Joyweed – not what you think!

Chartreuse Joyweed has beautiful Color and Texture
Chartreuse Joyweed has beautiful Color and Texture

Once again, common names can be confusing in the plant world.  Slender joyweed is a type of plant called Alternanthera.  There are a number of species of Alternanthera, but they are all generally grown for their very colorful foliage, low-growing nature , and versatile use in mass plantings.

When I lived in Watertown , New York and worked for Cornell Cooperative Extension, I had a friend and Master Gardener Volunteer who was the landscape manager at the Thousand Islands Bridge and Boldt Castle.  One of his favorite plants to use and propagate was Alternanthera.  He used thousands of plants to outline beds and make formal designs using the various colored Alternanthera to make the landscape pop for visitors to the cottage garden settings.  Alternanthera is grown as an annual up north, but as a tropical perennial evergreen here in Southwest Florida.

While some species of Alternanthera have been found to be invasive, Alternanthera ficoidea, or slender joyweed is not considered a problem species at this time by the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas.  Low growing to six to twelve inches tall and perhaps up to eighteen inches in width, joyweed cultivars come in colors such as yellow, orange, red, and purple with brightness reminiscent of coleus.  The leaves are very different than coleus as they are glossy, narrow, thin and slightly cupped.  Don’t look to joyweed for flower power as they have tiny, insignificant white blooms.  Plant joyweed in full sun to part-shade areas in rich, well-drained soil.  While Alternanthera ficoidea can do well in containers, they look their best in mass planting where a pop of color is needed.  Please also consider joyweed for formal garden edging where a neat manicured look is required.

Fortunately, joyweed is easily propagated using tip cuttings.  Pinching joyweed as they develop with increase bushiness and overall ornamental quality.  There are many cultivars available on the market including ‘True Yellow’, ‘Red Carpet’, and ‘Creme de Menth’.  Locally I have found several of the more common cultivars including the chartreuse-yellow versions.  Beyond family operated nurseries, also check online for a wider selection of colors and availability.

Joyweed is definitely a colorful plant to consider in your landscape beds or container gardening venture.  Joyweed are small, but flamboyant plants that will make a positive impact in your garden!  For more information on all types of foliage plants suitable for our area, or to ask a question, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or Connect with us on social media. Like us on Facebook @CharlotteCountyExtension and follow us on Instagram @ifascharco.

UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas. (2023). The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Missouri Botanical Garden (2024) Alternanthera ficoidea.
Fine Gardening – The Plant Guide (2024) Yellow Form alternanthera – Alternanthera ficoidea ‘Yellow Form’.
North Carolina Extension – Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.  (2024) Alternanthera ficoidea.


ralph mitchell
Posted: March 19, 2024

Category: Home Landscapes
Tags: Alternanthera, Joyweed

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