9 Thyme plants for your dry garden

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    When facing extreme weather conditions, thyme plants are an excellent choice. If you’re seeking resilient, drought-tolerant shrubs for a low-maintenance dry garden, you’ve found the perfect guide. Explore our selection of nine thyme species, each with unique sizes and colours, to find the ideal fit for your garden.

    9 gorgeous Thymes

    I will describe each Thyme plant with plenty of images so you can easily see what they look like and compare them in terms of size, hardiness, drought tolerance and blooming times. 

    Let’s walk through each plant and then compare them so that you can select the right ones for your garden. But before that, you may also grab some free drought-tolerant plant guides.

    A hand-picked selection of drought-tolerant plants bundled into a collection of exclusive FREE ebooks just for you!



    Types of Thyme plants

    Thyme plants are mostly native to the Mediterranean basin, adapted to grow in full sun and poor, well-drained soils. This makes them an ideal choice for a Mediterranean garden style.

    They are drought-tolerant, hardy and can tolerate most types of soils, from acid to mildly alkaline.

    These robust evergreen shrubs can be very diverse:

    • Foliage can vary from silver to dark green.
    • Flowers can come in shades of pink, violet, blue and white,
    • Habit can vary from upright to mounding to creeping.
    • Size can range from very small (1 – 5 cm / 0.4 – 2 in) to medium (30 – 40 cm / 12 – 15 in).

    I am sure you will find one that suits your personal taste, literally, as they can also be used as a condiment in your cooking.

    Thymus serpyllum (Breckland Thyme)

    Thymus serpyllum, called Breckland Thyme or Creeping Thyme, is an aromatic, evergreen shrub with creeping stems forming a ground-covering carpet. It has small blue-green leaves and clusters of deep pink to purple flowers.

    It is a very popular ornamental plant which is perfect to sprawl from a pot or a low wall, to fill in crevices of stone paths or as an alternative to a lawn where there is only occasional walking.

    It can be planted in a mixture with other ground cover plants creating a beautiful contrast with the different shades of foliage and colours of flowers.

    Thymus serpyllum (breckland thyme)
    • Size: 1 – 5 cm (0.4 – 2 in) height and 25 – 30 cm (10 – 12 in) width
    • Hardiness: -15º C (5 ºF)
    • Sunlight: Full Sun
    • Drought-tolerance: Approx 2 months
    • Origin: Europe, North Africa and most of Asia

    Learn more about this creeping shrub in our detailed description of Breckland Thyme.

    Thymus ciliatus (Moroccan Wild Thyme)

    Thymus ciliatus, commonly called Moroccan Wild Thyme, is an aromatic, evergreen shrub with a creeping habitat that forms a soft carpet. It has small woolly grey-green leaves, abundant heads of tiny pink flowers, and maroon calyces.

    The Moroccan wild thyme forms a pretty carpet of dense woolly grey-green foliage and abundant clusters of pink flowers. 

    It is perfect for falling from a pot or a low wall, filling in crevices of pavement or as an alternative to a lawn where there is only occasional trampling. It also looks lovely in rock and gravel gardens.

    It can be planted in a mixture with other ground cover plants to create contrast with the different shades of foliage and colours of flowers.

    Thymus ciliatus (Moroccan wild thyme)
    • Size: 2 – 8 cm (0.8 – 3 in) height and 50 cm (20 in) width
    • Hardiness: -12º C (10 ºF)
    • Sunlight: Full Sun
    • Drought-tolerance: Approx 2 months
    • Origin: Mediterranean Basin (North Africa)

    Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Moroccan wild thyme.

    Thymus citriodorus (Lemon thyme)

    Thymus citriodorus, commonly called Lemon Thyme or Citrus Thyme, is an aromatic evergreen shrub with a compact mounding form that gradually spreads into an undulating ground cover. It has small yellow-green leaves, which can have variegated margins in some cultivars, and spikes of tiny pale-pink flowers.

    It looks great in rock and gravel gardens, especially in aromatic or herb gardens, due to its intense lemon aroma.

    It can be used as a solitary plant or planted in groups. It can be planted in containers, beds or borders.

    It is also a good choice for a ground cover due to its spreading growth.

    Thymus citriodorus (Lemon Thyme)
    • Size: 20 cm (8 in) height and 30 cm (12 in) width
    • Hardiness: -12º C (10 ºF)
    • Sunlight: Full Sun
    • Drought-tolerance: Approx 3 months
    • Origin: Mediterranean Basin

    Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Lemon thyme.

    Thymus vulgaris (Common Thyme)

    Thymus vulgaris, commonly called Thyme, Common Thyme, or Garden Thyme, is a small, intensely aromatic evergreen shrub with a low cushion form. It has small grey-green leaves and rounded terminal spikes of tiny pale pink flowers.

    It is the most cultivated Thyme in the world due to its numerous culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses.

    It can be used as a solitary plant or planted in groups. It can be planted in pots, beds or borders. In rock and gravel gardens. 

    It can be used as a ground cover and for filling in crevices of pavements.

    Thymus vulgaris (common thyme)
    • Size: 25 cm (10 in) height and 30 cm (12 in) width
    • Hardiness: -15º C (5 ºF)
    • Sunlight: Full Sun 
    • Drought tolerance: Approx 4 months
    • Origin: Mediterranean Basin (Portugal, Spain and Italy)

    Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Common thyme.

    Thymus capitatus (Conehead Thyme)

    Thymus capitatus, commonly called Conehead Thyme or Spanish Oregano, is a small aromatic evergreen shrub with a compact cushion form. It has small dark green leaves along white stems topped with conical heads of tiny purple-pink flowers and green bracts.

    It can be used as a solitary plant or planted in groups. It’s a good choice for pots, beds or borders. 

    It is very interesting as a ground cover and ideal for rock gardens, gravel gardens, herb gardens and seaside gardens. 

    Thymus capitatus (Conehead thyme)
    • Size: 10 – 30 cm (4 – 12 in) height and 30 cm (12 in) width
    • Hardiness: -10º C (14 ºF)
    • Sunlight: Full Sun 
    • Drought tolerance: Approx 4 months
    • Origin: Mediterranean Basin

    Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Conehead thyme.

    Thymus zygis (Spanish thyme)

    Thymus zygis, commonly called Spanish Thyme or White Thyme, is an aromatic evergreen shrub with a cushion form. It has small green leaves and spikes with spaced whorls of tiny creamy-white flowers.

    It also looks lovely in rock and gravel gardens. With its aroma as a bonus it is also great for aromatic gardens.

    It can be used as a solitary plant or planted in groups. In containers or beds and borders.

    Thymus zygis (Spanish thyme)
    • Size: 10 – 30 cm (4 – 12 in) in height and 30 cm (12 in) in width
    • Hardiness: -10º C (14 ºF)
    • Sunlight: Full Sun
    • Drought tolerance: Approx 4 months
    • Origin: Mediterranean Basin (Portugal, Spain, and N. Morocco)

    Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Spanish thyme.

    Thymus pulegiodes (Broad leaf thyme)

    Thymus pulegioides, commonly called Broad Leaf Thyme or Large Thyme is a small, aromatic, evergreen shrub with a spreading mounded form. It has shiny green leaves, larger than other thymes hence the name Broad-leaved, and long spikes of tiny violet-pink flowers.

    It can be used as a solitary plant or planted in groups. Can be planted in pots, beds or borders. In rock or gravel gardens. Its spreading branches cascade over the edges of containers and raised beds.

    Due to its low mounding form, is interesting for filling in spaces between stone paths or pavements. It tolerates occasional foot traffic.

    Thymus pulegiodes (Broad leaf Thyme)
    • Size: 20 – 30 cm (8 – 12 in) in height and same width
    • Hardiness: -10º C (14 ºF)
    • Sunlight: Full Sun
    • Drought tolerance: Approx 4 months
    • Origin: Europe

    Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of the Broad leaf thyme.

    Thymus camphoratus (Camphor thyme)

    Thymus camphoratus, commonly called Camphor Thyme, is a small, aromatic, evergreen shrub with a compact cushion shape. It has small green leaves, large round heads of tiny pink flowers, and reddish-pink bracts.

    The Camphor thyme has a dense cushion form that eventually forms a ground cover covered with light pink flowers ideal for filling in the crevices of pavements.

    It can be used as a solitary plant or planted in groups. Can be planted in pots, beds or borders. In rock gardens,  gravel gardens, and aromatic gardens. 

    Thymus camphoratus (Camphor thyme)
    • Size: 20 – 30 cm (8 – 12 in) in height and 40 cm (15 in) width
    • Hardiness: -10º C (14 ºF)
    • Sunlight: Full Sun
    • Drought tolerance: Approx 3 months
    • Origin: Mediterranean basin (Portugal)

    Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of the Camphor thyme.

    Thymus mastichina (Mastic thyme)

    Thymus mastichina, commonly called Mastic Thyme or Spanish Majoram, is a small, upright,  intensely aromatic, evergreen shrub. It has small green leaves, fluffy balls of tiny white flowers, and feathery calyces.

    It can be used as a solitary plant or planted in groups. Can be planted in containers, beds or borders. In rock or gravel, aromatic or seaside gardens. 

    Thymus mastichina (Mastic thyme)
    • Size: 30 – 40 cm (12 – 15 in) in height and 30 cm (12 in) width
    • Hardiness: -10º C (14 ºF)
    • Sunlight: Full Sun
    • Drought tolerance: Approx 5 months
    • Origin: Mediterranean basin (Portugal and Spain)

    Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of the Mastic thyme.

    What do Thyme plants look like?

    7 types of Thyme compared (chart).

    Thyme inflorescence has a globose or spike form with whorls of tiny flowers and bracts. The lowest whorls are often separated.

    The flower colour can be pink, violet, purple, blue, or white.

    The leaves are quite varied. They are entire but can have different shapes, from linear to lanceolate to oval to broadly elliptic. Their colour can range from grey-green to mid-green to dark green.

    Stems are squared and become more rounded and woody as they age.

    The size and habit are diverse, from spreading to mounding to upright. The size is small (1-5 cm / 0.4-2 in) to medium (30-40cm / 12-15in).

    In the chart, you may see how the different parts of the selected Thymes compare.

    Height and Width of Thyme plants

    Thyme height and width chart

    The height and width of Thyme plants can be varied from shorter spreading types, such as Thymus serpyllum and T. ciliatus, to slightly taller ones with a more mounding shape, like T. citrioduous, T. vulgaris, T. capitatus, T. zygis, T. pulegiodes, and T. camphoratus and taller still with an upright shape like T. mastichina. However, the plant size will vary based on the weather, sun exposure, soil and fertilization. So you may end up with different sizes than those shown in the chart.

    Which is the tallest Thyme?

    The size of any plant can vary based on many factors, such as soil, weather, watering and so on. However, the tallest Thyme species is usually Thymus mastichina, with an upright habit whose height can reach 40 cm (1.3 ft). Because there are so many different varieties, including hybrids and cultivars, you may find even taller ones among these.

    Thymes bloom times

    Bloom times of thyme plants (chart)

    Thyme plants will bloom around spring and summer. Some types start a little earlier than others, and the duration of the bloom time also varies a little.

    Many factors affect flowering, such as temperature, sunlight availability, and soil fertility; slight variations may depend on your garden´s environment.

    But generally, the bloom times for the 9 selected species in this article are shown on the chart.

    Which is the hardiest Thyme?

    Thyme cold hardiness chart

    The hardiest thymes are Thymus vulgaris (Common Thyme) and Thymus serpyllum (Breckland Thyme) which can tolerate temperatures down to -15ºC (5ºF).

    However, most Thymes will be quite hardy if you give them the right growing conditions, such as well-drained soil and little or no fertilization. They will only suffer in very wet and cold winters.

    In this article, I have selected the most cold-hardy types because I always try to choose the plants better adapted to weather extremes that we face with climate change.

    Nevertheless, some Thymes are naturally tougher than others. Depending on your climate, you may choose the best ones for your garden based on the hardiness chart shown here.

    If you select a type that is tender in your region then you may need to plant the Thyme in containers so you can move it to a sheltered place in the winter.

    Which is the most drought-tolerant Thyme?

    Thyme drought tolerance chart

    Thymes are amazingly tough plants that can survive hot and dry weather for long periods and remain evergreen with showy blooms.

    Although Thymes are drought-tolerant, some are incredibly drought-resistant, such as Mastic time, while others are only moderately drought-tolerant, like Breckland Thyme and Moroccan Wild Thyme. The rest are somewhere between 3 to 4 months of drought resistance.

    The chart uses the drought-tolerance code defined by Olivier Filippi (https://jardin-sec.com/), which I find very useful and have found to be correct based on my own experience.

    Which Thyme is the most fragrant?

    The different thyme species have varying fragrance intensities. The most fragrant species I have found is Mastic thyme (Thymus mastichina). You can smell the lovely and intense aroma just by going near it. You don´t even need to touch it. This is the best thyme for aromatic gardens.

    Which is the best Thyme for your garden?

    This is the question that I hope to answer with all the information provided in this article. The best thyme will be different for different people and different environments.

    While you cannot change some conditions, such as the size and hardiness of the plant, others you can adjust, like soil and watering.

    Steps to choose the best plant for your garden

    • Check if the thyme is hardy enough for your climate. If not, then you need to select a different one.
    • Check if you have poor, well-drained soil. If not, see if you can adjust it.
    • Check if the size and shape are appropriate for the spot you want to plant in your garden.
    • Check if your climate can support the water needs for the thyme. If not, plan to water in extreme dry and hot weather.

    If you follow these steps, you will find the right plant for your garden.

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