongside rosemary can create a visually appealing and aromatic combination. Additionally, both plants are known to deter pests such as cabbage moths, carrot flies, and mosquitoes.
  2. Lavender: Lavender and red creeping thyme complement each other in terms of color, fragrance, and pest-repelling properties. Together, they can attract pollinators like bees and butterflies while deterring aphids, snails, and other unwanted garden pests.
  3. Vegetable Garden: Plant red creeping thyme near vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage to attract beneficial insects like bees and predators such as ladybugs and hoverflies. These insects contribute to pollination and act as natural pest control, helping to keep harmful insects at bay.

Remember to consider the growth habits and sunlight requirements of companion plants to ensure compatibility and avoid overcrowding.

Harvesting And Using Red Creeping Thyme

Harvesting red creeping thyme is a simple process that allows you to enjoy its aromatic foliage and enhance the flavors of your culinary creations. Here’s what you need to know:

Harvesting Practices

  1. Timing: Ideally, harvest red creeping thyme just before it starts to flower. At this stage, the essential oils responsible for the herb’s aroma and flavor are at their peak.
  2. Method: Use shears or sharp scissors to trim the stems just above a leaf node, about halfway down the stem. This encourages new growth and prevents the plant from becoming too woody.

Culinary Uses

Red creeping thyme is a versatile herb that adds a unique flavor to a variety of dishes. Consider these ideas for incorporating it into your culinary endeavors:

  1. Infused oils and vinegars: Dry the harvested thyme sprigs in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Once dried, strip the leaves from the stems and use them to infuse olive oil or vinegar. These infused concoctions can be used to enhance the flavor of dressings, marinades, and various recipes.
  2. Herb butters: Mix chopped red creeping thyme leaves into softened butter, along with other herbs and spices of your choice. Form the mixture into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Use the flavored butter on toasted bread, grilled meats, or steamed vegetables.
  3. Herbal tea: Steep a few fresh or dried red creeping thyme leaves in hot water for a soothing and aromatic herbal tea. You can enjoy it on its own or combine it with other herbs like mint or lemon verbena for a delightful blend.

Remember to use red creeping thyme sparingly due to its strong flavor. Experiment with different recipes to find the perfect balance that enhances your dishes.


Red creeping thyme is a wonderful addition to any garden, providing beauty, fragrance, and versatility. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can successfully plant and maintain red creeping thyme, prune it effectively, manage common pests and diseases, select suitable companion plants, and harvest and use this delightful herb in various culinary creations. With its vibrant red flowers and aromatic foliage, red creeping thyme is sure to become a prized asset in your garden and kitchen.


What Is Red Creeping Thyme?

Red creeping thyme, also known as Thymus serpyllum ‘Coccineus’, is a low-growing perennial herb that is commonly used as a ground cover in gardens and landscapes. It is known for its vibrant, deep red flowers and strong aroma.

When Is The Best Time To Plant Red Creeping Thyme?

It is recommended to plant red creeping thyme in the spring, after the danger of frost has passed. This will give the plant enough time to establish its roots before the hot summer months.

Where Should I Plant Red Creeping Thyme?

Red creeping thyme grows best in full sun or partial shade. It prefers well-drained soil and can tolerate a variety of soil types, including sandy and rocky soils. It is often used as a ground cover on slopes, in rock gardens, and between stepping stones.

How Do I Prepare The Soil For Planting Red Creeping Thyme?

Before planting, loosen the top few inches of soil and remove any weeds or debris. Mix in some organic matter, such as compost, to improve the soil’s nutrients and drainage. Thyme prefers slightly alkaline soil, so if your soil is acidic, you may need to amend it with lime.

How Do I Care For Red Creeping Thyme After Planting?

Once planted, water the thyme deeply to help it establish its roots. After that, thyme is drought-tolerant and only needs to be watered during periods of extended drought. Mulching can help retain moisture and suppress weed growth. Prune back the plant in the spring to promote new growth and remove any dead or damaged foliage throughout the growing season.