Will Sedums Be Damaged If Walked Upon?

Enviromat sedum matting is superb as ground cover and is frequently used as an alternative lawn.  It’s most common use however, is for sedum green roofing.

Visitors to our trade stands at exhibitions such as Homebuilding and Renovating or Landscape often want to know “can you walk on it?”

Here’s the answer

It’s OK to walk on sedum occasionally, provided the weather is mild and the plants are healthy.

When you say it’s Ok to walk on sedums occasionally…how often is that?

Walking on a sedum green roof

Sedums need a limited amount of maintenance – which is why we love them.  When it comes to green roof maintenance though, you will need to walk on the plants in order to check the drains, apply fertiliser and pull out the odd weed.  On a green roof, you should only need to do that twice a year.  There is little need to be walking on them.  Provided you don’t go stomping about when it’s frosty you won’t do any lasting harm to the plant population.

The one thing you do need to be careful about is at the installation stage.  Please make sure that your sedum matting is the very last thing to be installed on your new roof.  Air conditioning, fall constraints, sky lights etc all need to be in place before the sedum is unrolled.  So many times a beautiful green roof fails to establish because it’s been damaged by heavy footfall.

Walking on sedum ground cover

Sedum groundcover is so easy to look after it’s almost unreal.   No mowing, no deadheading, no pruning, very little weeding.  Simple.

sedum plants foliage

Sedums are characterised by their fleshy leaves which come in different shapes, colours and sizes. The leaves are easily damaged by feet but given time, and provided the damage is not too radical, they can repair themselves.  A sedum lawn will never be as hardwearing as a grass lawn.

The reason that sedums are so self-sufficient is partly down to the structure of the plant.  Take a look at those leaves.  They’re like little tiny water balloons.  Full of fluid.  The fluid contained in the leaves is what sustains the plant when water and nutrients are in short supply. 

Just like balloons, when you squish them, the cells that hold on to that fluid may burst.  Once burst, they cannot be repaired.

Now let’s think about what happens when you step on a sedum plant.   Some of the leaves will be squished.  Some, but not all, of the cells in those leaves will be damaged beyond repair.  The plant will regrow those cells in time and all will be well.   If however, the leaves are trodden on too frequently, cells will be damaged faster than they can be replaced.  The plant will be unable to sustain itself and it will die.

What are the “rules” for walking on sedums?

NEVER walk on sedum plants that are frozen.  If it’s frosty outside or if cold weather is forecast.  Keep off.

Try to spread your weight.  Ease pressure on the plants by laying planks or boards before you walk on them.  Especially if there’s a lot of work to be done – eg barrowing gravel from one side of a sedum bed to another.  Don’t leave the boards down for too long though – sedums need daylight.

Don’t walk on sedums any more than you have to.   If you need to cross your sedum lawn or your green roof on a regular basis (eg to service a beehive or to reach the linen line) lay a permanent path with gravel, mulch or paving stones.

Avoid walking on sedums when the plants are not actively growing.  That’s between October and March and during long summer droughts.

Take a different route every time you walk on your sedum lawn – that way you’ll avoid stepping on the same plant twice.

Restrict your visits to a maximum of once a fortnight during the growing season.

Advice and information

For more advice and information on caring for your sedum lawn or living roof, contact the Enviromat team

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