Stepables , a brand of ground covers, has polled its growers and developed the Tough Ten, solution plants recommended “for their wide range of versatility and robust habits.”Each of these plants can take considerable foot traffic without a lot of damage. Some of the plants will do best in moist areas while others prefer drier soil.
Here are Stepables’ Tough Ten: Irish moss and ‘Aurea’ Scotch moss (Sagina subulata), blue star creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis), purple mazus (Mazus reptans), ‘Pseudolanuginosus’ woolly thyme (Thymus praecox), ‘Elfin’ thyme (Thymus serpyllum), ‘Aurea’ creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), ‘John Creech’ sedum (S. spurium), ‘Chocolate Chip’ bugleweed (Ajuga), ‘Plenus’ double birds foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).
Each of these is winter hardy in Indiana. Sometimes the phrase ‘robust habits’ can be a euphemism for invasive. Certainly, tough and aggressive are desirable traits for plants for challenging areas. But these habits can make thugs of plants when used as companions with other perennials in the garden. So, select carefully. Here are my favorites from the list:
‘Pseudolanuginosus’ woolly thyme (Thymus praecox) and ‘Elfin’ thyme (Thymus serpyllum) are ground-hugging plants with tiny white or pink flowers in summer. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Can take it on the dry side. Footsteps release the aromatic fragrance of this herb. Ideal to plant among stepping stones, pavers or to cascade over a wall. Thyme attracts butterflies.
- Purple mazus (Mazus reptans) has small, lavender blue flowers in summer. Plant in full sun or part shade. Prefers organically rich, evenly moist soil. Forms a tight mat of deep green foliage. Gets about 2 inches tall.
‘Aurea’ creeping Jenny’s (Lysimachia nummularia) golden chartreuse color sets off many companions, such as a blue- or red-flowering saliva. The more moist the planting site, the more aggressive this ground-hugging plant can be. Seems easier to control when planted in a drier site in full sun. It tolerates light shade, but may lose some of it gold color.
- ‘John Creech’ sedum (Sedum spurium) gets only about 2 inches tall and has pink flowers in late summer. Does best in full sun, but tolerates light shade. Plant in well-drained soil. Can take it on the dry side. May be evergreen, depending on the severity of winter.
Look for these plants in garden centers, nurseries or from mail order or online retailers. Although these plants are marketed as Stepables, most of them are readily available from dozens of other growers without a brand name. For the rest of the Tough Ten, see Web extra .