Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

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

More Wildflowers Questions

Native flowers for color year round
May 02, 2007 - I have the opportunity to recommend plants for a religious organization. They want YEAR ROUND color in some areas, much like how commercial sites use annual color. I would like to suggest native/ada...
view the full question and answer

Texas wildflowers that have fragrance from Temple TX
October 12, 2009 - Do you have a list of Texas wildflowers that put out a fragrance?
view the full question and answer

Butterfly Garden, non-poisonous to Dogs, in Taylor MI
March 27, 2014 - I have a small fenced yard with a patio that my dogs have free access to. I would like to create a butterfly garden and add other plants that are non toxic to my dachshunds. Any suggestions. I am f...
view the full question and answer

Dandelions in bluebonnets in Bastrop TX
May 31, 2012 - I have a 20'x60' front yard area where I planted bluebonnets. It has become horrifically inundated with dandelions. How do I eradicate the dandelions while preserving the bluebonnets ? Thanks ...
view the full question and answer

Fertilizing hayfield with wildflowers in Brenham TX
September 20, 2010 - I have property near Brenham, TX that produces wild bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers each year. I would like to fertilize the pastures to help with hay production (the grass is ha...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.