By Paul Schnare

Tuesday, September 2, 2003


There is a group of plants that is being sold under the name of “Stepables.”  The plants in this group can withstand some foot traffic—they can be walked on— without being harmed.


In addition to withstanding foot traffic, some “Stepables” emit fragrant odors when bruised.  Most “Stepables” are ground covers that spread rapidly yet are not invasive.  They make great additions to rock gardens and fill in nicely between patio and walkway pavers. 


Sedum hispanicum ‘Minus”, or stonecrop, has minute leaves.  At a distance this plant resembles moss until it is covered with masses of tiny pink flowers in spring.  This full sun loving plant is a great addition to rock walls and rock gardens.  It tolerates light foot traffic.


Labrador violet, Viola labradorica, is a shade to full sun loving ground cover that tolerates moderate foot traffic.  It spreads rapidly and surprises you with masses of small lilac flowers in the spring.  Use it under trees, in flower beds, under woodland bulb gardens, or among stone or pavers in a shaded walkway. 


Trifolium repens ‘Atropurpureum’, or bronze Dutch clover, has green foliage tinged in the middle with purple.  Its white blooms cover the foliage throughout the summer.  This rapidly spreading plant does best in full sun to part shade.  Since it tolerates moderate foot traffic in can be used not only as a ground cover in flowerbeds, but also between rocks and pavers that are used occasionally for foot traffic.


Wooly thyme, Thymus praecox ‘Pseudolanuginosus’, is a groundcover with dusty gray foliage and pink flowers that dazzle you in the summer.  Use wooly thyme between pavers and steppers or other areas where the soils stay hot and dry.  It likes full sun to part shade.


A cousin to wooly time is white creeping thyme, Thymus serphyllum var. albus.  This extremely small leaved plant forms a mat of shiny green foliage that forms a backdrop for summer blooming, white flowers.  Bruise this plant and smell a delightful aroma.  This plant tolerates moderate foot traffic, so use it where you will occasionally step on it in order to tickle your nose.


Another “Stepable” is creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia.  This groundcover is extremely useful because it will grow in areas that are dry as well as in wet areas.  It likes partial to full shade.  It’s bright green foliage provides a splendid backdrop for bright yellow flowers in the summer. 


I have listed just a few of the plants in the “Stepable” group.  I’m sure that if you don’t like the ones that I have described, there are many more to choose from.