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Friday - April 03, 2015

From: Jacksonville, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Lists, Groundcovers, Wildflowers
Title: Native Groundcover Suggestions for Under Florida Oak Trees
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I am looking for native plants that will do well under several oak trees in Northeast Florida. My yard doesn't get much sun and I'm told I have acidic soil. Are the any plants that would do well without having to amend our soil? I am especially looking for groundcover/grass alternatives and wildlife friendly plants.

ANSWER:

Let’s start with a list of native plants for your area and shade requirements. Take a look at the Native Plant Database on the www.wildflower.org website and put in the following search criteria: State = Florida, habit = herb (for herbaceous), duration = perennial, light requirement = shade, size = 0-1 ft. This search will reveal 23 native Florida plants that are low growing but not all are suitable as groundcovers.

From this list some of the potential suggestions are:

Hexastylis arifolia (Little Brown Jug) The attractive, heart-shaped leaves of this wild ginger are pale, whitish green with dark green veins and margins, the opposite of its close relative, Hexastylis shuttleworthii, which has dark green leaves and whitish green venation. The leaves are up to 8 inches long and held no more than 4 inches off the ground. The common name Heartleaf refers to their shape, while the common name Little brown jug refers to the unusual flowers. The plants are slow-growing and remain in isolated clusters, not forming a mat. They make beautiful, jewel-like additions to the Southeastern woodland garden when scattered among other well-mannered, herb layer forest plants. Rich, acidic, moist or dry soils of pH 5 to 6. A good evergreen herb-layer plant for foliage interest in the Southeastern shade garden or woodland landscape.

 

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry) A trailing, evergreen herb with white, fragrant, tubular flowers in pairs. Partridgeberry is a creeping, perennial herb, no taller than 2 in. high. All parts are dainty, including its pairs of small, rounded, evergreen leaves; tiny, trumpet-shaped, pinkish-white flowers; and scarlet berries.

A most attractive woodland creeper with highly ornamental foliage, it can be used as a groundcover under acid-loving shrubs and in terraria in the winter. The common name implies that the scarlet fruits are relished by partridges, and they are consumed by a variety of birds and mammals. This is a good ground cover for shady, undisturbed locations. It is sensitive to disturbance and needs to be kept moist unless it is in soil rich enough and a location shady enough that it can retain adequate moisture. If it begins to wilt from drought stress, water within two days or it will start to die.

Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny Spurge) Mountain spurge or Allegheny spurge is a low perennial, spreading with long rhizomes. Toothed leaves crowd near the top of somewhat fleshy, 6 in., erect stems. Fragrant, white flowers cluster in a spike, the many staminate flowers above, the few pistillate flowers below. Leaves and stems are evergreen. Once the new shoots mature, the previous season’s growth disappears. Leaves have scalloped margins and are marbled with silver and purple.

Mountain Spurge is an excellent groundcover for shady areas. It is considered more attractive than the over-used, Asiatic Pachysandra terminalis. The native species grows slowly and will not take over like P. terminalis.

Moist, humus-rich, acid soil. In the wild, found in rich soils with limestone substrate. Can be evergreen if placed where it is protected from north winds.   

Lastly, all of these suggested groundcover plants will become established faster and easier if you can amend the soil before planting.

 

From the Image Gallery


Little brown jug
Hexastylis arifolia

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Allegheny spurge
Pachysandra procumbens

Allegheny spurge
Pachysandra procumbens

Allegheny spurge
Pachysandra procumbens

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