Keep Paths Cool

Pennsylvania sedge lines an interlocking brick walkway. Photo: Tom Potterfield.

Ways To Keep Your Yard Cool

Paved and hard surfaces like driveways can absorb and radiate the sun’s heat, making the surrounding areas feel hotter. If you’re planning to add or resurface a walkway, here are some ways you can keep it and your yard cool.

Choose plants over pavement

Create a planted walkway using groundcovers like wild strawberry or barren strawberry, Pennsylvania sedge, ebony sedge or path rush. These hardy, native groundcovers can withstand occasional foot traffic and provide the additional benefit of letting rainwater soak into the ground.

Use them on their own or plant them between steppingstones such as flagstone or bricks. To create a more distinct path, edge your walkway with different plants. For sunnier paths, choose prairie smoke, little bluestem, yew or shrubby cinquefoil. For shade, try foam-flower, wild ginger or hairy Solomon’s seal.

Choose permeable grid pavers

Concrete or plastic grids can be filled with soil and planted with native groundcovers that can tolerate foot traffic. These can also be filled with gravel, which absorbs and reflects more heat but still offers the benefit of allowing rainwater to soak into the ground. If choosing gravel, note that it may require more maintenance and care if the area is frequently shoveled in winter. If choosing concrete pavers or grids, choose light colours to absorb less heat and considering planting trees nearby.

Plant Trees or Shrubs

Keep your paths cool by planting tall trees that are salt tolerant (if paths are salted in winter) and have sturdy branches that can provide shade, like northern red oak, Freeman maple, common hackberry, eastern red cedar or yellow birch. Small trees such as serviceberry or alternate-leaved dogwood can also work. Plant several close together for denser shade along your walkway.

Discover more great shade-providing plants in our native plant lists.

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