Plants that can tolerate 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” are another name for plants for paths and walkways, and they are workhorses for your garden. Not only are they a great low maintenance alternative to grass, they are “stepable”! Which of course means they are plants you can walk on. These plants can turn a boring walk to the compost bin into an idyllic stroll. And to top it all off, these plants for walkways are also easy to grow! So let’s get inspired first, then learn about some of our favorite plants for paths and walkways!
Stepables To Inspire You
Plants for paths are a perfect foil for weeds when they grow thick and tight, like this sedum. Once these stepable plants grow in, all it takes is a little haircut with some garden scissors to keep the stepping stones uncovered. Love this path from ‘Behnke Nursery‘. Makes you want to take off your shoes, right?
This is a form of the popular irish moss (which isn’t really a moss, BTW) called scotch moss. One of our favorite ground covers because of it’s bright green color. Its almost like a river of green, isn’t it? Photo by ‘Merrifield Garden Center‘.
Love the patches of scotch moss in between the stepping stones in this photo.
This garden path proves that plants for walkways can have a modern vibe too. Irish Moss softens the stepping stones, but succulents and drought resistant ground covers add interest and texture to make the pathway more interesting. From ‘Earp Construction‘.
How to Grow Plants for Walkways
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 to lawn for a light traffic yard or as erosion control, these are our favorite “stepables”.
Our Favorite Plants for Paths and Walkways
Creeping Thyme is a short, drought resistant plant that flowers in early-mid summer. It’s flowers are a pretty pinkish purple, and the leaves are fragrant when crushed. Although you can cook with this herb, it is not the same culinary thyme that we generally use in the kitchen. Ornamental herbs tend to lack the flavor or intensity of culinary herb varieties. But really, when it looks this great and you can step on it, do we care? Hardy down to Zone 4, it grows 3-6 inches tall and to 18 inches wide. Photo by ‘WW Greenhouses‘.
Golden Creeping Jenny
Golden Creeping Jenny is hardy down to Zone 3 and is a fast growing ground cover plant perfect for paths. It has a small yellow flower in spring- summer, and is evergreen in milder climates. Growing 2-4 inches tall and 12-18 inches wide, this pathway plant likes to stay moist. Photo by ‘Stepables‘.
Corsican mint prefers partial shade and has tiny little leaves that make it look a little like moss from a distance. These plants for paths also like to be moist, and will even take a low spot in your garden that doesn’t drain well. Do not let them dry out! This mint is native to the Mediterranean and has small lilac flowers in summer. Hardy to Zone 6. Photo by ‘Country Living‘.
Dwarf Bugleweed is a plant for walkways that is just about perfect, because even when it is in flower, it rarely attracts bees. It’s short stature means it does not have to be mowed, and it is very tolerant to foot traffic. It is also drought resistant when planted in part sun. Hardy to Zone 3! Photo by ‘Gardeners Direct‘.
Creeping Speedwell can be grown in full sun to part shade, and is deer and rabbit resistant. It flowers off and on all summer with tiny lilac blossoms. Hardy to Zone 6, this pathway plant prefers medium water, and grows just 1-3 inches tall by 6-12 inches wide. Photo by ‘Wiseacre Gardens‘.
Scotch or Irish Moss (Sagina Subulata)
Scotch and Irish Moss are not really moss at all (if you want to know more about that, try our post on Marvelous Moss Gardens!) Rather, they are a ground cover plant that has delicate white flowers in spring, and grows less than one inch tall. Scotch Moss is simply the golden variety of Sagina subulata. This plant prefers moist, but not wet soil and protection from afternoon sun. Hardy to Zone 4, space them 12 inches apart to get full coverage their first season. Isn’t this just gorgeous and lush?!
This photo from ‘Gardenerd‘ shows using Irish Moss in very tiny spaces where you might just want a little green. This also keeps weeds from growing in the cracks. This designer planted this Irish Moss from seed.
Finally we have one of best workhorse plants ever. There are many varieties of creeping sedums, but our favorite is “Angelina” as seen here. Tiny golden succulent leaves cover this very tough and resilient groundcover plant. Drought resistant, deer resistant and evergreen in milder climates, this is one ground cover plant we use again and again. Spikes of yellow flowers grow in early summer, but we prefer to mow them down and enjoy the foliage alone. Grows 3-6 inches tall and 24-36 inches wide in a fast growing mat. This plant tolerates almost any conditions except soggy soil. Will even “replant” itself from broken branches! Hardy to Zone 3. Photo by ‘Bethlehem Gardening‘.