Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin'
Common Name: wild thyme
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 0.25 to 0.25 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Lavender-pink
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil, Air Pollution

Culture

Easily grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Best grown in loose, sandy, gritty or rocky, nutrient-poor soils with sharp drainage. Tolerates drought. Dislikes moist to wet soils where rot may develop. Plants are evergreen in mild winters. Cut back stems as necessary to maintain plant appearance, to control growth/spread or to limit unsightly woody stem growth. Divide plants that become densely woody. Species plants may be propagated by seed, but cultivars are best propagated by division or cuttings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Thymus serpyllum, commonly called wild thyme, creeping thyme or mother-of-thyme, is a hairy, prostrate, creeping, woody-based perennial which is primarily grown as an ornamental ground cover. It is rarely used in cooking (Thymus vulgaris is the culinary thyme most commonly used in cooking). Wild thyme is native to Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. Numerous, thin, somewhat woody, prostrate stems clad with tiny, opposite, oval-rounded, pubescent, almost sessile, glossy blue-green leaves (to 1/4” long) form a flat foliage mat to 2-3” tall which will spread over time by rooting stems to 12-18” wide. Although leaves are aromatic (fragrance of mint), strength of scent varies according to season and habitat, and leaves are usually not considered to be of culinary quality. Dense inflorescences (primarily terminal but sometimes axillary) of tiny, tubular, bell-shaped, two-lipped, deep pink to purple flowers appear in summer (June-September) on erect flowering stems rising 2-4” tall. Flowers are attractive to bees.

Genus name comes from the Greek word thymos (name used in ancient Greece for a species of Thymus or Satureja).

Specific epithet from Greek means creeping in reference to the trailing growth habit of this species.

‘Elfin’ has a miniature form featuring lavender-pink flowers and extremely tiny rounded gray-green leaves.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problem. Susceptible to root rot, particularly in moist, poorly-drained soils. Watch for spider mites in hot/dry summer conditions.

Garden Uses

Best as a small area ground cover or filler between stepping stones. Will sprawl over small rocks or cascade over ledges in the rock garden. Fills in crevices. Effective for sunny areas of borders, patios and along paths. Bank cover. Edging. Lawn substitute. Containers.