What Is that Lawn Ornament? Sunshine Powderpuffs!

Blog Series Headline photo
A handful of the Lawn Ornaments that will be featured in this blog series. Top row left to right, Sunshine Mimosa, Perennial Peanut, Frogfruit, Fleabane. Bottom row left to right, Pennywort, Lobelia, Florida Snow, Blue Eyed Grass.

Welcome to our Lawn Ornament blog series, where we explore one of the plethora of micro-plants that can help create a biodiverse, predominantly green, yet also delightfully colorful lawn that requires much less maintenance than a traditional grass lawn.

Many homeowners find it difficult and costly to maintain a “traditional” lawn, one largely dominated by a single grass cultivar. Embracing a biodiverse landscape can ease the frustration and save money, with the added bonus of providing ecological benefits. This “Lawn Ornament” series will provide a road map to that goal. Along the way, we’ll showcase volunteer “weeds” and commercially available ground covers that can improve upon the biodiversity of our lawns. We will also offer you tips and techniques to adopt and embrace this biodiverse approach. Breaking free from tradition, we can transform yards and neighborhoods to vibrant, beautiful mixed-mowable ecosystems.

Make sure to check out the Starter Guide: Embracing Lawn Ornaments: A Starter Guide


 A spot of sunshine? Powderpuff lawn!

Welcome to the world of the Sunshine Mimosa, an enchanting native groundcover that is one of the best Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ turf alternatives. Scientifically known as Mimosa strigillosa or commonly as Sunshine Mimosa, Sunshine Powderpuff, or creeping sensitive plant, this remarkable plant is famous for its unique response to touch and its ability to fold its leaves when disturbed. Beyond its intriguing behavior, the Sunshine Mimosa offers a plethora of other qualities that make it a delightful addition to any garden. In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating characteristics, cultivation tips, and the many joys of embracing this wonder of nature.

A field of sunshine mimosa at the Sarasota County Extension Office.
A field of Sunshine Mimosa at the Sarasota County’s Twin Lakes Park.

Physical Attributes

The plant’s growth habit creates a sprawling mat hundreds of square feet in size from an initial plant. From this green carpet small, globe-like, pink flowers shoot upwards, creating an exquisite mosaic of nature’s artistry as a groundcover. Outside of its pink flowers, the plant rarely gets even six inches high. Each leaf is made up of numerous small leaflets that exhibit a bright green color. Allowing this plant to be one of the super star plants of this blog series.

Adaptability and Resilience

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Sunshine Mimosa is its adaptability and resilience. It has deep, complex roots compared to turfgrasses which allows it to thrive even in drought. The plant also produces its own nitrogen nutrients unlike grasses, which eliminates the need for fertilizer. However, the symbiotic bacteria that provides the nitrogen needs to be inoculated into the root area, or it could take over a year for natural symbiosis. These attributes allow the plant to thrive without irrigation and fertilizer. Its tenacity allows it to spread rapidly as a ground cover, 3-5 small plants will cover 300-500 square feet of lawn in one growing season. The plant’s ability to self-seed and propagate effortlessly enhances its resilient nature. Once established, this native plant is something you do not have to maintain or care for, it will spread and thrive in your lawn.

Little Sulphur Butterfly that hosts on Sunshine Mimosa.
A Little Sulphur Butterfly, a species whose caterpillar hosts on Sunshine Mimosa. – Jaret Daniels, Ph.D.

Joyful Encounters with the Sunshine Mimosa

Beyond its botanical wonders and resilience, the Sunshine Mimosa offers a unique opportunity for interaction and amusement. A UF/IFAS Master Gardener Volunteer called it the ‘Dr. Suess plant‘ and I think that is an apt description. The beautiful flowers are reminiscent of the trees from the Lorax and other Dr. Seuss stories. The plant’s ability to fold it’s leaves when touched has made it a popular choice for youth educational purposes and amateur botanical fascination. Furthermore, the Sunshine Mimosa attracts various pollinators such as butterflies and bumblebees, contributing to the biodiversity of your garden and your neighborhood’s ecological health. It is also a host plant for the beautiful yellow Little Sulphur butterfly, which can be abundant in your yard if you establish it.

Conclusion

Embracing this wonderful groundcover is a gratifying experience, whether you have a sprawling lawn of it or a little patch. Its ecological benefits, simplicity of care, and interactive charm make it a perfect choice for Florida-Friendly landscapes. So, why not welcome the Sunshine Mimosa into your life? Comment below on the lawn ornament you want covered next!


RESOURCES
Declaration of Generative AI and AI-assisted technologies in the writing process
During the preparation of this work, the author used ChatGPT to help build the blog post. After using this tool/service, the author reviewed and edited the content, and takes full responsibility for the content of the publication.
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Forest Hecker, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Community Educator for Sarasota County's UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability Department.
Posted: September 15, 2023


Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes, Lawn, Work & Life
Tags: Conservation, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Grass, Horticulture, Landscape, Lawn, Nature, Pgm_HortRes


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