Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - April 19, 2009

From: Panama City, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Groundcover or grass for Panama City, Florida
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants I live in Panama City Florida and am having great difficulty growing a lawn. I would prefer no lawn as grass, it seems a pointless use of resources but my husband requires green. I refuse to put more zoysia, augustine, centipede down as our soil is surrounded with overhead oak trees, composed mostly of quartz and is continually registering 7 to 8 on the Ph scale (we live very near the gulf of Mexico). I use organic humus and peat moss for the majority of my amendments but for the most part - I pick native plants. Please help in suggesting some type of grassy ground covering that will not only survive but indeed add to this harsh environment.

ANSWER:

First of all, Mr. Smarty Plants commends you for getting rid of the water-hungry non-native grasses!  Here are a couple of native grasses that don't grow too high and would be attractive groundcovers.  Also, there are a couple of shrubs and small herbaceous plants that are good groundcovers.  Perhaps you could combine the grasses with the low shrubs and herbaceous plants and create a very interesting yard.

GRASS:

Eragrostis elliottii (Elliot's love grass) grows in clumps 6 to 18 inches tall and is relatively drought tolerant.

Eragrostis spectabilis (purple lovegrass) grows 8 to 18 inches high and is reasonably tolerant of drought and flooding. Here is more information and photos.

SMALL SHRUBS:

Licania michauxii (gopher apple) is a low-growing (about 1 foot) shrub that is tolerant of poor soils, drought and salt.  Here is more information and more photos.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) is also a low-growing shrub (less than 1 foot) and makes a great groundcover. However, it does like acid soils (pH<6.8) so it would take considerable supplement to grow in your soil.  Here are more photos.

HERBACEOUS PLANTS:

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit) is 3-6 inches tall and, although not grasslike, it is evergreen, tolerates drought and flooding, and will grow in limestone and caliche soils with high pH.

Sesuvium portulacastrum (shoreline seapurslane) is not a grass but it will grow in alkaline and acid soils and is drought tolerant.  Here are more photos and more information.

 

 

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Groundcover for Massachusetts campus
April 01, 2012 - Our campus is converting to more sustainable landscaping practices, and in the process we are planting native plants and removing lawn. Thus we would like to replace the lawn, and some invasive groun...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for memorial garden in Michigan
March 04, 2008 - I want to start a memorial garden for my daughter. I live in northern Michigan and the area has very tall white pines we have pruned them up about 15' so the area does get partial sun. Which plants w...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover to withstand dog traffic in Michigan
November 02, 2010 - I need a soft ground cover that will grow in sand, and be able to take four big dogs that love to run in the yard. Grass just doesn't make it. Someone suggested that groundcover might work. Thanks...
view the full question and answer

Possible ground covers under pine trees in Illinois
April 18, 2006 - Have pine trees in front of house. No luck with the lawn around them....was told it's because of ground acidity. Any tips on how to get a lawn to grow there? If not, can you suggest some ground cover...
view the full question and answer

Help with control of small, invasive groundcover
April 16, 2012 - I have a very invasive ground cover creeping into my yard. I've tried to identify it and it's similar to creeping charlie or garlic mustard. Leaves are triangular with jagged edges, small purple f...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.