The idea for the this post came to me as I was walking our dogs the other day and came across this large patch of frog fruit plant growing in a nearby lawn. While some people would call this a lawn weed, it could also be considered a great flowering ground cover for Florida. With less resources and time spent on a traditional lawn, some of these flowering groundcovers could make a great addition to your home and garden. Read on to find out more about my top four flowering ground covers for Florida and the southeast US.
Australian violet (Viola hederacea), is a low growing ground cover reaching about 4″ in height. It has glossy green fan-shaped leaves and white and purple flowers throughout the year. As the name would imply this plant is native to Australia, so for the Florida landscape it will be considered quite drought tolerant. It spreads quickly, forming a dense mat that will keep other weeds at bay. Australian violet seems to do best in part shade, so look for locations that may be in the sun in the morning but shaded in the afternoon or have filtered light throughout the day. If you have a friend or neighbor growing this plant it is easy to transplant by simply taking a shovel to cut out a small area keeping the runners and roots intact and set right into it’s new home. In a week or so you will start to see new growth.
Perennial Peanut is definitely the most common flowering ground cover on this list. In the past 6-7 years the popularity of this plant has increased dramatically and what was once a rarity has now become fairly common. The buttery yellow flowers of perennial peanut cover the top of the dark green leaves throughout the summer months. We have this growing in our side yard and by the end of the summer it is normal for it to be 10-12″ tall. To help keep this plant more compact we have started mowing it to the ground once a year in July. The yearly mowing gets rid of the few taller, wiry stems and helps to keep the overall growth more full and also encourages more flowers. Because perennial peanut is a legume, it doesn’t need to be fertilized at all– another benefit for saving money and time!
Pink Knotweed (Persicaria captitata) is going to take some searching to find, but is definitely a winner for its profuse blooms and tough drought tolerance. Pink Knotweed seems to flower year round and you can see here how prolific it is during the summer months. It is easily propagated just from a few cuttings, so once you find a single pot or planting you are all set. The leaves of are ringed in burgundy so it adds interest even when the flowers are few. A quick search online just showed a couple of resources where you can buy seed for this plant– surely a very economical way to plant a large area. I have noticed that this plant roots so easily that even just a few pieces can cause this plant to spread more than you may want. Keep an eye out or consider adding this to areas where it will stay contained and not move into a neighbors lawn or your turfgrass.
Frog fruit plant (Phyla nodiflora), is arguably one of the most under appreciated native plants for Florida. It is low growing, rarely reaching more than 5″ in height, is evergreen, and also serves as a food plant for three species of butterflies. The Phaon Crescent, the White Peacock, and the Common Buckeye, all use this plant as caterpillar food. Each of the little flowers is about the size of a pencil eraser, but you will be surprised to see how many bees and small skippers are stopping to feed on these little flowers. While some people may consider this a lawn weed, I think it is a great plant to have as a flowering groundcover. It is rarely sold in nurseries, but you will probably have the best luck finding this growing in an areas where the soil has been disturbed and “weeds” are growing.