Gardening with Deb: Plants that handle foot traffic |

Gardening with Deb: Plants that handle foot traffic

Deb Babcock

CSU Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays throughout the gardening season. Call them at 970-870-5241, email csumgprogram@co.r... or visit the Extension Office, 136 Sixth street. For more information about plants that are hardy enough to be walked on, contact the Extension office for Fact Sheet No. 7.400 (online at visit jeeperscreepersus... and

Of the many beautiful gardens in Routt County, my favorites feature meandering pathways that lead you through the beds of plants. Some are grassy walkways; others are made of gravel, wood chips, railroad ties or pavers; and some are a combination of flat stones with ground cover plantings or mosses growing in the spaces between the stepping stones.

For plants that are intended to be trodden upon, gardeners should look for a ground cover plant that is low growing, spreads easily and is dense enough to inhibit weeds. This, of course, is a perfect description for most grasses. But there are quite a few perennial plants that can be grown in spaces between stepping stones, can tolerate foot traffic and don’t require lots of water or mowing to keep trim and tidy.

As you choose a ground cover for your pathways, consider these factors:

• The amount of sun versus shade

• Exposure to winter sun and winds

• Soil quality in the pathway

• Amount of foot traffic the plant will endure

You’ll also want to consider features of the plant, such as its height, the size of its foliage, whether it bears flowers or fruits, its texture and its color.

Then select the zone 3 – 4 plant that appeals to you and which can thrive in your pathway environment.

For a hot, dry, sunny exposure, consider creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) which grows to a height of two to four inches. Many of the sedum plants also work well on pathways in sunny spots: goldmoss sedum (Sedum acre), dragon’s blood sedum (S. spurium) and John Creech sedum (S. John Creech). Other plants that thrive in full sun and can handle being stepped on include pussytoes (Antennaria), mountain rockcress (Arabis) and sunny side up fleabane (Erigeron).

For partly sunny walkways, creeping thyme (Thymus polytrichus) and wooly thyme (T. pseudolanginosus) are good choices, as is rock cress (Aubrieta x cultorum).

Walkways in shady areas can be planted with several of the varieties of Mazus reptans (‘Alba’ or ‘Purple’), moss sandwort (Arenaria verna) or speedwell (Veronica repens or V. prostrata). Moss campion (Silene aculis), Scotch moss (Sagina subulata), bugle (Ajuga reptans) and moss phlox (P. subulata) also are good choices.

Unless you’re looking for aggressive groundcovers that are certain to migrate from your walkways into your garden beds and lawn, take care to rein in these beautiful plants: sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), sweet violet (Viola odorata), moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia), mock strawberry (Duchesnea indica), and trumpet vine (Campsis radicans).

Before planting in your walkway, be sure to prepare the soil by adding organic matter and loosening the soil so air and water can reach the roots. If the plants need to be kept quite short, consider those that can handle mowing, such as thyme or bugle. Then water well until the plants are established.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Questions? For more information, Call 970-879-0825 or email

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