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Diversify the Landscape: Unique Groundcovers

A New Groundcover Appeal

Tired of the mundane? The ordinary? The boring? Landscapes stippled with the same plant material make me lose my interest in their designs. Nonetheless, let us think outside the normal plant palette. With the next gardening column series, let us explore some unique plants we could see more of and diversify the landscape.

For the series, we will start from the ground and work our way up. Starting with groundcovers, the subsequent articles will cover annuals/perennials, shrubs, and the trees to help diversify the landscape. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Following the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program’s first principle, “Right Plant, Right Place” our only limitation is our environmental conditions, landscape function, and invasive plant material. These plants are a selection of my favorites.

The groundcovers we will discuss in today’s article include Sunshine Mimosa, Fogfruit, Twin Flower, and Blue Daze.

Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa)

Sunshine Mimosa, also known as Powderpuff Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) is a Florida native. It is a low-growing, nitrogen-fixing groundcover characterized by touch-sensitive leaves. When you touch the leaves its little leaflets fold-up. This groundcover grows rather quickly and produces beautiful pink puffballs that look similar to clover flowers. I recommend utilizing mimosa within landscapes where you need a very low groundcover and it can even tolerate some foot traffic. You may also interplant this within your turfgrass. Mimosa prefers full sun to partial sun landscapes. Once planted it is important to water them regularly. After establishment, the mimosa is a tough drought-tolerant plant for any Florida landscape. Be on the lookout too- the Sunshine Mimosa is a nectar source for butterflies.

The image shows the form of Sunshine Mimosa within the landscape as a low-growing mat like groundcover similar to turfgrass

Sunshine Mimosa is a low-growing groundcover with vibrant purple flowers. The touch-sensitive adds vibrancy to any landscape.

Fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora)

Another beautiful groundcover is Fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), which is also known as Turkey Tangle or Frogfruit. This time of year you will see this Florida native showing-off it’s small purplish-white flowers. Many homeowners view this as a turfgrass weed, but in fact, it is a wonderful groundcover that can add any appeal to a landscape. Fogfruit grows in full sun to partial shade and prefers to well-drained to partially drained soils, but does like regular moisture. This can be used a low-growing groundcover, in some cases as an alternative to turfgrass. Do not be surprised if you find multiple caterpillar species munching on Fogfruit. It is an important host plant for a few different butterfly species.

Show the clustering flowers of Fogfruit's flower.

Fogfruit’s flowers are tiny, yet vibrant white/purple flowers. Commonly mistaken as a turfgrass weed, this native groundcover adds lots of interest to the landscape.

Twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia)

Twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia) is a year-round flowering native groundcover that grows to 6” to 12” in height. Growing throughout the state, this plant is great for an ornamental bed and creates year-round lavender flowers. This is an adaptable plant but prefers acidic soils and full sun location. This plant may seem thin in the landscape, so planting them closer together will help create a uniform planting that would make it a successful massing plant in your garden. Once planted in your landscape, you will notice it attracting many butterflies and bees.

Show Twinflower form

Twinflower is a Florida native that is known for its purple flowers that grow in pairs, hence the name, Twinflower.

Blue Daze (Evolvulus glomeratus)

Lastly, this non-native groundcover is a great massing plant for your landscape. Blue Daze (Evolvulus glomeratus) is a low-growing groundcover with pale blue-green leaves and striking blue flowers. As an adaptable plant, you can plant Blue Daze as a massing plant or container plant in your landscape. You can plant Blue Daze in most soil conditions that are in full sun or partial shade. Alachua County’s colder winters could cause Blue Daze to dieback, but it will quickly grow back once warmer temperatures return. Lastly, monitor regularly during our rainy season, Blue Daze can suffer from root rot within poorly drained soils.

Show massing

Blue Daze is a wonderful massing plant that can be used within the ground or as a container plant. Its blue flowers provide a cool-colored interest within your landscape.

Conclusion

Our landscapes offer wonderful locations that provide benefits to wildlife and offer high aesthetic quality. As we diversify the landscape with our plant material choices, we create a wonderful spectrum of landscape designs that appeal to almost everyone. Of course, I am only pointing out four examples of groundcovers that we can use more of within our landscapes, but the list is nearly limitless under the principles of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program. What other groundcovers do you like to use within your landscape that are not mentioned here? Please let us know.

Interested in more gardening-related blogs or following Alachua County’s MGVs on Social Media? Check out the additional links from Dr. Clem.

Taylor’s Blog Homepage

UF/IFAS Alachua County Extension Master Gardeners, Facebook Page

UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County YouTube Page

4 Comments on “Diversify the Landscape: Unique Groundcovers

  1. I’m in Alachua county and over the years Sunshine Mimosa has spread across quite a bit of my bahia grass horse pasture. It’s intermixed with the grass. I’m not finding anything that says it’s toxic to horses but I don’t think my horses eat it. I think I could control it with herbicide but am hesitant because it is always covered with honey bees and native bees. Is this something I should try to control? Is there a danger that it will choke out my pasture?

    • Good morning,

      Thank you for reaching out to UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County. I’ll forward your question to our Livestock Agent, Dr. Cindy Sanders. She’ll be able to give you the best recommendations regarding your pasture.

      Thank you,
      Taylor Clem

  2. I would like to know if horses can Eat sunshine mimosa

    • I recommend reaching out to our office. Dr. Cindy Sanders is our county’s livestock agent and she will be able to answer your question and give recommendations. Feel free to call us from (352)955-2402

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