Walkway Landscaping Tips and Tricks

Portulaca flowers along a pathway.

Whether it's a textured border of shade-loving plants, an explosion of sun-facing flowers or a fragrant whiff of herbs, walkway landscaping can be one of the most rewarding yard projects you can take on.

Learning how to plant flowers along walkways also softens the hard lines between concrete, stone, brick and lawn much like curtains can soften the lines of a window against a wall and add a splash of color and elegance.

Here are some tips for walkway landscaping, which not only amplifies your curb appeal but also makes your home appear bright, warm and welcoming.

Assess Your Light

The first step in planting flowers along a walkway is studying your location. For a front-yard walkway, do you have six to eight hours of sun for full-sun annuals such as zinnias, nasturtiums or a rainbow of petunias? Or do you need something like annual impatiens and pansies or perennial astilbes and petite varieties of hosta such as 'Blue Mouse Ears' that tolerate shade? Shade lovers will thrive beneath a canopy of mature trees or along a porch or fence.

Consider Your Climate

Know your growing zone for choosing perennials that will survive the winter months. Also, consider what kind of soil and moisture your home can offer. Do you have lawn irrigation, or do you need plants that tolerate drought? Good choices for dry areas or slopes can include 'Harlequin Mix' ice plant, 'Sunsparkler Dazzleberry' sedum, 'Angelina' sedum rupestre or other hardy succulents. Dependable annuals such as portulaca also can handle dry stretches and often reseed themselves for continued seasons of vibrant blooms.

Annuals vs. Perennials

Are you hoping for something you can plant once and watch it come back faithfully each year? If so, look for perennial edging and border plants such as heuchera (aka coral bells), dianthus (aka pinks), astilbe and dreamy 'Drift' roses. Creeping phlox also comes in a variety of colors that you can mix and match for a stunning carpet of blooms in early spring. They spill beautifully across stones and brick and soften the straight edges of sidewalks.

Choose annuals if you want something that blooms for more than a few weeks. You'll need to replant your walkway landscaping each spring to enjoy cheerful annuals such as alyssum, calendula, snapdragons and zinnias. 'Raspberry Lemonade' zinnias will bloom all season and are sold as seeds or in bundles of plants.

Mix and Match Landscaping

Another tip for how to plant flowers along walkway areas is mixing and matching perennials and annuals. You can then have dependable perennial blooms in the spring (plus summer greenery) and a few areas you can plant with fresh annuals that will bloom all summer.

You can also consider adding some spring bulbs to your mix of perennials for a stunning early spring display. Look for 'Little Beauty' tulips and daffodils, or bulbs such as 'Blue Pearl' hyacinth, crocus and scilla, that can multiply and naturalize along your walkway. As their leaves die off in late spring, you can plant these areas with annuals that will bloom for the rest of the season.

Pick a Low Profile

Groundcover or creeping plants work well with curving walkways and flagstones because they fill in the gaps beautifully and keep a low profile. Shade-tolerant options can include 'Irish Moss' sagina and a variety of ivy plants that can be mixed and matched.

If you want a practical plant that also can be used for cooking, consider fragrant herbs such as 'Creeping' thyme for sunny walkways. You'll notice the scent as your feet brush past the plants.

Other Planting Tips

Make sure your soil is healthy with additives, such as compost, to help hold moisture and nourish your plants. Keep your walkway landscaping well-watered after transplanting plants or seeding new ones, too.

You can use mulch, plastic edging or other landscape materials to help define your walkway landscaping and to keep grass and weeds from encroaching into your flower beds.

Many plants need about 12 inches in diameter of space to grow, and you may need one to two plants per square foot of walkway landscaping. Check seed packets and plant tags for each variety's specifics, and pay attention to how much they spread. If you plant flowers too close, crowded leaves can mildew.

No matter which plants you choose for walkways, the leaves and flowers will naturally draw attention with their colors, textures and fragrances, creating an inviting home.

Ready to start landscaping your walkway? Check out Burpee's digital catalog for more inspiration on what to plant.

Written by Lisa Meyers McClintick

Lisa Meyers McClintick has been an award-winning journalist and photographer for publications such as USA Today, Midwest Living and Twin Cities Star Tribune for more than 30 years. She also has authored travel guidebooks on the Dakotas and Minnesota and volunteers as a Master Naturalist based in St. Cloud, Minn. Her home garden includes fourth-generation perennials, herbs, heirloom tomatoes, fruits for making jam and jellies, and a variety of hybrid and native flowers that inspire illustrations and photography.

January 20, 2022
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