Paths and walkways become intimately tied to the garden when interplanted with rugged groundcovers that can handle light foot traffic.

Tucked neatly between stepping stones in a courtyard retreat, blue star creeper (Pratia pedunculata) invites a garden visitor to stay a while.
Photo courtesy of Stepables; www.stepables.com

Stone paths, brick walkways, pavers that welcome a visitor to amble throughout the garden; these are elements that tie together a landscape and provide structure and flow. Such components encourage participation and become a permanent part of the site.

But sometimes hardscape needs to be softened, and nothing does that better than the addition of groundcover plants tucked among the rock-hard elements that pave our way. There are dozens of selections of low-growing groundcovers in the trade, but those that are best suited for garden paths are able to take a bit of abuse. So the best way to categorize them is to determine how much foot traffic they can withstand – light, moderate or heavy. Keeping in mind individual cultural requirements, such as sun exposure and moisture needs – not to mention your clients’ preferences – you’re bound to find the perfect plant for the garden path.

Green carpet rupturewort (Herniaria glabra) provides a lush cover that seamlessly blends pathways into the garden.

Light traffic

Is there a path that’s seldom used, where visitors tread lightly? Try any of these handsome plants. An occasional footfall won’t do too much damage, and might even release a delightful fragrance.

  • Ajuga reptans (carpet bugleweed); zones 3 to 10
  • Alchemilla alpina (alpine lady’s mantle); zones 3 to 9
  • Alchemilla ellenbeckii (lady’s mantle); zones 6 to 9
  • Campanula poscharskyana (Serbian bellflower); zones 3 to 8
  • Cerastium tomentosum (snow-in-summer); zones 3 to 7
  • Chamaemelum nobile (Roman chamomile); zones 4 to 9
  • Chrysogonum virginianum (goldenstar); zones 5 to 9
  • Cymbalaria muralis (Kenilworth ivy); zones 5 to 8
  • Erysimum kotschyanum (dwarf wallflower); zones 4 to 9
  • Fragaria chiloensis (beach strawberry); zones 4 to 9
  • Mentha requienii (Corsican mint); zones 7 to 9
  • Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus’ (dwarf mondo grass); zones 6 to 11
  • Sagina subulata (Irish moss); zones 4 to 10
  • Soleirolia soleirolii (baby’s tears); zones 9 to 11

Leptinella squalida (brass buttons)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’ (Irish moss)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Phlox subulata ‘Emerald-Blue’ (creeping phlox)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Moderate traffic

If a walkway is used a few times a day, groundcovers that are a bit tougher can fill the voids nicely.

  • Antennaria dioica (pussytoes); zones 3 to 8
  • Leptinella squalida (brass buttons); zones 4 to 10
  • Lysimachia nummularia (creeping Jenny); zones 3 to 9
  • Lysimachia japonica var. minutissima (miniature moneywort, loosestrife); zones 5 to 8
  • Mazus reptans (mazus); zones 5 to 8
  • Phlox subulata (creeping phlox); zones 3 to 9
  • Potentilla neumanniana ‘Nana’ (alpine cinquefoil); zones 4 to 8
  • Pratia pedunculata (blue star creeper); zones 6 to 10
  • Thymus pseudolanuginosus (woolly thyme); zones 5 to 8
  • Thymus serpyllum (wild thyme); zones 4 to 8
  • Veronica liwanensis (Turkish veronica); zones 4 to 9
  • Veronica prostrata (prostrate speedwell); zones 4 to 8
  • Veronica repens (creeping speedwell); zones 6 to 9
  • Viola labradorica (Labrador violet); zones 3 to 8
  • Waldsteinia ternata (barren strawberry); zones 4 to 8

Thymus pseudolanuginosus (woolly thyme)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’ (Platt’s Black brass buttons)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Who could resist taking a stroll along this path, interplanted with mazus (Mazus reptans)?
Photo courtesy of Stepables; www.stepables.com

Branded plants

There are several brands of groundcover plants that can withstand the abuse of work boots – or sandals – which makes the job of selecting appropriate pathway plants a snap. Remember to verify just how much foot traffic a variety can handle.