Step this way!

Plants steppersSteppers are the finishing touch to a garden, creating pathways through beds, and connections between different zones. To soften their edges, consider adding some plants. Here are three choices to get you started.

  1. Kidney weed (Dichondra repens)
    Widely used as a grass substitute in shady spots, this native groundcover has creeping stems and circular green leaves. Grow from seed or plugs. Either leave it to grow or mow it on a high setting, as with lawn. It grows in full sun, where it needs ample water, as well as semi-shade and shade in all climate zones, reaching 5–10cm (tallest in the shade) by 1.5m wide.
  2. Corsican mint (Mentha requienii syn. M. corsica)
    Small, round, pale-green leaves are topped with tiny purple flowers on this mint during spring and summer. It withstands light foot traffic and releases a peppermint fragrance when stepped on. Like all mints, it can be invasive, especially in the ideal conditions of moist, fertile soil in semi-shade. It’s also happy in sunny or shady spots, and is suitable for warm temperate and cold temperate climates. Plants grow to 1–2cm high by 60cm wide.
  3. Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
    This edible herb puts up with some foot traffic, and the small, almost stalkless oval leaves give off a delicious scent when they are crushed. It is an excellent groundcover for a sunny position but also tolerates semi-shade. Flowers can be lilac, purple, magenta or white and appear in late spring to summer. Plants root from nodes on the stems, enabling them to creep along the ground and fill in gaps. They grow 3–8cm tall by 30cm wide in warm temperate and cold temperate climates.

You’ll find more low-growing plants that are perfect for steppers in the September issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine, out now.