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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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Wednesday - March 27, 2013

From: Miami, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Groundcovers for Miami FL
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

What is a ground cover that does not need mowing or a lot of water and survives in South Florida heat and is also native to the area? I would like to turn my lawn into a more natural self-sustaining area. Thank you

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants offered a discussion of ground covers for southern Florida a while ago. These plants would also be good choices for you and they appear to be more lawn-like than the native plants I found from Miami-Dade county.  Other excellent sources are the Florida Native Plant Society and Plant Real Florida.  Plant Real Florida has a list of recommended plants set out by plant community for Miami-Dade County, this includes groundcovers.  Similarly, the Florida Native Plant Society has a list of recommended plants for Dade County which can be divided into the different plant types.

In looking for specific recommendations for you, Mr Smarty Plants checked to see if there were plants on both the Wildflower list and these Florida lists.  Three grasses are on both the Native Plant Society recommendations and the Wildflower Center recommended list for South Florida. These are Spartina patens (Marsh-hay cord grass), Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern gamagrass) and Uniola paniculata (Sea oats).  All of these grasses are a bit high for standard lawn use, so you may prefer a groundcover.  The Plant Real list has four groundcovers that are also on the Wildflower Centers list.  These are Batis maritima (Seaside saltwort), Zamia pumila (Coontie), Coreopsis leavenworthii (Common tickseed), and Pityopsis graminifolia (Narrowleaf silkgrass).

This is a great set of options. You will still need to review these for the effect you want also also how the ones you select look and grow together, but hopefully from this and the many choices on those lists you can find a groundcover that will work for you.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern gamagrass
Tripsacum dactyloides

Common tickseed
Coreopsis leavenworthii

Sea oats
Uniola paniculata

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Narrowleaf silkgrass
Pityopsis graminifolia

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

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