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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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Saturday - April 14, 2012

From: Winter Park, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Lists, Poisonous Plants, Groundcovers
Title: Groundcover for Orange County, Florida
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Central FL (Winter Park)and I have a small, mostly sunny (no trees) backyard next to a large in-ground swimming pool which fills up with the leaves of my neighbor's oak trees. The backyard is covered with weeds and still has a few small patches of St Augustine grass which is all that survived due to my lack of knowledge, time and manpower to properly take care of it (though I ran the sprinkler system twice a week). I have 2 tiny, 8 lb dogs that use the backyard daily which might slightly affect the chemistry of the soil. Could you advise me which ground cover I should get? Would Mimosa S. be a good choice? How should I prep the yard before installing the ground cover. I would like a ground cover that looks good, grows close to the ground and easy to maintain (bug, weed resistant) since I don't have any help and my work plus the care of the house and pool is taking up too much of my time. Lately, I feel so overwhelmed that I have been debating if I should sell the house, or screen the pool and arrange a low maintenance landscape. Even if I would want to sell, the appearance of the backyard would discourage any potential buyers. Could you suggest how to improve this situation? I would be so thankful for any help.

ANSWER:

Mimosa strigillosa (Powderpuff) would be a good groundcover to choose.  It should do well in your mostly sunny yard.  Here are more photos and information.

Here are a few other possibilities that will do well in sunny locations:

Dyschoriste oblongifolia (Oblongleaf snakeherb) and here are more photos and information

Licania michauxii (Gopher-apple) and here is more information.

Sisyrinchium angustifolium (Narrowleaf blue-eyed grass) and here are more photos and information.

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit) and here are more photos and information.

Sesuvium portulacastrum (Shoreline seapurslane) and here are more photos and information.

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry) will do well in shade and part shade.  Here are more photos and information.

 You can see a few more possibilities in the list of recommended Natives to Grow in ORANGE County Florida from the Florida Native Plant Society.  You can also search in our Florida – Central Recommended list.  You can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to limit the list to plants 0-1 feet tall.

Preparation of the yard before planting your plants or sowing any seeds would need to include removal of the weeds and lightly tilling the soil.  You will probably want to hire someone to do this unless your backyard is very small.

Also, you will want to be sure that your groundcover isn't potentially toxic for dogs.  You can check plants against several toxic plant databases using their scientific names:

None of the plants recommended above appear on any of these lists.

 

From the Image Gallery


Oblongleaf snakeherb
Dyschoriste oblongifolia

Powderpuff
Mimosa strigillosa

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Narrowleaf blue-eyed grass
Sisyrinchium angustifolium

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Shoreline seapurslane
Sesuvium portulacastrum

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