Steppable Groundcovers

Published On: January 4th, 2022


Steppable Groundcovers are low-growing plants that are durable enough to withstand occasional foot traffic. They are especially valuable for planting between stepping stones to create a welcoming green walkway. The only requirement is that there must be earth between the stones, rather than sand or stone dust. They can also be used as truly ground-hugging groundcovers.

Ornamental Thymes

Full sun. Tolerant of dry soil.

steppable groundcovers thymus serpyllum elfin

Culinary Thyme tends to grow in a billowy, shrub-like fashion, but many ornamental Thymes have a prostrate habit that makes them perfect as Steppables. Thyme will tolerate moderate foot traffic and has the added benefit of fragrant foliage. The colorful flowers are present for 3-4 weeks in summer and are a favorite of pollinators. We grow several low growing varieties of Thyme, including:

  • Purple Carpet Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Purple Carpet’)
  • Red Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’)
  • Pink Chintz Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’)
  • Wooly Thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus)
  • Elfin Thyme (Thymus serpyllum ‘Elfin’)*

*Of these, ‘Elfin’, with its exceptionally compact growth habit, is my favorite.

Mazus

Mazus reptans

Full sun to partial shade.

steppable groundcovers mazus reptans creeping mazus in bloom

Prefers moist, loamy soil.

Bright green, absolutely flat foliage. Snapdragon-like purple-spotted flowers sit directly atop the foliage.

Irish Moss & Scotch Moss

Sagina

Partial shade.

steppable groundcovers sagina subulata aurea scotch moss

These plants take their common name from the fact that they resemble a lush carpet of moss. Irish moss (Sagina subulata) is a bright green color while Scotch Moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’) has chartreuse to yellow foliage. Both bear tiny star-like white flowers in summer.

Both Sagina and the following Ajuga work well in shade groundcover gardens too!

Bugleweed

Ajuga

Partial shade.

steppable groundcovers ajuga reptans chocolate chip

A vigorous spreading groundcover that features burgundy-bronze foliage and showy blue flower spikes in spring. Forms a dense, carpet-like mat, even in shady areas. An enthusiastic grower that should not be planted adjacent to lawn areas as it can escape into the lawn and become problematic.

  • ‘Black Scallop’ has glossy, bronze/near-black foliage.
  • ‘Chocolate Chip’ is a favorite due to its diminutive leaves and extremely dense growth habit.

Silver Carpet Lamb’s Ear

Stachys ‘Silver Carpet’

Full Sun.

steppable groundcovers stachys silver carpet

The common name comes from its silver-colored, soft, “fuzzy” leaves that resemble lamb’s ears. It increases quickly to form a dense 3”-4” groundcover. The ‘Silver Carpet’ cultivar was selected for its non-blooming habit.

Golden Creeping Jenny

Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’

Full sun to partial shade.

steppable groundcovers lysimachia nummularia aurea

A completely flat carpet of small, round leaves. Foliage color is bright yellow in sun and lime green/chartreuse in shade. Contrasts strikingly with dark leaf plants. Extremely vigorous and should be used with caution in spaces adjoining natural areas.

Carex

Carex

Full sun to full shade.

steppable groundcovers carex pensylvanica

Carex are grass-like plants, commonly called Sedges. There are several Wisconsin native species that make ideal no-mow lawn substitutes for shaded areas. While not as flat as others on the list, they are durable and will tolerate occasional foot traffic.