Posted by Brent Wilson on 9/12/2016 to Design Tips
Looking to fill those spaces between stepping stones or pavers? It's never too late to get a low-growing, creeping perennial plant to fill the gaps!
There are many tough little perennial plants, ranging in height from a 1/4 of an inch to 3 inches or so, that are perfect for use between stepping stones and pavers. These low-growing and spreading plants not only provide soil cover they also prohibit weed growth, prevent soil erosion, and provide tremendous aesthetic value.
Things to consider...
Before you rush to buy your creeping perennials to fill those gaps, you need to make an assessment of where you’ll plant them. Match the plant to the environment by answering the follow questions:
How much foot traffic?
Not all creeping perennials will handle lots of foot traffic. The rule of thumb is this: The more delicate the leaf structure, the less traffic they’ll be able to withstand. Plants such as Dwarf Mondo Grass (pictured below) will tolerate more foot traffic than Sedums. Will your stone or paver path, walkway, or patio will be walked on several times a day, once a day, or just once a week?
How much sunlight?
Make sure when selecting a creeping perennial that you match the plant with the amount of sun exposure in the planting area. Does the area receive full or mostly direct sun, morning sun with afternoon shade, morning shade with afternoon sun, or shade or mostly shade? There are creeping plants for any amount of sunlight or lack thereof.
How is the soil drainage?
Is the site well-drained, does it stay damp, or is it constantly soggy? There are creeping plants that will adapt to any level of soil moisture. Some creeping perennials, such as Blue Star Creeper, Golden Creeping Jenny (pictured below) and Mazus prefer or will tolerate consistently moist or damp soil. Others, such as Sedums (Stonecrop) and Creeping Thyme prefer a more well-drained soil.
Mixing it up
Some folks like continuity or uniformity and will use only one variety of creeping plant to fill all the gaps in their stone or paver path or patio. There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. But I like mixing things up (as pictured below)...and there are advantages to doing so. For one thing, I like the more natural or wild look...as if the plants blew in with the wind. Also, if you plant several varieties and one variety doesn't like the environment and looks sickly all the time or dies you haven't lost everything. You can then just replace the few unhappy plants with some of the ones that are happy in the environment!
See my favorite creeping perennial plants below the Planting Instructions
How To Plant Between Stepping Stones & Pavers
Space between stepping stones and pavers will vary with the type of path or patio. Sometimes there's only an inch or two space between stones or pavers, while in other situations, such as a more natural woodland path, there may be as much as 6-12" between stones. If you plant a wide spreading plant in a pathway that provides only narrow spaces between the stones, the plants will quickly cover the stones, or you'll need to do more trimming to keep the plants in bounds. So, in narrow spaces, use stoloniferous, non-vining plants such as Mondo Grass or Blue Star Creeper. Fast growing and wide spreading plants, such as Creeping Jenny, are best for the wider spaces.
When planting your creeping perennials, plant a full plant in wider spaces for a faster “fill-in.” In small crevices, many creeping plants such as Blue Star Creeper (pictured below) and Dwarf Mondo Grass, which spread by underground roots (stolons, rhizomes), can be divided by using a utility knife to cut the root ball of the plant into halves or quarters.
NOTE! Plants with a single main stem cannot be divided!
If the gap you are wanting to fill between stones or pavers is narrow and tight try slicing long slender pieces to tuck in. If your existing path needs more space, you can chisel out some of the original path to create more of a gap for your plants. If necessary, mix in a soil amendment to dense or compacted native soil.
My Favorite Crevice Plants
There are hundreds of varieties of crevice plants to choose from to fill those gaps between stepping stones and pavers.
Based on my own experience over the years, here's some of my favorite creeping perennial plants...
Blue Star Creeper
I use Blue Star Creeper extensively in my gardens between the gaps of stepping stones and pavers. I also use it as a groundcover to grow around and beneath shrubs, roses, and small trees, such as laceleaf Japanese maples. Tiny, star-shape, blue flowers nearly cover the evergreen foliage in spring and then sporadically until the first frost in fall. The foliage is evergreen in warmer climates and semi-evergreen in cooler climates. It will tolerate full sun if the soil remains consistently moist. Otherwise, it is more suited to sites that provide morning sun with afternoon shade or dappled sunlight. Either way, it's best not to allow the soil to completely dry out for prolonged periods of time. When planting in narrow spaces between stepping stones or pavers you can divide the root ball into smaller parts that will fit the gaps. USDA Hardiness Zones: 5a-9b
Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummilaria 'Aurea" is one I extensively in my gardens between stepping stones and as a groundcover and under-planting for shrubs and trees. It grows to wide for use between closely-spaced pavers. The soft vines make creeping jenny very easy to keep in bounds though between widely spaced stones or when used as a border along a path or walk. Throughout the warm season the foliage is a lime green to golden color turning to orange in winter. Creeping jenny will grow in any average soil and in sun or shade, though we think it stands out more in shade, lighting up shady areas of the garden. It will tolerate damp soil however is quite drought tolerant, only requiring supplemental irrigation during drought. When growing in sun it requires more consistent moisture. USDA Hardiness Zones: 4a-9b
Dwarf Mondo Grass
Dwarf Mondo Grass is an evergreen groundcover that looks like turf...very deep green turf that is! While it is a suitable alternative to lawn grass for use as a low-maintenance lawn, it is the perfect choice to fill narrow gaps between stepping stones and pavers in shade to partial shade. It will tolerate morning sun but doesn't like the hot afternoon sun, at least not here in Georgia. It holds up very good to foot traffic and will not spread across the surface of the stones or pavers as many other spreading plants will do. It tolerates both drought and damp soils well, but not constantly soggy or wet soil. It can also be used as a groundcover under trees and shrubs or even as a no-maintenance lawn. USDA Hardiness Zones: 6a-10b
Creeping Thymes are very popular for use between stepping stones or pavers. In summer, pretty, tiny flowers nearly cover the groundhugging mats of foliage that grow to about 1 or 3 inches in height, depending on variety. Thyme is easy to grow in the right conditions, growing best in light, dry, well-drained soil and full sun. A little shade is okay. Constantly soggy or wet soil is a killer. USDA Hardiness Zones: 5a-8b
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