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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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

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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.


Eragrostis spectabilis

Mitchella repens

Phyla nodiflora

Sesuvium portulacastrum

 

 

 

 

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