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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 - March 31, 2013

From: Winter Haven, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Ferns, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Plants to grow in shady sand in Florida
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We live in central Florida (directly between Orlando and Tampa). Our yard is mostly sand for soil and difficult parts in shade almost all day from large trees. What ground cover (grass) and hedges can we use in these areas? Nothing we have tried has lived.

ANSWER:

The Florida Native Plant Society has an excellent feature on its webpage called Natives for Landscaping—Choose Your Location where you click on your county to select it and then make choices for "Light Range", "Water Needs" and "Soil" to aid you in choosing the right plant for your site.  I chose Polk County and "Shade" and "Sand".  Since I wasn't sure of the soil moisture, I left that criteria unselected.   Below are some of the plants that resulted from the search in Polk County for plants that will grow in the shade and in the sand.

Very few grasses grow well in the shade.  The only grass resulting from the search was Oplismenus hirtellus (Bristle basketgrass).  It is dormant in the winter but makes a nice groundcover during the spring, summer and fall.

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry) is a very small evergreen plant that will make a low groundcover.  Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society

Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit) is winter dormant.  Here is more information from Florida Native Plant Society.

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower) is deciduous and can grow to as tall as 6 feet.   Here is more information from Florida Native Plant Society.

Ruellia caroliniensis (Carolina wild petunia) is winter dormant.   Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Saururus cernuus (Lizard's tail) is evergreen.   Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Teucrium canadense (Canada germander) is winter dormant.   Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

 Verbesina virginica (Frostweed) is deciduous.  Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Ferns do well in shade and part shade.  The following ferns grow in Polk County and are evergreen.

Dryopteris ludoviciana (Southern woodfern) is evergreen.  Here is more information from Florida Native Plant Society.

Nephrolepis exaltata (Boston swordfern) is evergreen.  Here is more information from Florida Native Plant Society.

Thelypteris kunthii (Wood fern) is evergreen in Florida.   Here is more information about the genus Thelypteris from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Here are a few shrubs that will grow in shade and sand:

Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush) is deciduous.   Here is more information from Florida Native Plant Society.

Ardisia escallonoides (Island marlberry) is evergreen.  Here is more information from Florida Native Plant Society.

Sabal minor (Dwarf palmetto) is evergreen.  Here is more information from Florida Native Plant Society.

You can search the Florida Native Plant Society page for more possibilities for plants.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Jack in the pulpit
Arisaema triphyllum

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Carolina wild petunia
Ruellia caroliniensis

Lizard's tail
Saururus cernuus

Canada germander
Teucrium canadense

Frostweed
Verbesina virginica

Southern woodfern
Dryopteris ludoviciana

Boston swordfern
Nephrolepis exaltata

Wood fern
Thelypteris kunthii

Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Dwarf palmetto
Sabal minor

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