Stepables: Perfect Plants for Paths and Walkways

stepables

Plants that can stand some foot traffic deserve a spot in every garden. They are hardworking, soften your hard scape, and add texture, scent and beauty to an otherwise utilitarian space…a walkway.

stepables

Just because a plant can take light foot traffic doesn’t mean you should play football on it. These plants still need water and basic care, but are low maintenance plants. Make sure you pay attention to their sun/shade and water needs. Many of them spread and multiply as well. Planted around garden paths, as an alternative lawn for a light traffic yard or as erosion control, these are our favorite “stepables”.

Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme

 

Golden Creeping Jenny

stepables

 

Corsican Mint

Corsican Mint

 

Dwarf Bugleweed

Dwarf Bugleweed

 

Creeping Speedwell

stepables

 

Scotch or Irish Moss

stepables

 

Creeping Sedum

stepables

Image Credits: gardenerdirect, decoist, WW Greenhouse, stepables, Country Living, Gardeners Direct, wiseacre-gardens, bethlehem-pa-gardening

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Comments

  1. Hi Jenny!
    I wondered if you would mind if I link to this article from my website. I was just blogging about putting creeping thyme around a pool area and ran across this wonderful description of steppables. Thanks a bunch!
    Julie

  2. Cherylann says:

    HI,
    Love the post! I was wondering if any of these plants are tame enough to just stay in between and not take over? The Irish and Scotch moss want to go everywhere and I can’t keep up with them. I can hardly see my cobblestones and have to cut it away…
    Help if you can, please?
    Thanks very much.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Well, I understand your issue! Most of the stepables are meant to spread, its part of the groundcover process… It depends somewhat on your garden conditions…for instance, sedums will spread more quickly in a warm summer area, while the mosses will spread more in shady, cool coastal environments… Anyone know of a step able that is well behaved? Dwarf bugleweed perhaps? Good question Cheryl Ann!

      • Cheryl Ann says:

        Thanks so much for the help, I will try the dwarf bugleweed. I live on the Olympic Pen. of WA and the scotch and irish moss took over the whole pathway…I want to be able to see the stones and just have the plants between…I took all of the moss out. Dwarf bugleweed next…:)

        • Kathy Woodard says:

          It should do better over there (bugleweed), mosses would go crazy over there! We are inland Wa… can’t wait to move back to the west side!

          • The Dawarf Mundo Grass spreads nicely and will only fill in the cracks and not take over! Also the No Mow Grass is so slow growing that it couldn’t get away from you and would be beautiful! xx

    • You should try one of the thymes. They have the added benefit of wonderful scent when stepped on, and grow more slowly, reaching their limit in less space.

  3. Is there a stepable plant that would work well in phoenix arizona full sun? I am so tired of rock!

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Any of the sedums are good choices, and wooly thyme as well… just make sure they get regular water the first summer as they establish!

  4. Marilyn says:

    I am looking for something to spread over a larger area that stays very low to the ground.

  5. Joanne Cornett says:

    Hi, I planted several different stepables in between my flagstone and it hasn’t done very well. Mostly some of the different thymes. I think it may be because it stays kind of damp there. Is there anything you could suggest that could take soil that doesn’t drain too well. Thanks!

  6. I am planning on covering my lawn with cardboard and putting in stepping stones and stepables. What depth should the soil be? Should I plan to also use sand and/or gravel?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Hi Susan! Is the plan to use the cardboard to kill the grass? Will you be removing it afterward, or are you hoping to add soil over the top of the cardboard?

  7. I live in Enumclaw, WA and my property is verysunny. I built a new home and added a stone walkway. I planted Bluestar Creeper along the stone walkway and it came up fine, but did NOT comeback in the spring. The Bluestar said to 14 degrees, and I know we hit that. So this spring I replanted with Super Star Creepers as the description said to “0” degrees. Please advise if I should cover with compost, or just leave alone, It was allot of work, used 7 flats and I don’t want to have to replace each year.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Blue Star creeper should be hardy, we know the Seattle area well… You did have a LOT of rain last winter, I wonder if that was more the issue than the cold? The truth is, sometimes plants just fail to thrive and we are never sure why. I did some research on your “Super Star” and it doesn’t’ appear you should need to cover them, though it never hurts, as long as you wait until they have died completely back to the roots so they don’t rot, especially in Seattle rains… Hope this helps!

  8. Was wondering when these come up in the spring, how long do they last before dying off?? Would they work on a Rockery.

  9. Hi Kathy,
    Thank you so much for this info. My front courtyard is mostly sunny. I have placed some big pavers to fill in part of the area and want to put some of the ground cover in between the stones. Will the ground cover work in sun?

  10. what stepables could I use that are nontoxic to dogs & potbelly pigs?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      I believe Thyme would be, but you should check first with the ASPCA… they have a list of toxic plants!

      • lindsey says:

        I just got stonecrop for my garden, i’m not sure about pigs but it is listed as being dog-friendly

  11. I was wondering if anyone knows which of these, if any, would stand up to two large dogs running on it?

  12. David Posner says:

    Please keep in mind that plants like these are notorious for not staying in one place–I am fighting huge patches of bugle weed (planted by a previous owner) that have infiltrated the grass–creeping Jenny and things in the mint family are the worst.

    Too many things that we plant without a second thought escape into natural areas and degrade native habitats.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Good point, but it also depends on where you live… what is a great decorative plant in one area, can be invasive in another… When in doubt, check with your local nursery!

  13. Veronica says:

    We are southeast Washington and I am intrigued with the thought of using Irish or scotch moss on our north side but assumed we didn’t get enough moisture to sustain it. I use our automatic sprinkling system, but it barely keeps the lawn alive during the hot summer months. Do you think moss would work?

    • Veronica says:

      Oh yes and this side of the house is nearly always shaded.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Hi Veronica! Where are you? We are actually in the Tri Cities, so we feel your pain! I honestly don’t think moss would thrive, even on the north side… we use a lot of Thyme and “Angelina” sedum… Beaver Bark in Richland has some great plants, and advice for this area!

  14. Do you know which stepables would do well in Chicago? Our back yard is shaded in the summer by a huge oak tree and we do get below freezing in the winter.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Most of the stepables in the post are hardy to freezing… It’s always best to check with a nursery near your home, because hardiness can even vary within a city!

  15. Sharon Medek says:

    I planted Steppables several years ago around the stepping stones to our above-ground pool. Only a small percentage survived. What’s the trick to letting them take hold and spread?

  16. I came across this post and I love it! I’m talking my husband into doing a side yard path with flagstone and I LOVE the dwarf blue bugleweed. This is probably a dumb question, but how do you go about planting it? Do you just spread the seeds or is it best to already have the plants started? Sorry. We are totally new to this whole gardening thing, but I’d love to do it!

  17. Alejandra says:

    I have a walk path with stepping stone where I would love to grow some ground covers. The problem is I have a bunch of trees that lose all their leaves in the fall and the whole backyard is covered. The question is, can I rake the leaves and don’t damage the ground cover?

  18. I live in SE Idaho, which is high mountain desert. Any suggestions for a “steppable” for a very sunny area?

  19. Hi… I’m in Texas, just north of Houston. We have drought, floods, the occasional single digit temps in winter and triple digit in summer… high humidity as well. I’m looking for a low ground cover to surround a saltwater pool. We’ve regular mints growing well around it now (natural mosqito repellant), but I’d like something much shorter around the stone paths and a no-mow solution to the area still planted with water hogging St. Augustine. The Corsican mint looks possible but I’m not sure about my climate for it… any brilliant suggestions I’d be most grateful!!

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Im not familiar with the Texan climate, readers, any ideas? Something that has worked for you?

  20. Would it be possible to give the latin names , species/genus ? You use names common to the US and these are not known to us in Europe .

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      That is a great idea, I will try to update soon with Latin names!In the meantime, if there is one you are interested in, Google the common name and you should have no trouble finding them!

  21. Hi – great ideas here. We’re planting Turfstone (lattice-like stone) near our fire pit and need some stepable moss (?) or other very low plant to fill in the squares. It also needs to be shade tolerant, hearty, and maybe most importantly, deer resistant as we are in the Adirondacks. Do you know if any of the common recommendations (blue star creeper, Scotch or Irish Moss, etc.) could fit this bill? Thanks!

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Hi Sandy! Scotch Moss is deer resistant and likes shade, might be the perfect fit of you! Sounds like an amazing fire pit!

  22. Michelle S says:

    Hello! I live in western WA (Tacoma). I’m doing a flag stone path and would love to do the Corsican mint to fill in the spaces between the stones…I know mints can get crazy though, would that stay low to the ground? I also love the pretty flowers on the creeping thyme, I was thinking of doing that just bordering both sides of the path. Would either of these do well in my area?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Corsican Mint would love it, and it does stay low… Creeping Thyme will do well if it has enough sun and good enough drainage…. It will grow a bit taller… Hope this helps!

  23. John in Dallas says:

    Hi Jenny – was wondering, the last image – what is that? the green foliage. I like the stepping stones, we found an old iron table that had 6 triangles that went together, only one was missing, so we have these gorgeous triangle steps, sitting in dirt because, we can’t figure out what that ground cover is. :-) Hope to hear back from ya!! And thank you for sharing.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Hi John! That bright green plant is creeping sedum, I believe its a variety called “Acre’… Good luck!

  24. John in Dallas says:

    i’m sorry – Kathy – not Jenny. doh!!!

  25. Hi,

    I’m wondering if any of these creepers would do well in a rock wall with large spaces in hot and sunny Sicily, if not any other recommendations? I’m looking for some low maintenance year round colour that will grow with little soil and won’t overtake.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      I don’t know Sicily’s weather and zones, but I would think wooly or creeping Thyme would be a good choice, also sedums for hot and sunny places!

  26. We are putting in a path through our lawn. We plan dig down about 4″, lay down a layer of gravel and then sand to support flagstone. We want to grow stepables in the gaps between the flagstone (probably about 6″ gaps). What should we lay down as our top layer on top of the sand. Our original plan was to lay down another inch of gravel on the top but I am worried that the stepables won’t grow in the gravel/sand. What is our best bet?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      I would lay a 2-3 inch layer of topsoil over the sand… many will grow in sandy soil, but pure sand could be tough for some!

  27. wendy clemente says:

    We planted many different kinds of ground cover. We were wondering if its easy to seperate some that are spreading better than others to fill in bare spots to cover the area faster? Or does it matter the kind of groundcover?

  28. I live in Illinois, southern part and wondering what to plant for paths between roses and strawberry beds about 3ft. section wide. Also for a path around two sides of the house that will have stepping stones, about 5ft.wide section. Don’t want it to be too tall, but covers good. I have poor soil that use to be wooded around a small lake. I would say clay/very hard. The trees are mostly a shagbark hickory or an acorn oak.

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