Creeping Thyme (Thymus Praecox ‘Coccineus’) in Portland parking strip
I pick plants for my clients very carefully and especially stepable plants for growing between flagstone. There are so many plants called stepables and it is easy to select the wrong one, a plant that will cause problems.
Most people don’t want to trial and error plants. They want to know it will the first time so they consult someone like me for guidance.
Here’s how I think about selecting stepable plants.
Step on those ground covers! That’s why they call them stepables.
I want a plant that doesn’t grow higher than 1″ tall so people won’t trip over the plant. To keep the plants low they should be stepped on frequently as it will keep them more dense and shorter. What you don’t want is for them to mound up to a 3″ hill and many of the stepables will do this so good selection is important. What do I mean by frequently? Walking on them daily is fine, but at least once or twice a month be sure to step firmly onto the plant. My grandson Rain helped me plant my flagstone patio. I went in the house briefly and his friend came running in and said “I keep telling him they’re stepables not stompables.” I looked up to see my grandson stomping on the freshly planted ground covers. The plants did survive but I don’t recommend stomping on them.
‘Brass Buttons’ is the mauve toned ferny ground cover.
I want a plant that doesn’t spread too fast and grow over the flagstone quickly. If you plant a type of stepable that grows too vigorously you will have to be constantly cutting the plant off of the flagstone. Untended it will completely cover your flagstone.
Cushion Bolax is one of my favorites.
Most of these plants require good drainage in order to grow thickly and repel weeds. If they don’t grow thickly weed seeds will thrive. I only use a few varieties of stepables for light shade or morning sun and afternoon shade.
Here is my favorites list:
Here’s a close up of ‘Platt’s Black’ Brass Buttons with Star Creeper.
Part shade/part sun: Leptinella squalida – New Zealand Brass Buttons. The variety I prefer is ‘Platt’s Black’. The other variety of Brass Buttons I like, ‘LePrinella P. Verdigris’ is a bit fast.
Mentha requienii – Corsican Mint This is a crowd pleaser because it smells good when you step on them. This plant does need good drainage, shade and soil that is too wet in the winter will kill this plant.
Plants for sun:
Thymus Serpyllum ‘Elfin’ or ‘Elfin Pink’ – I love this plant and it is truly a flat mat if you step on it. It does get weeds growing into the middle so it’s not maintenance free, but only garden magazines talk about maintenance free landscapes.
Thymus Serphyllum ‘Elfin’ or ‘Elfin Pink’ is a crowd pleaser for hot sunny areas.
Stachys Densiflora ‘Alba’ – Alba Lambs Ear First of all this plant looks nothing like silvery furry lambs ear. The leaves are fully evergreen, dark green and leathery. I love this plant because it doesn’t let weed seeds in. Plant it on the edges of your path unless you plan to step on it every day, otherwise it will mound up. It takes full sun easily and the flowering period is fantastic!
Azorella Trifurcata ‘Nana’ – Cushion Bolax I have this plant at my vacation house. It occasionally has a dandelion sprout in the middle, but rarely any other kind of weed and I find it to be very low maintenance.
My dog Barley looking at freshly planted Cushion Bolax ground cover.
I love the texture. It goes through a change where the little needles feel like a plastic carpet (which sounds bad but is fun) and then it softens into a pettable surface. The yellow flowers are tiny and cute.
There are a bazillion plants that are called stepables. I have not trialed them all. Read more…