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Thymus

Thyme
Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Herbs, Perennials

Diminutive Mediterranean members of the mint family with tiny, usually heavily scented leaves and masses of little flowers in whorls. Well suited to an herb garden or rock garden; prostrate, mat-forming types make good small-space groundcovers. Attractive to bees. Botanical names are constantly undergoing revision and often confusing.

Thymus camphoratus
Thymus camphoratus

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Thymus camphoratus

Grows to 1 1/2 ft. tall and wide, with narrow gray-green leaves that smell like camphor. Blooms in late spring, early summer; flower clusters consist of woolly, rosy purplish bracts and tiny white flowers.

Thymus herba-barona

Fast growing to 2–4 in. high and 2 ft. or more wide; stems root as they spread. Forms a dense mat of wiry stems set with widely spaced ovate to lance-shaped, dark green leaves with caraway fragrance. Clusters of rose pink flowers in midsummer.

Thymus polytrichus britannicus

Usually sold as T. serpyllum. Variable species to 1–3 in. high and 6 in. to 3 ft. wide. Round leaves range from glossy green to soft gray and can be variegated or have golden highlights. Flowers come in various shades of pink and white.

There are two basic types of creeping thyme: those that grow a foot or more wide and are suited to filling large spaces, and those that grow slowly to 6–12 in. wide and are more suited to filling between pavers where foot traffic is light. The first group includes pink flowering ‘Coccineum’, ‘Creeping Pink,’ and ‘Reiter’. The second group includes 1-in.-high ‘Minus’, nonblooming ‘Elfin’, ‘Pink Chintz’, ‘White Moss’, and ‘Mint Thyme’. 

Thymus serpyllum
Thymus serpyllum

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Thymus serpyllum

Sometimes sold as T. praecox arcticus ‘Pseudolanuginosus’. Forms a flat to undulating mat 2–3 in. high and 3 ft. wide. Stems are densely clothed with elliptical, woolly gray leaves. Blooms seldom and sparsely; when it does, produces pinkish flowers in leaf joints in midsummer. Becomes slightly rangy in winter. Use in rock crevices, between steppingstones, spilling over a bank or raised bed, or covering small patches of ground.

Thymus vulgaris

Variable plant to 1 ft. high and 2 ft. wide, with gray-green, narrow to oval leaves. White to lilac flowers in late spring, early summer. Low edging for flower, vegetable, or herb garden. Good container plant. Use leaves fresh or dried for seasoning fish, shellfish, poultry stuffing, soups, or vegetables.

Thymus x citriodorus
Thymus x citriodorus

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Thymus x citriodorus

Variable hybrid with erect or spreading growth to 1 ft. high and 2 ft. wide. Ovate to lance-shaped, medium green leaves with lemon fragrance. Pale lilac flowers in summer. Some varieties have varigated leaves.

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