Using Plants To Soften Hardscaping

Often, homeowners use hardscaping in their landscapes. This involves using man-made fixtures such as walls, fences, or rock or brick pathways. Hardscape designs are both functional and attractive. On the other hand, a landscape that has hardscaping usually needs a few plants to soften its look. The right types of plants can add color and interest to an otherwise drab-looking hardscaped landscape design. If you have hardscaping in your landscaping, here are some ways to use plants for softening effects.

Using Ground Covers

Ground covers help to soften the harsh lines of a hardscape. They also work well in establishing traffic patterns. When selecting ground covers for pathways, consider a plant's tolerance for foot traffic. In other words, some plants can tolerate being trampled upon, while others are less tolerant. Some of the most tolerant ground covers include

  • Woolly thymes—Suited for walkways, woolly thymes are ground covers that grow flat. They're so-named for their tiny, gray leaves that look like wool, giving it a fuzzy, soft appearance.
  • Blue star creepers—They can endure heavy traffic. Their pale-blue flowers bloom in early summer, giving you the feeling of walking on clouds.
  • Creeping thymes—This plant is one of the most traffic tolerant ground covers. It has small leaves and emphasizes natural curves.
  • Spotted dead nettles—This popular ground cover has silvery leaves and is particularly suited for giving a landscape a creative color design. It works especially well in dry, shady areas.  

Using Vines

Vines, grown in containers on sidewalks or patios, can help soften your hardscape. Some of the most popular vines for hardscapes include

  • Boston ivy—This green vine is known for its stunning, shiny-green leaves that grow quickly. You can also train it to grow on walls.
  • Jasmine—Grown for its exotic fragrance, jasmine vines are pale yellow in color. Although jasmine vines grow rapidly, they're low maintenance.
  • Cup of Gold—Also known as the chalice vine, this trailing plant has thick, heavy stems with shiny, large leaves. Their golden, bell-shaped flowers can add color to hardscapes.
  • Cape honeysuckle vines—These vines grow in clusters of tubular reddish-orange flowers that attract hummingbirds. There are other cultivators that feature scarlet, pink, yellow and pale-orange blooms.


  • Include plants containing intricate detail.
  • To fill in gaps between pathway stones, plant plugs of plants between pathway stones.
  • Choose fragrant plants to soften your hardscape, placing them in areas where guests will probably sit. However, some plants can have an overpowering scent.
  • Mix smaller plants with different textures together with some more dominate larger plantings.
  • Besides traffic level, consider those plants that also meet the soil, light and water requirements of your path.


  • Avoid prickly plants with thorns or spines. They don't have any softening effect and even worse, they can be hazardous, especially to children and pets.
  • Don't use plants that attract bees.
  • Steer clear of toxic plants.

It can sometimes be confusing when choosing the right plants. When you need help selecting plants for all your landscape needs, don't hesitate to consult a hardscaping professional.