Groundcovers are some of our most versatile and easy-to-grow perennials. Like a well-designed house with floors covered by nice rugs and carpeting, the garden is more beautiful when we use groundcovers to cover bare ground. As the movement encouraging lawn-less landscapes gains momentum, groundcovers take center stage as an alternative to traditional grass lawns. Knowing and understanding the tolerance that different groundcover plants have to foot traffic is a key element in deciding which plants are right for your needs.
To Step or Not Step
Groundcovers are usually defined as plants that spread much wider than they are tall. They are typically low-growing plants that have stems that root, creating a spreading carpet of stems and leaves as they grow. How a given groundcover holds up under foot is a key consideration when choosing which ones to plant, though even the toughest grass will be worn down by constant foot - or paw - traffic. I always recommend putting down stepping stones, flagstone, or slate pieces to provide a hard surface where there are paths in your yard, and interplanting with groundcovers that have better durability underfoot.
Read on to find our ratings for the most and least durable groundcover plants.
Remember: Not every area of your yard needs groundcovers that tolerate being walked on. Before redoing any area, study where the paths are and use the most traffic tolerant groundcovers to surround the stepping stones. Elsewhere, being able to tolerate footsteps is much less important.
*These groundcovers are the fastest growing varieties (You might even call them "Galloping Groundcovers")
Groundcovers are some of our best low care perennials.
Deadheading: Keep them looking their best by "deadheading" them when they finish blooming. This can be done by hand with hedge trimmers or with a lawnmower adjusted to a higher setting. It just needs to be done once per season.
Fertilizing: Groundcovers growing in healthy living soil will be the most resilient, so apply a mix of Yum Yum Mix, compost (or earthworm castings) and granular molasses broadcast over the foliage and watered in. Do this in mid- to late fall (or mid-spring if your forget in the fall).
Callirhoe digitata is a tall, upright-growing graceful perennial that blooms all summer with showy magenta-pink flowers. Callirhoe digitata is native to the lower mid-West and eastern Great Plains. This wildflower is a favorite of bumblebees.
Delosperma cooperi (Coopers Hardy Ice Plant) is covered with large magenta-pink flowers for much of the summer. A perfect groundcover where easy-care, high color is on the wish-list. It grows vigorously, creating a succulent carpet of color.
Appalachian Sedge (Carex appalachica) is a native grass-like plant with thin, fine-textured leaf blades. Appalachian Sedge is an outstanding choice for use as an attractive grassy groundcover for shade and heavy shade areas.
Our 'Low Work and Water' Dwarf Fescue Lawn Seed Mix will create the ideal low water, low maintenance, low-growing turf grass for yards and play areas. Enjoy the beauty and benefits of a turf grass lawn without all the work and water.
Max Frei is a vigorous hybrid soapwort that blooms in mid- to late summer with hundreds of quarter-sized pink flowers. It's a large scale groundcover with attractive deep green foliage. An uncommon perennial that deserves wider use.
Veronica pectinata (Woolly Speedwell) is one of our finest groundcovers. Growing with long stems of wooly evergreen foliage, the plants cover themselves with blue blooms, aging to lavender-blue flowers in early to mid-spring. 2" tall x 18" wide.