If you have recently put in a stepping stone pathway, or are planning to do so, you’l want to know what you can plant in the spaces that will soften your path or patio. Which are the best plants for cracks between patio or stepping stones? The answer depends on whether your stones are in sun or shade. The first thing to determine is how much direct sunlight the area in question receives. If it gets five or more hours of sun, you can use thyme or sedum to fill in. In some ways particular sedum varieties are the best in that they spread fairly quickly but the plants themselves stay short and tight. Most thyme, on the other hand, continues to spread out wide and this growth can not only cover the stones but provide stems and foliage that catch dirt or other debris.
Sedum album, aka white stonecrop, is a low succulent that will thrive in the sand that many patios or walkways are built on, while spreading and filling in even small areas. Notice in the photos below how the variety Sedum album ‘Coral Carpet’ not only fills in quickly but turns red in cold temperatures.
For those who decide to go with a variety of thyme, you can’t go wrong with the very low growing Thymus serpyllum ‘Doretta Klaber’. I’ve grown this on a sunny slope for many years and it is not only the lowest thyme I’ve raised, but it turns purplish in the winter so is attractive at the time of year when we need color most.
If your path or walkway is in the shade one of the best things you can do is to encourage moss. Forget those recommendations you read online to put moss in a blender and pour it onto the cracks. This seldom works. Instead, pack the sand or soil that’s in between the rocks down well so that it’s very compact. Next, transplant a few plugs of moss that you have found on your property into the widest spaces between rocks. Again, forget about the internet advice to use beer or buttermilk to encourage growth. Does Mother Nature go to the bar or dairy case to grow her moss? No! She uses moisture, and you should too. After your plugs are put in place, make it a point to sprinkle the area well twice a day, morning and night. Do this all summer and into the fall, and your moss will begin to spread. After the first season you can leave it to move into the available cracks on its own without further watering.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly the spaces in your walkway or patio will fill in.
So if you are planning to create a walkway or patio next spring, start thinking now about which plant you’ll pick for softening the cracks.