By David Salman, Chief Horticulturist
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 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
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 underfoot 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.
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.
Read on to find our ratings for the most and least durable groundcover plants.