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).
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.
Carpeting Pincushion flower is a fantastic groundcover new to cultivation. It blooms beginning in late spring with huge mauve-pink flowers that sit right ontop of the plant's crinkled evergreen foliage. Closely related to Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower). Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
This jumbo snow-in-summer has large stems and leaves and was discovered growing in a Santa Fe, NM. Its larger size and vigor make it an excellent lawn substitute, producing a carpet of white blooms in late spring. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric). 4-5" x 15-18" wide.
Thymus Reiter (Reiter Creeping Thyme) is one of the most vigorous creeping thymes with its stems of olive-green foliage rooting as they spread across the soil. Blooming in mid-summer with prolific lavender-pink flowers, it makes an excellent small-scale lawn substitute. Drought resistant/drought tolerant perennial plant (xeric).
Delosperma Red Mountain® Flame is a tough, vigorous cold hardy Ice Plant with large blazing orange-red flowers in late spring and early summer. Delosperma Red Mountain Flame Ice Plant is a Plant Select award winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).