Sprawling and Spilling Plants for Paved Areas

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    Sprawling Plants That You Can Step On

    Isotoma fluviatilis 'Blue Star Creeper' (Laurentia)
    Isotoma fluviatilis 'Blue Star Creeper' (Laurentia). Courtesy of STEPABLES

    Spreading groundcover type perennial plants are great to fill in cracks and spaces in paving. Plants like spreading sedum and creeping thyme are favorites because they can handle some foot traffic and neglect.

    You can purchase any of the plants at a good nursery, but 2 companies have made it even easier by choosing some of the best and marketing them under the names STEPABLES® and Jeepers CreepersTM. Their labels are full of information. For instance, Under A Foot Plant Company (the STEPABLES...MORE parent company) has researched and copyrighted their foot traffic designations, which tell you how much walking on their plants can handle.

    Use Creeping Plants:

    Between Pavers
    The obvious use for creeping perennials is as a filler between pavers, bricks and stone.

    Lawn Alternatives
    Many of the creepers can actually be used in place of turf grass or mixed in with the other grasses in your lawn.

    Living Mulch
    Spreaders can also be used as a living mulch in established flower beds.

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  • 02 of 26

    Ajuga "Chocolate Chip" (Dwarf Bugleweed)

    Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip'
    Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip'. Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Right plant, right spot? Even those gardeners who've fought to keep ajuga in check might admit this is an appropriate and attractive use for it.

    Depending on the gardener, ajuga is either looked on as a ground cover or a weed. Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' is a bit better behaved than its species parent, but still an enthusiastic grower, so don't put it where it can't sprawl. What's special about Ajuga in general is that it will grow in difficult shady spots, like the dry shade...MORE under trees. Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' is shorter than other Ajuga, less invasive and has narrower, more delicate foliage. The leaves are dark green tinged with bronze or chocolate brown. It's also deer resistant.

    The flowers on Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' are a purple-blue and bloom in spring. They stand above the foliage at a height of about 4". The flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies.

    • Height: 3-6"
    • Spread: 12-18"
    • USDA Zones: 3 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 6-9" apart
    • Exposure: Partial Sun / Shade
    • Flower Color: Purple-Blue
    • Foot Traffic: Suitable for occasional weekly foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: No
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: No
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  • 03 of 26

    Anacyclus 'Silver Kisses' (Mount Atlas Daisy)

    Anacyclus 'SilverKisses' (Mount Atlas Daisy)
    Anacyclus 'SilverKisses' (Mount Atlas Daisy). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    This spreading daisy-like flower has fern-like, silvery gray foliage and 1-2" flowers with white petals and yellow center, in spring and early summer. The flowers need full sun, closing in the evening and even on cloudy days. It's not a long-lived perennial, but it will generally self-seed and keep going, once established.

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  • 04 of 26

    Anacyclus 'Silver Kisses' (Mount Atlas Daisy)

    Anacyclus 'Silver Kisses' (Mount Atlas Daisy)
    Anacyclus 'Silver Kisses' (Mount Atlas Daisy). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Anacyclus prefers a slightly alkaline soil and thrives in clay.

    • Height: 6"
    • Spread: 12 - 18"
    • USDA Zones: 4 - 10
    • Initial Spacing: 8"
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Flower Color: White with a Yellow Center
    • Foot Traffic: Suitable for occasional daily foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: Yes
    • Deer Resistant: No
    • Scented: No
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  • 05 of 26

    Herniaria glabra (Rupturewort, Green Carpet)

    Herniaria glabra (Rupturewort, Green Carpet)
    Herniaria glabra (Rupturewort, Green Carpet). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Herniaria glabra is known as Green Carpet in the landscaping business, because of its ability to spread and cover. One plant can easily spread out to 2 feet. Because Herniaria has a tap root, it is extremely drought tolerant.

    Many people never notice it flowering because the white blossoms are so tiny and have no petals. But the foliage remains attractive, turning a bronzy red in winter. It's great in heavy foot traffic areas because without flowers, it doesn't attract bees.

    • Height: Low...MORE ground level mat.
    • Spread: 24"
    • USDA Zones: 6 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 6"
    • Exposure: Sun to Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: White
    • Foot Traffic: Almost as rugged as a grass.
    • Drought Tolerant: Yes
    • Deer Resistant: No
    • Scented: No
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  • 06 of 26

    Herniaria glabra (Rupturewort, Green Carpet)

    Herniaria glabra (Rupturewort, Green Carpet)
    Herniaria glabra (Rupturewort, Green Carpet). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Herniaria glabra earns the name 'Green Carpet' by forming a lush, thick mat.

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  • 07 of 26

    Isotoma fluviatilis 'Blue Star Creeper' (Laurentia)

    Isotoma fluviatilis 'Blue Star Creeper' (Laurentia)
    Isotoma fluviatilis 'Blue Star Creeper' (Laurentia). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    This pretty little workhorse has been a top seller for the STEPABLES® brand. It's easy to grow and extremely versatile because it's so rugged. You can use Blue Star Creeper as a lawn substitute, around pools, in the garden, on pavers and even in pots. A great feature of Blue Star Creeper is that is remains in bloom pretty much all season, until frost. In warmer climates Isotoma can remain evergreen all year, however in hot summer climates it will need some shade in the summer.

    • Height: Low...MORE ground level mat.
    • Spread: 18 - 24"
    • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 12" apart
    • Exposure: Full Sun - Partial Shade (Mor shade in hot climates, more sun in cool climates.)
    • Flower Color: Pale Blue
    • Foot Traffic: Almost as rugged as a grass.
    • Drought Tolerant: No
    • Deer Resistant: No
    • Scented: No
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  • 08 of 26

    Isotoma fluviatilis 'Blue Star Creeper' (Laurentia)

    Isotoma fluviatilis 'Blue Star Creeper' (Laurentia)
    Isotoma fluviatilis 'Blue Star Creeper' (Laurentia). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Be patient with Isotoma fluviatilis 'Blue Star Creeper'. It can take up to a year to get established, but once it is, it will take off. You've got to admit, it looks perfect between these pavers.

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  • 09 of 26

    Leptinella squalida (New Zealand Brass Buttons)

    Leptinella squalida (New Zealand Brass Buttons)
    Leptinella squalida (New Zealand Brass Buttons). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Here's an excellent lawn substitute. It looks attractive, doesn't attract a lot of bees and feels nice under your feet. The fern-like foliage does resemble small yellowish buttons that turn a bronzy red in fall. It's only evergreen in warmer climates, but it's usually hardy down to USDA Zone 5.

    • Height: Low ground level mat.
    • Spread: 12 - 18"
    • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 8"
    • Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: White
    • Foot Traffic: Suitable for occasional daily...MORE foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: No
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: No
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  • 10 of 26

    Leptinella squalida (New Zealand Brass Buttons)

    Leptinella squalida (New Zealand Brass Buttons)
    Leptinella squalida (New Zealand Brass Buttons). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Here Leptinella squalida (New Zealand Brass Buttons) does double duty as a lawn substitute and as an edging plant, keeping the other spreaders in their place.

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  • 11 of 26

    Lotus corniculatus 'Plenus' (Double Bird's Foot Trefoil)

    Lotus corniculatus 'Plenus' (Double Bird's Foot Trefoil)
    Lotus corniculatus 'Plenus' (Double Bird's Foot Trefoil). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Lotus corniculatus 'Plenus' is the double-flowered form of Bird's Foot Trefoil. Small, orange buds open into pea-like yellow flowers dot this mat forming spreader in early summer. Lotus corniculatu is another good choice as a lawn substitute. It's very adaptable to any sunny spot, even in poor soil. Mowing doesn't bother it. It's especially good in clay soil. Can be evergreen in warmer climates.

    • Height: Low ground level mat.
    • Spread: 9 - 12"
    • USDA Zones: 4 - 10
    • Initial...MORE Spacing: 8"
    • Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: Yellow
    • Foot Traffic: Suitable for occasional daily foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: Yes
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: Yes
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  • 12 of 26

    Lotus corniculatus 'Plenus' (Double Bird's Foot Trefoil)

    Lotus corniculatus 'Plenus' (Double Bird's Foot Trefoil)
    Lotus corniculatus 'Plenus' (Double Bird's Foot Trefoil). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Lotus corniculatus adds texture and color in the tightest spots.

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  • 13 of 26

    Mazus reptans 'Purple'

    Mazus reptans 'Purple'
    Mazus reptans 'Purple'. Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    This is a tiny plant, reaching about 2" in height. What it lacks in height, it makes up for in spread, forming a dense mat that in late spring is covered in lavender-blue flowers with yellow and white centers, like small snap dragon blossoms. But because it is such a tiny plant, it is less aggressive than many of the creeping perennials and less invasive.

    Mazus is very nice in rock gardens. There's also a white variety called Mazus reptans 'Alba'

    • Height: Low ground level mat.
    • Spread:...MORE 6 - 12"
    • USDA Zones: 3 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 12"
    • Exposure: Full Sun - Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: Violet-Blue with a Yellow and White Center
    • Foot Traffic: Suitable for occasional daily foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: Yes, but prefers moist soil.
    • Deer Resistant: No
    • Scented: No
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  • 14 of 26

    Mazus reptans 'Purple'

    Mazus reptans 'Purple'
    Mazus reptans 'Purple'. Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Mazus reptans conveniently blooms about the same time as these daffodils, for a stunning combination. When the daffs fade, the Mazus foliage will still look good.

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  • 15 of 26

    Muehlenbeckia axillaries (Creeping Wire Vine)

    Muehlenbeckia axillaries (Creeping Wire Vine)
    Muehlenbeckia axillaries (Creeping Wire Vine). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Creeping Wire Vine is wiry, but it leaps more than creeps. It's a fast spreader and should be used where you don't care where it meanders. It's great for slopes that need a quick cover. Mowing once a year, in spring, will refresh and thicken the plants. The tiny round leaves are a nice glossy green that turns bronze toward winter and sometimes in extreme heat. The flowers are much to talk about, but white berries will form toward the end of summer.

    Muehlenbeckia is very tolerant of...MORE poor soil and drought, once established. Still, it appreciates some shade in hot weather. Can be evergreen in warmer climates.

    • Height: Low ground level mat.
    • Spread: 24"
    • USDA Zones: 6 - 10
    • Initial Spacing: 6"
    • Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: White
    • Foot Traffic: Almost as rugged as a grass.
    • Drought Tolerant: Yes
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: No
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  • 16 of 26

    Muehlenbeckia axillaries (Creeping Wire Vine)

    Muehlenbeckia axillaries (Creeping Wire Vine)
    Muehlenbeckia axillaries (Creeping Wire Vine). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Some plants were just made to be combined with stone. On its own, Creeping Wire Vine isn't much to look at. But put it in a rock garden and it just begs to be touched.

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  • 17 of 26

    Sagina subulata Aurea (Scotch Moss)

    Sagina subulata Aurea (Scotch Moss)
    Sagina subulata Aurea (Scotch Moss). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    As mentioned on the previous page with Irish Moss, Scotch moss favors clay soil and has a yellow tint to the foliage. Both plants can be evergreen in warmer climates, where they also appreciate a bit more shade or they become unattractive until fall. Both dislike drought and the other extreme, wet feet.

    • Height: Low ground level mat.
    • Spread:
    • USDA Zones: 4 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 12"
    • Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: White
    • Foot Traffic: Almost as rugged as a grass.
    • Drought Tolerant: No
    • De...MOREer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: No
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  • 18 of 26

    Sagina subulata (Irish Moss)

    Sagina subulata (Irish Moss)
    Sagina subulata (Irish Moss). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Sagina looks like a scratch-proof sponge, but feels so much softer. Both Sagina subulata (Irish Moss) and Sagina subulata Aurea (Scotch Moss) are covered in tiny, star-shaped white flowers in spring. They spread rapidly to form a carpet that looks especially nice against gray stone.

    Scotch moss favors clay soil and has a yellow tint to the foliage. Irish Moss is less particular about the soil it's grown in. Both can be evergreen in warmer climates, where they also appreciate a bit more shade...MORE or they become unattractive until fall. Both dislike drought and the other extreme, wet feet.

    • Height: Low ground level mat.
    • Spread:
    • USDA Zones: 4 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 12"
    • Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: White
    • Foot Traffic: Almost as rugged as a grass.
    • Drought Tolerant: No
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: No
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  • 19 of 26

    Sedum spurium "John Creech"

    Sedum spurium 'John Creech'
    Sedum spurium 'John Creech'. Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    The spreading, low growing sedums are standards in rock gardens, where they spill over the stones and seem to require no care what-so-ever. They are also a varied lot, with succulent-like foliage in round or spiky leaves tinted blue, yellow, purple and emerald green. They form tight mats that usually don't get taller than 6", and reach that height only when in bloom. Sedums are capable of rooting along their stems, where they make contact with the ground. The foliage may get darker in...MORE the fall and is very often evergreen.

    They can be a bit slick to walk on, but are nice between pavers and encircling patios. Oddly, deer don't seem to bother the creeping sedums they way they do the upright varieties.

    Sedum spurium "John Creech" has bright green, dense foliage with mauve-pink flowers. It forms a denser mat than many of the other Sedums in the spurium species. It doesn't mind poor soil or drought, but doesn't like wet feet.

    • Height: 3 - 6"
    • Spread: 12 - 20"
    • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 8"
    • Exposure: Full to Partial Sun
    • Flower Color: Varies
    • Foot Traffic: Suitable for occasional daily foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: Yes
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: No
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  • 20 of 26

    Sedum pachyclados 'White Diamond'

    Sedum pachyclados 'White Diamond'
    Sedum pachyclados 'White Diamond'. Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Sedum pachyclados 'White Diamond' has rich, blue foliage that forms in tight ground-hugging rosettes, forming a carpet. It's called 'White Diamond' because when a drop of water lands on a leaf, it catches the light like a white diamond. There are small white, star-shaped flowers in the summer, but it's the foliage that shines here.

    • Height: 3 - 6"
    • Spread: 12 - 20"
    • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 8"
    • Exposure: Full to Partial Sun
    • Flower Color: Varies
    • Foot Traffic:...MORE Suitable for occasional daily foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: Yes
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: No
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  • 21 of 26

    Thymus praecox 'Elfin' (Creeping Thyme)

    Thymus praecox 'Elfin' (Creeping Thyme)
    Thymus praecox 'Elfin' (Creeping Thyme). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    All of the thymes are relatively low growing creepers, but many seem to die out quickly. Thymus praecox 'Elfin' remains attractive, with soft, gray-green foliage that forms a slow spreading, tightly matted mound. This is a perfect plant for between pavers, and if you have the patience, it makes a nice lawn alternative. The lavender-pink flowers bloom in early summer and attract bees and butterflies.

    • Height: Low ground level mat.
    • Spread: 6 - 8"
    • USDA Zones: 2 - 9
    • Initial Spacing: 6"
    • Ex...MOREposure: Full Sun
    • Flower Color: Lavender-Pink
    • Foot Traffic: Almost as rugged as a grass.
    • Drought Tolerant: Yes
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: Yes
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  • 22 of 26

    Thymus praecox 'Elfin' (Creeping Thyme)

    Thymus praecox 'Elfin' (Creeping Thyme)
    Thymus praecox 'Elfin' (Creeping Thyme). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    It's hard to think of a more well behaved ground cover than creeping thyme and 'Elfin' goes the species one better.

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  • 23 of 26

    Trifolium repens Atropurpureum (Bronze Dutch Clover)

    Trifolium repens Atropurpureum (Bronze Dutch Clover)
    Trifolium repens Atropurpureum (Bronze Dutch Clover). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Looking for a lucky 4-leaf clover. Trifolium repens atropurpureum can give you a carpet of them. The dark reddish leaves are edged in green and accented with white clover flowers in the summer. It has a multitude of common names, Bronze Dutch Clover, White Dutch Clover, Black Shamrock... Proven Winners has a selection called 'Dark Dancer'. Whatever the name, this is a particularly attractive plant for its foliage, which looks good along edges, between pavers and even in pots. It's...MORE also good for erosion control. It can be evergreen in warmer climates.

    • Height: 3 - 6"
    • Spread: 12 - 18"
    • USDA Zones: 4 - 8
    • Initial Spacing: 8"
    • Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: White
    • Foot Traffic: Suitable for occasional daily foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: Yes
    • Deer Resistant: No
    • Scented: No
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  • 24 of 26

    Veronica repens 'Sunshine' (Golden Creeping Speedwell)

    Veronica repens 'Sunshine' (Golden Creeping Speedwell)
    Veronica repens 'Sunshine' (Golden Creeping Speedwell). Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Many perennial gardeners are familiar with spike speedwell, the tall growing Veronicas, but not so familiar with the creeping ground cover Veronicas. There are plenty of gorgeous blue flowered creeping Veronicas like 'Waterperry Blue' and 'Turkish Veronica', but 'Sunshine' stands out for its golden color. Actually, pairing 'Sunshine' with one of the blue flowering Veronicas would make a wonderful combination. Sunshine's white flowers are nearly as eye catching...MORE as its foliage.

    Veronicas are alpine plants and they don't really like being used as lawn alternatives. But tuck them somewhere where their roots are kept cool, like between pavers or in rock gardens or troughs, and they'll deliver for you. Veronicas are deciduous, meaning they'll drop their leaves in the fall. You'll need to clean out the fallen leaves so the new growth in spring isn't smothered.

    • Height: Low ground level mat.
    • Spread: 6 - 12"
    • USDA Zones: 4 - 8
    • Initial Spacing: 8"
    • Exposure: Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: White
    • Foot Traffic: Suitable for occasional daily foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: No
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: No
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  • 25 of 26

    Viola labradorica 'Labrador Violet'

    Viola labradorica 'Labrador Violet'
    Viola labradorica 'Labrador Violet'. Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    For most of us, violas aren't really an option as a ground cover. But gardeners in cooler climates can put these violets to more use than just spring and fall container plants. The dark, almost black leaves of the Labrador Violet are the perfect foil for the lilac-purple flowers that can bloom for months, if the temperatures don't climb. Violets appreciate a rich, moist soil and shade, in the heat of summer. They don't spread quickly, but they will self-seed. They are not what...MORE you'd traditionally think of as a ground cover, but given the right conditions, they are charming. Viola labradorica 'Labrador Violet' was recently reclassified as Viola riviniana Purpurea.

    • Height: 3 - 6"
    • Spread: 6 - 8"
    • USDA Zones: 2 - 10
    • Initial Spacing: 6"
    • Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
    • Flower Color: Blue
    • Foot Traffic: Suitable for occasional daily foot traffic.
    • Drought Tolerant: No
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    • Scented: No
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  • 26 of 26

    Viola labradorica 'Labrador Violet'

    Viola labradorica 'Labrador Violet'
    Viola labradorica 'Labrador Violet'. Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Looking at these dark, heart-shaped leaves makes me jealous. My Violas go from freezing to wilting and never get to shine like this. If you live in an area that can use Violas as ground cover, consider yourself very lucky.

    Here are some final tips on planting and caring for your creepers:

    Planting

    Most of the plants showcased here will spread at a rate of about 6-12 inches per year. Growth rate is very dependant on weather and growing conditions. be careful about choosing a rapid spreader if you...MORE are planting near a lawn or garden. These plants don't know when to stop. However, you may find that some of these plants make excellent choices as lawn alternatives or that a few spreaders throughout your lawn makes a nice impact.

    Care and Maintenance

    Part of the beauty of plants that can survive between pavers and in moderate in traffic areas is that they can take care of themselves. Some supplemental water and a little TLC are needed when the plants are first in the ground and getting established. After that, they'll just need to receive periodic water and they should be able to grow and spread.