The grass is an excellent addition to outdoor spaces for aesthetics and recreation. Grass lawns need fertilization, watering, and mowing to keep them healthy. But turf care is sometimes overwhelming, and you may prefer other alternatives for your lawn. So can I use creeping Thyme as an alternative?
Creeping thyme is a superior alternative to grass for your lawn. It’s low-maintenance, drought-hardy, and it self-limits its growth. It’s the perfect cover plant if you want a sea of lush green lawns, even during harsh conditions.
Is creeping thyme a good alternative to grass?
Creeping thyme is an ideal alternative to grass on lawns. It is drought-resistant and needs little water after establishment. Creeping thyme spreads rapidly and chokes weeds from the yard. Furthermore, it feels soft under your feet and tolerates moderate traffic. Creeping thyme attracts bees which help in cross-pollination. Fragrant creeping thyme varieties give your home exceptional air quality.
How to establish creeping thyme lawn
Creeping thyme is a hardy plant that can grow even in poor soils. Furthermore, it can grow indoors and outdoors if it gets 4-6 hours of full sunlight.
Creeping thyme prefers loose, well-drained soil. The soil pH should be neutral or slightly alkaline, between 7.0 and 8.0. Creeping thyme requires full sun to thrive, although it survives partial shade. Choose a location with up to 6 hours of daily sunlight exposure.
You can propagate creeping thyme by sowing seeds and divisions.
1. Growing creeping thyme from seeds
Creeping thyme seeds can be sowed directly on the ground or in pots indoors and transplanted after reaching 3 to 4 inches tall. Planting seeds on the ground requires good site preparation. Get rid of the old grass before sowing the seeds if you’re replacing a lawn with creeping thyme.
The most effective yet not so eco-friendly way is to remove old grass from the lawn is by applying a non-selective herbicide that also clears weeds from the area. Alternatively, spread black plastic paper or many newspapers to block sunlight from reaching the plants. It’ll smother them.
- If the area had no grass previously, remove weeds from it by hand pulling and or applying post-emergent herbicide.
- Clear dirt, stones, stalks, and other debris lying there and rake the soil lightly to loosen them.
- After preparing the site, spread the seeds shallowly on the ground to a depth of 1/16 inches, spacing them 8 to 12 inches to allow enough space for spreading. Don’t sow the seeds too close, as they will lack enough space and sunlight when growing.
- Cover the seeds with a light soil layer for light penetration to germinate them and protect them from predators and winds.
Note: Creeping thyme seeds take 14-21 days to germinate at an average temperature of 65oF-70oF.
- Water the seeds lightly, twice, or thrice daily using a spray bottle. Ensure the soil is constantly wet but not soggy.
Bring a tray or container with many holes for drainage and good soil if planting the seeds indoors. Spread the seeds on the ground in the container or tray and cover lightly with soil. Water the seeds twice or thrice daily until they sprout.
- When the seedlings reach about two inches, take them outside during the day and return them indoors at night to harden them. Exposing them to the outside environment acclimatizes them, and they won’t be stressed when transplanted.
Finally, water twice to thrice weekly until the plant establishes. Creeping thyme takes one year to establish, after which it’s watered once or twice monthly.
2. Establish creeping thyme by subdivision
Subdivision involves dividing the rootball of grown creeping thyme and replanting them elsewhere to produce new growth. This is best done in spring or fall.
- Dig out soil about 3 to 4 inches away from the center of a healthy creeping thyme plant and remove the root ball. Shake the rootball to remove the dirt around it.
- Cut the root ball into four sections using a sterile, sharp blade, ensuring each section has enough roots.
- Replant it into the ground or in a potted container with fresh soil.
- Water twice to thrice weekly until new growth emerges.
Does creeping thyme take over grass?
Creeping thyme spreads rapidly after establishing to cover the yard in a dense mat and may take over the grass on a lawn. Since creeping thyme withstands poor soils and harsh conditions, this woody perennial can take over already weakened grass by extreme conditions.
Still, it doesn’t grow longer than three inches. Therefore, it might be challenging to take over tall grass species.
Pros and cons of creeping thyme for lawn
Creeping thyme is a perfect alternative to traditional grass on your lawn. Knowing its benefits and drawbacks will help you decide whether you should plant it.
Here are the benefits of establishing a creeping thyme lawn:
Pro: Creeping thyme requires less watering
Unlike traditional lawn grasses, creeping thyme needs deep, less frequent watering. After it establishes, you will water it once or twice monthly, depending on rainfall.
Pro: Creeping thyme doesn’t need mowing
Creeping thyme grows to 6 inches tall. Its woody stems spread laterally near the ground surface. Since the cover is low-growing, it doesn’t need mowing. The bushy varieties can be mowed once per year after they bloom for a uniform shape.
Pro: Creeping thyme is evergreen
The creeping thyme remains green throughout the year.
Pro: Creeping thyme supports wildlife
The creeping thymes flowers are scented and produce nectar which attracts bees and butterflies. Additionally, it provides them with a habitat. Bees assist in cross-pollinating among other plants in the garden.
Pro: Creeping thyme doesn’t need fertilization
Creeping thymes don’t need fertilizer to grow healthy. They thrive in loose soils with good drainage and more than six hours of sunlight exposure. Developing a creeping thyme lawn saves you from tedious fertilization while preserving the environment.
Pro: Creeping thyme discourages weeds growth
Creeping thyme is the best bet if you want a weed-free lawn. Like other ground covers, creeping thyme chokes weeds from the property.
Pro: It resists deer, rabbits, and mosquitoes
Creeping thyme is excellent for lawns prone to deer, rabbits, and mosquitoes. The thyme aroma repels mosquitoes and keeps the small animals away from your lawn.
Here are some demerits or reasons why creeping thyme lawn may not be right for you:
Con: It doesn’t tolerate high foot traffic
Creeping thyme withstands moderate traffic but damages when exposed to heavy foot traffic. Therefore, the ground cover suits lawns with average traffic and cannot be an alternative on properties where kids and pets play.
Con: Creeping thyme is costly to install
The high installation cost of a creeping thyme lawn is why it’s often used on small areas like pathways or between stones and not on large spaces. Establishing a creeping thyme lawn costs more than installing sods or plugs.
Con: Creeping thyme is susceptible to root rot
A creeping thyme lawn requires loose, well-drained soils and infrequent deep watering. When overwatered or grown in poorly drained soil, its roots rot. Fortunately, rinsing deeply and not sogging the ground with excess water keeps root rot at bay. The soil should always be dry.
Con: Creeping thyme attracts bees
Although creeping thyme attracts bees that help cross-pollination, bees are harmful if you are allergic to them. Too many bees on your lawn can be a nuisance, especially after the ground cover blooms in summer.
Con: Creeping thyme requires direct sunlight
Although creeping thyme may tolerate shady areas, it requires sunlight to thrive. If you have a shady lawn, creeping thyme may not be your best option since it requires 4-6hrs of direct sunlight.
Con: Creeping thyme is prone to root rot
If your lawn remains soggy, has drainage issues, or has stagnant water after rain, you may end up losing your thyme due to root rot
Creeping Thyme Lawn Substitute: Which is the right thyme for your lawn?
Apart from creeping thyme, these are the other thymes varieties to consider for your lawn includes:
1. Thymus silver queen
Silver queen blooms in summer to produce small pink flowers. Its leaves are dark green, and the stems are reddish. The bushy Thymus silver queen is suitable for path edges or lawns. Silver queen thyme leaves also make incredible tea.
2. Archers Gold “Thymus citriodorus”
Archers gold has lemon-scented, yellow-green leaves. It is low-growing and mat-forming. It hardly grows past 30 centimeters tall or spreads past 30 centimeters wide. Pluck its fragrant leaves from May to September and use them in your meals.
3. Thymus citriodorus ‘Variegata’
Variegata produces pink flowers in summer with variegated leaves and has a lemon scent. It forms an excellent carpet on your lawn and, at times used to add a unique taste to your chicken and fish dishes.
4. Wooly thyme’ T. pseudolanguinosus’
T. speudolanguinosus stems and leaves are wooly. The plant is a creeping variety and grows short to about 3 inches tall. Wooly thyme has greyish leaves and produces pink flowers. It is common in rock gardens, and it’s cherished for its cushion appearance.
5. Thymus’ Carbon Wine and Roses’
Carbon wine and roses produce pink flowers in summer. It has a prostate, creeping growth habit with larger leaves and drapes well over rock gardens. The thymus is brilliant foliage, making it a prized plant for indoor use and outdoor decoration.
Is the red creeping thyme safe for pets?
The red creeping thyme is non-toxic and safe for pets. The thyme is sustainable and eco-friendly, and pets can freely play on it. However, the traffic should be moderate to avoid damaging the ground cover.
Creeping thyme pictures
- University of Missouri Extension: Selected Ground Covers for Missouri.
- North Carolina State University: Thymus praecox.