Groundcover between stepping stones

bevingaMay 3, 2008


I have about ten round stepping stones that were set in concrete/cement by the original owners of our house. They are set in a semi-circular pattern coming from my deck step: 4, then 3, 2, then 1.

I have a problem with grass sporadically growing in between these stones and last year wanted to tuck creeping thyme in between them. I didn't know the true depth of the soil, nor did I know the stones were set in cement until I actually began to plant the thyme. There is approximately 1" of soil.

Last year I didn't plant it at the best time; I waited until the end of June/first of July, and with our drought it didn't survive. I tried to water it on our alotted days. Was the possible reason for it not surviving because of the drought, the shade in which the stones are placed, or the lack of depth in the soil?

Is there any other creeping ground cover that would survive these circumstances?



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squirrellypete(z7b AL)

I see no reason why the depth would have been an issue except that maybe because it was shallow it dried out quickly. As far as the roots go though I have my thyme in between stepping stones and it's lucky if it has an inch of depth in many places but once it got a foothold it grows just fine there and wasn't phased at all by the drought. I did try transplanting some handfuls into another area that needed to be filled in last year during the peak of the drought and despite watering, all but 1 clump died. I think it was just too darn hot and dry to be planting even for something as tough as thyme. We've been getting quite a bit of rain here this Spring and I just tried transplanting to that barren area again today after the storm passed. Seems to me like right now is a good time to do it before summer arrives.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 2:37AM
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Thanks Danielle,
I'm going to be driving through Acworth this afternoon after church (we attend in Marietta) and might stop in at Pike's to see if they have any creeping thyme. I'm ready to give it another try...I really think it would be pretty if I could just get it established. Your advice is greatly appreciated!


    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 6:26AM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

there are any number of sedum varieties out there that would probably do you well between the stones. Lots of cool varieties. anything that would survive or grow well in a rock garden should do you.

i expected that wooly thyme or creeping thyme would have been OK based on what i've read and seen - but, as with lots of other drought-tolerant plants, they aren't cool with dry weather until rooting is established.

there is a fern out there i've seen - i believe it is asian in nature - the leaves are very unique and look like gecko feet/gecko toes. if this is a darker place (part shade to full shade), this fern in particular would probably look great. i can't find it online; have no idea the name of it.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 5:44PM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

It's called "spikemoss" (the fern-like thing I was talking about).

It may have invasive tendencies, so do your research beforehand (it's probably not as bad as creeping fig!)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 5:49PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

I have creeping jenny which I've been trying to get to grow between some stones for a few years. I get a lot of afternoon sun which is not great. But this spring it really sprang!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 8:51PM
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Thanks! I have some creeping jenny but thought it would be too fragile for a walk-way area.

I looked up spike moss and other than the search turning up "A Civil Rights Activist, Harry "Spike" Moss..." LOL! I really couldn't find a good picture. I'll keep looking, though.

Also to show my ignorance...I thought sedums were mostly tall until I did a search on creeping sedum. I like the look of some of them. Would they hold up to foot traffic? I have beds of perennials on either side of the stepping stones, but I could always make sure I keep them clear of anything that might be invasive.

Speaking of invasive...well I planted ONE vinca major in a pot of mixed annuals last year and unfortunately, one or two stems trailed over the deck and into those aforementioned perennial beds. Guess who's got vinca growing there? DUH! I should have known to keep an eye on that pot! I've got to do some digging, and do it soon!

Thanks for all the advice. I now know there are some really good alternatives...and I need something to withstand the heat, shallow soil, and dryness.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 9:18PM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

it's not "spike moss" it's "spikemoss". this may be limiting your search result success. see link below to Google Images search

Here is a link that might be useful: Spikemoss @ Google Images.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 11:23AM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

oh - and sedums - not really happy about foot traffic. they are pretty watery inside, similar to ice plant (hell, ice plant may even be related to sedums, i dunno).

every little piece of sedum that breaks off will grow if given the opportunity. i wouldn't necessarily say it is "invasive" per se, but i planted five small pint pots of "jenny's stonecrop" (aka "crooked yellow sedum") in my part-shade beds and i literally have enough of it now that i could fill six 12" pizza pans with it. everywhere a piece has broken off and rolled across, it has rooted and i'm starting to see little bundles root down here and there.

another "bad" part about sedum is maintenance. it will NOT grow thick enough to prevent weeds from growing up through it. want to talk about fun? try spending half an hour ever week fishing all of the chickweed out of your sedum. moroever, try having your neighbor sign up for TruGreen's aeration & overseed service...and have them spread fescue seeds all over your bed in the i'm picking out both chickweed and fescue sprouts. sheesh!

i'm not sure of any groundcover that will lay flat and accomplish what you want, but i'm pretty sure spikemoss is what Urban Gardener had at their old location (on Boulevard, next to I-20), it was planted all over the south side of their property, it laid pretty flat (1-2" tall), may not have been spikemoss, but spikemoss surely looks like what it was. it was in a foot traffic area, so i guess it would hold up. i assume people would be using the stepping stones for the most part.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 11:56AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Mazus should work well.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 12:22PM
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Thanks, satelliethead for the photo images link. I like the look of spikemoss for what I'm doing.
Believe it or not, I spelled "Spikemoss" as one word and came up with links for the activist and mosses, but not good pictures. (I began wondering about that spelling so I did another search with it spelled as one word and it gave me the same results as yesterday's...strange.) The pictures you found are really great!

Thank you, too, for telling me that sedum is similar to ice plant in growing everywhere. Ice plant "looks" nice in nursery pics, but I don't need something that's invasive...or prolific, whichever it really is.

It's a shame you have to battle your own weeds as well as your neighbor's grass; I'm sorry.

Bumblebeez...I've never heard of Mazus, but from the pictures I found, it is beautiful.

I went to Lowe's today...I know, not the best place for plants, but I hit it (apparently) on delivery day last week and found a few good things. Today, I didn't find any creeping groundcovers except for creeping jenny, and about 50% of the inventory looked wilted, dried, or dead. I was amazed they allowed them to become so bad in just a few days. Oh well...have to head to Pike's in Acworth, I guess.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 7:21PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

Pikes has lots of groundcovers.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 6:51AM
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OH! I just found some Irish Moss at Home Depot. It says it likes shade, which is good because my stepping stones are in partial shade. I think I'll try that.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 11:47AM
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    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 12:50PM
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railroadrabbit(7b - Atlanta)

I have seen a small disply at Pikes with plants called "Stepables" which are small groundcovers that are interesting textures and can take the abuse of pathways. Some even have tiny flowers. See link below. You can click on the Find Plants and find the right plant for your spot--indicate that it is a path and low watering area.

If you continue to have problems with the groundcovers drying out, try drilling a few holes into the concrete with a masonry drill bit. If you can get one that is 3/4 inch and drill into the concrete between your stones every four inches and at least a couple of inches deep, that would give a nice pocket to hold some moisture. If the concrete is not very thick you may get lucky and drill through to dirt (or else strike oil!)

You may also want to test the dirt that is between the stones to see what the pH is because sometimes the concrete will leach lime into the dirt and drastically change the pH. (Although the weeds that grow in the cracks of my concrete sidewalk and driveway don't seem to mind at all!!)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 2:48PM
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Oh, yes...I still need to get down to Pike's; I haven't been able to stop in there yet. Thanks for the advice concerning drilling holes in the concrete, as well as taking a PH sample. I hadn't thought about that...obviously! Ha! My weeds seem to think like yours, though...nothing seems to bother them.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 9:08PM
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I lost the actual name but I bought Walkables ground cover at Pikes.
The one I have is almost totally flat, doesn't allow weeds in, and has tiny blue flowers from spring to???
I would say its a slow-med grower though.
I needed a rapid grower but this is still a great cover.
I'm going to transplant some between my pavers also.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 5:18PM
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Kathy Bochonko

I planted mine with blue star creeper and creeping thyme. Blue star creeper is blooming now and the thyme will probably bloom late May or early June, not much after that, just green.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 10:27AM
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