Groundcovers You Can Step On

Turkish Speedwell (Veronica liwanensis) is a showy, low-maintence groundcover that easily acts as a crack-filler, delighting any path with beautiful blue blooms.Turkish Speedwell (Veronica liwanensis) is a showy, low-maintence groundcover that easily acts as a crack-filler, delighting any path with beautiful blue blooms.
Turkish Speedwell (Veronica liwanensis) is a showy, low-maintence groundcover that easily delights any path with beautiful blue blooms.

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. 

Creeping Gold Buttons (Cotula Tiffindel Gold) is a beautiful, drought-resistant alternative lawn subsitute, which requires very low-care. A High Country Gardens Introduction.Creeping Gold Buttons (Cotula Tiffindel Gold) is a beautiful, drought-resistant alternative lawn subsitute, which requires very low-care. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
Creeping Gold Buttons (Cotula Tiffindel Gold) is a beautiful, drought-resistant alternative lawn subsitute, which requires very low-care. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
Thyme Leaf Speedwell (Veronica oltensis) is quick growing, durable, and easily a garden favorite when it comes to groundcovers you can step on.Thyme Leaf Speedwell (Veronica oltensis) is quick growing, durable, and easily a garden favorite when it comes to groundcovers you can step on.
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: Best For Flower Beds And Borders Where They Will Not Be Stepped On

White Nancy Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) is the perfect groundcover for a shady area and takes moderate foot traffic.White Nancy Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) is the perfect groundcover for a shady area and takes moderate foot traffic.
White Nancy Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) is the perfect groundcover for a shady area and takes moderate foot traffic.
If you have an area that needs to be filled, but no foot traffic, Creeping Hummingbird Trumpet Fire Chalice (Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet®) is the quintessential, dramatic groundcover for you.If you have an area that needs to be filled, but no foot traffic, Creeping Hummingbird Trumpet Fire Chalice (Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet®) is the quintessential, dramatic groundcover for you.
If you have an area that needs to be filled, but no foot traffic, Creeping Hummingbird Trumpet Fire Chalice (Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet®) is the quintessential, dramatic groundcover for you.

Groundcover Maintenance

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).

Text and Photos By David Salman

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Shop Groundcovers | Alternative Lawns

  1. Callirhoe digitata, Standing Poppy Mallow, Standing Winecups

    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 easter...

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    Fringed Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe) Fringed Poppy Mallow, Standing Winecups Callirhoe digitata
    As low as $8.99 Sale $7.19
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    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.
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  2. Pink Lamium maculatum Orchid Frost, Lamium maculatum Orchid Frost, Orchid Frost Deadnettle

    Lamium maculatum Orchid Frost (Orchid Frost Deadnettle) is showy, repeat blooming groundcover for shady areas with large orchid-pink flowers and frosty variegated foliage....

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    Orchid Frost Lamium Orchid Frost Dead Nettle Lamium maculatum Orchid Frost
    As low as $7.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Lamium maculatum Orchid Frost (Orchid Frost Deadnettle) is showy, repeat blooming groundcover for shady areas with large orchid-pink flowers and frosty variegated foliage.
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  3. Red Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet, Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet, Garnet Dwarf Iceplant

    Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet is dwarf hybrid Ice plant with a profusion of eye catching, dime sized flowers of scarlet and lavender. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant...

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    Jewel of Desert Garnet Ice Plant Jewel of Desert Garnet Dwarf Ice Plant Delosperma Jewel of Desert Garnet
    As low as $8.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet is dwarf hybrid Ice plant with a profusion of eye catching, dime sized flowers of scarlet and lavender. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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  4. Delosperma cooperi, Cooper's Hardy Ice Plant

    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....

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    Cooper's Hardy Ice Plant Cooper's Hardy Ice Plant Delosperma cooperi
    As low as $6.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    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.
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  5. Carex appalachica, Appalachian Sedge, Photo Courtesy Of Hoffman Nursery

    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 gr...

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    Appalachian Sedge Grass Appalachian Sedge Carex appalachica
    As low as $9.99
    Per Plant - 3.25" Pot
    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.
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  6. Low Work and Water Dwarf Fescue Grass Seed close up

    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 o...

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    Low Work and Water Dwarf Fescue Grass Seed Low Work and Water Dwarf Fescue Grass Seed
    As low as $34.95
    Per 5 Pounds
    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.
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  7. Pink Saponaria lempergii Max Frei, Saponaria lempergii Max Frei, Giant Flowered Soapwort

    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 folia...

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    Max Frei Saponaria Max Frei Giant Flowered Soapwort Saponaria lempergii Max Frei
    As low as $8.99 Sale $7.19
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    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.
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  8. Blue and White Veronica pectinata, Veronica pectinata, Blue Woolly Speedwell

    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 la...

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    Blue Woolly Veronica Blue Woolly Speedwell Veronica pectinata
    As low as $7.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    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.
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