There’s no doubt about it: A well-designed border along a walkway or path livens up an otherwise dull space.
Typically, most gardeners use low-growing plants to line walkways because if someone accidentally treads off the path, stepping on a short plant is easier to recover from than crashing into a hedge.
Some of these plants will stay put next to the walkway while others will creep over or between the pavers for a softer look.
Assess the Area
Select plants according to sunlight and water needs, just as you would in any other part of your yard, however, if the plants are going to touch the walkway make sure that they are also sensitive to changes in temperature as stone can get very hot and cold.
Most gardeners tend to underestimate the amount of foot traffic the plants might receive, especially if the ground cover is meant to creep between pathway pavers, so though the tendency is to select the plant you like while hoping for the best — try not to do this.
Measure the space to figure out how many plants you need to buy in order to avoid going over budget or planting too far apart.
Think about how much elbow grease you want to put in year-round and if the answer is none, go with evergreen plants.
Does your dog like to lay next to the walkway? Consider these dog-friendly ground covers.
10 Plants to Use Along Walkways
1. Blue star creeper (pictured above) —
Blue star creeper is semi-evergreen so not a great choice for very cold climates as it will lose its leaves, however, in the summer delicate, star-shaped, light-blue flowers bloom.
It has a soft, lush appearance growing up to a few inches tall but it can take moderate foot traffic which makes it an excellent choice for growing between pavers on walkways.
Grow it in sun or partial sun and transplant if need be.
2. Ornamental thymes —
An easy way to soften the edge of a walkway is to use an ornamental thyme such as wooley thyme, which grows in a dense mat of slightly fuzzy leaves.
Most ornamental thymes flower, adding small specks of color in the summer, and are relatively low-maintenance plants.
They can take some foot traffic (avoid in places with heavy foot traffic) but can also creep onto the walkway so plan enough space.
3. Mondo grass —
If you’re looking for a contemporary-looking border edging that’s popular in modern or zen gardens, try mondo grass, which also comes in a clumping dwarf form.
Black mondo grass adds drastic contrast to otherwise green foliage by growing in round, symmetrical clumps.
Mondo grass does not do well in cold climates, does not need pruning because it grows so slowly and it can be used in place of a traditional lawn.
4. Beach strawberry —
A relative to the beloved edible strawberry plant, this much smaller version has glossy leaves and a tendency to grow well in coastal areas, hence its name.
Pretty white flowers yield red fruit that is sold as a delicacy in South America.
Beach strawberry can take light foot traffic, is hailed as a native water-wise plant for low irrigation needs and sends out runners to sprout new plants.
5. Creeping Jenny —
Creeping Jenny comes in dark green or chartreuse and shoots long, busy stems over walkways to soften the look.
It’s an evergreen plant that looks great year-round with the chartreuse version sending out tiny yellow flowers in the summer time.
The plant doesn’t get more than about 6 inches tall but does like moist soil and light foot traffic.
Plant with reds and dark greens for a tropical look.
6. Hens and chicks —
If clumsy guests, tricycles and pets aren’t going to veer off the walkway and you must have succulents, hens and chicks are popular choices.
These drought-tolerant ground covers spread by growing multiple plants, come in a variety of colors and prefer sun, otherwise they fade to a light green.
Some hens and chicks grow taller than others so make sure to check the height if you’d like them to rise to the same level as your walkway.
7. Marigolds —
Common marigolds grow up to 6 inches tall (though other versions grow quite tall so check the label) and though they shouldn’t be deliberately stepped on, they are hearty plants.
Choose between yellow, white, red or gold flowers that bloom in mid-summer or mix and match for more color.
Because of their scent, marigolds are thought to repel bugs naturally, including mosquitoes.
The other upshot is that marigolds are fairly inexpensive plants to purchase so if a few suffer slug damage, then just replace them.
8. Dymondia —
This low-growing ground cover with silver-green leaves is also dog-friendly and perfect for growing between pavers.
It’s only an inch tall, so make sure to raise the level of dirt next to the walkway or pavers if need be.
Yellow flowers bloom in warm weather and it’s a moderate grower that can take neglect.
9. Moss —
Even though moss doesn’t have true roots (its nutrients come from the air), it can withstand a decent amount of foot traffic, however, be mindful that it can be slippery.
Moss likes moist conditions and shade, but some people do use it as a lawn replacement.
10. Baby tears —
Talk about an easy-to-care-for plant as baby tears can be grown in containers, between pavers and stone, as well as next to walkways as a border.
Don’t expect flowers, because there aren’t any, but do expect to pretty much neglect this ground cover other than it likes indirect sunlight and moist soil.
The small leaves are soft and dark green.
Plants to Avoid
Try to stay away from woody, vining plants like ivy as their stems can creep on to the walkway and trip people, plus frequently having to cut these plants back adds on unnecessary maintenance.
And, of course, stay away from anything with thorns because no one wants guests leaving your home wearing Band-Aids.
Keeping areas next to your walkways planted also prevents weeds from growing.
Consider fragrant plants in areas where guests will frequently wander and don’t be afraid to either work with a strict color palette or go bold by mixing and matching.
Do you have any low-growing plants to add to the list that we may have missed? We would love to hear from you. Please do so in the comments below…
Photo credits: blue star creeper, Flickr/libraryrachel; mondo grass, Flickr/cdsessums; wooly thyme, Flickr/patrick_standish; beach strawberry, Flickr/brian.gratwicke; creeping Jenny, Flickr/andrea_44; hens and chicks, Flickr/davef3138; marigolds, Flickr/libraryrachel; baby tears, Flickr/Howard Dickens