Mother of thyme – info, planting, care and tips

Mother of thyme (Thymus praecox)
Mother of thyme (Thymus praecox)

Mother of thyme forms the most beautiful plant carpets. Here are tips for planting and care.

Profile of mother of thyme:

Scientific name: Thymus praecox

Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)

Other names: creeping thyme

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring to autumn

Flowering period: June to August

Location: sunny to partially shady

Soil quality: stony to sandy, calcipholous, moderately nutritious, low in humus

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: ground cover, embankments, roof greening, group planting, planters, dry stone walls, area greening, flower garden, roof garden, heather garden, patio, Mediterranean garden, natural garden, rock garden, potted garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of mother of thyme

Plant order, origin and occurrence of mother of thyme

The botanical name Thymus praecox already indicates that this thyme blooms “early”. The mother of thyme is also known as creeping thyme because of its mat-forming growth. The home of the member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) is in Western Europe. The variable wild species is hardly found in perennial nurseries. Mostly cultivars are offered. The natural variation of the genus Thymus with some subspecies makes a clear assignment of garden cultivars difficult, however, especially since the dwarf forms like to interbreed. Sometimes all creeping varieties are united under Thymus praecox. Another time they are offered as wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum), and a ‘Bressingham Seedling’ belongs to the species Thymus doerfleri. Do not be confused by the botanical back and forth. One thing is for sure, you should plant the mother of thyme as an ornamental plant. Even though the aromatic herb is edible, it does not have the same importance in cooking and medicine as common thyme.

Characteristics of mother of thyme


No one can cover surfaces as beautifully as mother of thyme. It literally crawls on the floor. The slightly lignifying shoots do not reach a height of more than 5 centimeters (2 in). To the sides, however, they spread out far and form dense mats. A square meter of scented lawn is quickly overgrown with seven plants.


The wintergreen leaves of the mother of thyme are oblong to inverted ovate and dark green. The leaves of the wooly thyme (Thymus praecox var. pseudolanuginosus), an abundantly hairy subspecies, shimmer silver-grey.


The flowers sometimes appear as early as May, in the case of the varieties usually from June to August. Their colors cover the whole range from pink to carmine red. White is also included. The characteristic flowers of Thymus praecox lie directly above the dense cushions. They magically attract bees and other insects.


Inconspicuous nuts develop from the flowers.

Mother of thyme – cultivation and care


Mother of thyme feels most comfortable in full sun. Although the species tolerates more partial shade than many of its close relatives, the place should not be too shady.


Make sure the soil is permeable. Waterlogging is a death sentence for these otherwise undemanding plants. Thyme loves sandy, humusy soils and prefers them to be lean rather than fat. On nitrogen-rich soils it wheathers out quickly.


Mother of thyme does not need much soil to grow. The main thing is that the soil is mineral and has good water drainage. You can even press the creeping thyme into a wall joint. Thymus praecox is also uncomplicated at the time of planting: You can plant it at any time, or just parts of it. This is ideal if you want to plant the mother of thyme in pavement joints, and you have bought a plant that already protrudes far above the pot. Simply tear the root ball carefully into sections and insert them.

Care and Wintering

The mother of thyme hardly needs any care. Cut off all faded parts of the thyme. Then the creeping thyme does not need to put any force into seed formation and remains vital. Although Thymus praecox is hardy down to -20 °C / -5 °F. However, since its leaves remain winter green, it may dry out in very sunny places. In sunshine the leaves carry out photosynthesis, but they cannot draw water from the frozen soil. A shading of brushwood helps here. No less dangerous is winter dampness. Therefore, make sure you have good drainage.


In order to divide the plants, it applies what is stated above for planting. Making two or more out of one plant is necessary if the mother of thyme becomes sparse or needs to be reduced in size.


The wild species of mother of thyme is propagated by sowing, best done in spring, the varieties are propagated by division.

Diseases and pests

With mother of thyme you will not have any trouble with slugs. And the robust plant is also free of plant diseases and pests.

Use in the garden

Mother of thyme is suitable as an upholstery plant and ground cover. It is suitable wherever smooth crossings are required. Thymus praecox covers the tops of walls, overgrows the edges of flower beds and takes the severity out of architectural edges. It is suitable for planting troughs and as a joint filler in natural stone pavements. The mother of thyme is one of the few plants that can be walked on. One floor higher, in so-called table beds, the carpet maker cuts an equally good figure. Here you can stroke over the aromatic herb or watch the lively bustle of the bees. One floor higher, mother of thyme is used for roof greening. Because of its heat tolerance, the flat rooting plant is suitable for all exposed locations. It should therefore not be missing in rockeries. Its flower mats weave a near-natural picture between Cheddar pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus), garden pink (Dianthus plumarius), rockroses (Helianthemum hybrids) and mountain everlasting (Antennaria dioica) and bring optical peace to a plantation.


  • Thymus praecox ‘Minor’ is the flattest growing cushion thyme. It flowers purple-pink and like all varieties from June to August.
  • The pink-purple variety ‘Pink Chintz’ has a particularly rich flowering. The wooly leaf is deep olive.
  • The most beautiful rose is the very flat growing variety ‘Vey’. Albiflorus’ is a white form.

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