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in Tucson, Phoenix,
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Thymus: Thyme Species

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Overview
Thymes are members of the Mint family. While thyme is thought of as a culinary herb, many species also work as ground covers. Thymus citriodorus: Lemon Thyme, Thymus serpyllum 'Magic Carpet': Creeping Thyme, Thymus pseudolanuginosus: Woolly Thyme, Thymus fragrantissimus 'Spicy Orange': Fragrant Thyme, are all used as ground covers.

Description
Form: Prostrate shrub, mat-like or mounded.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen in mild winters. May die to ground in hard freezes and recover in late winter.
Growth rate: Slow to rapid, depending on cultivar.
Mature Size: 2-8" high and 12-18" wide.
Flowers: Small, usually clustered, purple, pink, red or white.
Bloom: Spring or summer.
Fruit: Dry seed capsule.
Leaves: Small, green, smooth or fuzzy, aromatic when crushed. All have a good cooking flavor except Thymus pseudolanuginosus: Woolly Thyme.
Stems: Herbaceous stems, growing from a woody base, become woody with age on some cultivars. Stems grow roots where leaf nodes touch moist soil.
Roots: Taproot.
Wildlife: Attracts bees and possibly butterflies.
Toxic / Danger: No.
Origin: Mediterranean and Europe.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: Thymus vulgaris 4-9, Thymus citriodorus 3b-11, Thymus serpyllum 'Magic Carpet' 4-9, Thymus pseudolanuginosus 4-8, Thymus pulegioides 'Tabor' 6-10a.
Heat tolerant: True for some cultivars such as Thymus citriodorus, Lemon Thyme.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun. Accepts part shade early morning or late afternoon.
Water after becoming established: Monthly.
Soil: Well drained, dry, low to moderate in organic content, pH 6.6-8.5 (neutral to alkaline). Subject to root rot in moist, poorly draining soil.
Mulch: Not needed.
Planting: Often used between paving stones on walkways. In open ground, plant plugs 6-8" apart.
Prune: A lawnmower set to 4" high is suggested for some varieties.
Litter: Low except dies to ground in hard freezes.
Propagation: Seed, cuttings, root division.
Uses: Edible culinary herb, ground cover, lawn replacement, erosion control.

Comments
Most thymes tolerate some, but not heavy, foot traffic, and are often grown between paving stones on walkways. Thymus citriodorus is usually labeled a hybrid thyme, but recent genetic tests mark it as a true species and not a hybrid.



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Thymus citriodorus: Lemon Thyme


Thymus fragrantissimus: 'Spicy Orange' Thyme flowers


Thymus serpyllum: Creeping Thyme


Thymus pseudolanuginosus: Woolly Thyme flowers


Thymus vulgaris: 'Silver Posie' Thyme