Veronica | SpeedwellVeronica | Speedwell

Groundcovers You Can Step On

By David Salman, Founder of High Country Gardens

Groundcovers are some of our most versatile and easy-to-grow perennials. 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. 

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 no-lawn 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 To Step

How a given groundcover holds up underfoot is a key consideration when choosing which ones to plant. However, even the toughest grass will be worn down by too much foot (or paw) traffic. For the areas where you want to be able to walk or play with kids or pets, consider one of our Sustainable Lawns. 

Before planting, study where the natural paths are, and what spaces have the most traffic. I always recommend putting down stepping stones, flagstone, slate pieces, or crushed stone to provide a hard, highly durable surface for the paths and walkways in your yard. Then, plan to use the most traffic-tolerant groundcovers to surround the stepping stones.

Remember, not every area of your yard needs groundcovers that tolerate being walked on. In other areas with less activity, where the ability to tolerate footsteps is much less important, you can use other groundcovers and perennials.

Read on to find our ratings for the most and least durable groundcover plants. 

White Nancy Lamium in the shadeWhite Nancy Lamium in the shade
White Nancy Lamium is the perfect groundcover for brightening a shady area, and it takes moderate foot traffic.
Zauschneria is a fast growing ground coverZauschneria is a fast growing ground cover
If you have an area that needs to be filled, but no foot traffic, Orange Carpet® Zauschneria is a great choice for a bold, waterwise, pollinator-friendly planting.
Thyme Leaf Veronica and FlagstonesThyme Leaf Veronica and Flagstones
Thyme Leaf Speedwell (Veronica oltensis) is quick growing, durable, and easily a garden favorite when it comes to groundcovers you can step on.

Not Durable

Place In Moderate Traffic Areas And Pair With Taller Plants

Best For Flower Beds And Borders Where They Will Not Be Stepped On

Moss Sandwort (Arenaria Wallowa Mts.)
Rockrose (Helianthemum cultivars)
Cold Hardy Ice Plant (Delosperma)*
Mother of Thyme (Thymus serphyllum 'Coccineum')
Creeping Stonecrop (Sedum)
Orange Carpet® Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria garrettii)*

*These groundcovers are the fastest-growing varieties. (You might even call them "galloping groundcovers.") Quick-growing varieties will help to fill in your space in less time.

Shop Groundcovers


The Legacy of David Salman | High Country Gardens founder David Salman was a pioneer of waterwise gardening, passionate plant explorer, and charismatic storyteller. His commitment to cultivating a palette of beautiful waterwise plants transformed gardening in the American West.


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