Groundcovers: J - Z

Notes:

  • -- indicates plants commonly available in nurseries and/or garden centers in south Florida

  • © indicates Florida native plants

  • water drop indicates plants that can tolerate wet soils or occasional flooding. 

    Click on linked scientific names for photos and/or more information.

Common name
Scientific name

Size

Light

Salt tolerance

Comments

Chinese juniper
Juniperus chinensis

UF Fact Sheet (154KB pdf)

2-50’

Full sun

Low-Moderate

Evergreen groundcover, shrub, or tree, depending on variety. Both adult and juvenile foliage found on adult trees. Berries fleshy and glaucous white.

Shore juniper
Juniperus conferta

6-12”

Full sun to partial shade

High

Prostrate, spreading groundcover. Soft foliage a mixture of fresh, clear green and pale blue, aromatic, needle-like leaves. Berries pale green. Tolerates seaside conditions and grows rapidly.

Kalanchoe --
Kalanchoe spp.

UF Fact Sheet (49KB pdf)

6”-12’

Full sun to partial shade

Moderate

Over 200 species, varying greatly from small, leafy succulents to huge, tree-like plants. Valued for decorative hairy foliage. Bell-shaped flowers in early spring, followed by small, seed-bearing capsules. Caution: Life plant, K. pinnata, Do not plant within 500’ of hardwood hammock in Miami-Dade County.

Dwarf lantana ©
Lantana depressa

6-12

Full sun to partial shade

Moderate

Native low-growing perennial or groundcover, spreading to form a mat. Yellow to orange flowers. Also known as Lantana ovatifolia var. reclinata. Caution: L. camara, is a FLEPPC Category I invasive.

Gopher apple ©
Licania michauxii

UF Fact Sheet (53KB pdf)

4-12”

Full sun

High

Native low-growing groundcover. Leaves oblong, yellow-green. Flowers small, borne in clusters. Fruit white, turning brown as it ripens. Little landscape appeal.

Lilyturf --
Liriope muscari

UF Fact Sheet (157KB pdf)

1-2’

Partial to full shade

Moderate

Grass-like foliage and trumpet shaped flowers borne on erect stems in blue, purple, pink, or white, depending on species or cultivar. Cold tolerant. Needs freely draining soil. Mulch to control weeds.

Creeping lilyturf --
Liriope spicata

UF Fact Sheet (157KB pdf)

6-18”

Partial shade

Moderate

Similar to lilyturf, but creeping rather than upright habit.

Pink muhly grass, hairgrass -- water drop
Muhlenbergia capillaris

UF Fact Sheet (102KB pdf)

More information...

2-3’

Full sun to partial shade

High

Compact, tuft-forming grass with fine, feather-like, pink flowerheads held high above the leaves.

Blue muhly grass water drop
Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

1-2’

Full sun

High

Similar to pink muhly grass, but with bluish-gray foliage and purplish to gray flowerheads. Prefers dry, but will tolerate wet soil. Excellent groundcover for poor, sandy soils.

Bromeliad --
Neoregelia cruenta

3’

Full sun

Low

Variable, large, stemless bromeliad with thick, leathery, orange leaves with red tips and spiny margins. Flowers inconspicuous. Other Neoregelia also drought tolerant.

Sword fern -- © water drop
Nephrolepis biserrata

2’

Partial to full shade

None

Native fern. Makes a good, fast-spreading ground cover.

Mondo grass ¨
Ophiopogon japonicus

UF Fact Sheet (110KB pdf)

6-24”

Partial to full shade

High

Dark green to blackish, glossy leaves. Small, lavender flowers followed by iridescent, blue-black berries. Good border plant.

Prickly-pear cactus --
Opuntia spp.

UF Fact Sheet (217KB pdf)

6”-30’

Full sun

High

Many species, from tiny plants with tuberous roots to ‘trees’ over 30’ tall. Branches constricted, forming broad/flattened or cylindrical ‘joints’. Most have sharp spines and small bristles. Flowers generally yellow or red, followed by edible fruits (prickly pears). Caution: O. aurantiaca is a federal- and state-listed invasive species (Burks, 2000).

Beach panic grass
Panicum amarum
(Link is to related species)

1-2’

Full sun

High

Clumping grass with flower stalks rising above foliage. Grows well in sand. Good for beach-front.

Wild allamanda ©
Pentalinon lutea

UF Fact Sheet (38KB)

1-2’

Full sun to partial shade

Moderate

Native fast growing, twining vine—to 50’ in length. Lustrous, elliptical leaves with lighter colored midribs. Blooms year-round. Blossoms bright yellow, bell-shaped. Also known as Urechites lutea.

Baby rubber plant -- ©
Peperomia obtusifolia

UF Fact Sheet (39KB pdf)

12-18”

Partial to full shade

Low

Native, bushy groundcover with fleshy leaves and occasional spikes of minute flowers. Plain green species or variegated cultivars, the latter with leaves marbled in gray-green and cream or gold.

Pennyroyal ©
Piloblephis rigida

6-24

Full sun

Low

Low-growing perennial. Not picky about soil, but likes it dry. Small, shrimp-like flowers emerge from green, scale-like brachts. Attractive to butterflies. Also known as Pycnothymus rigidus and Satureja rigida.

Wart fern -- water drop
Polypodium scolopendrium

2’

Partial to full sun

None

Large, tropical fern with scaly, red-brown, creeping rhizomes and long-stemmed, leathery, pinnate fronds with large bumpy spores which give this fern its name.

Bromeliad --
Portea petropolitana

3’

Full sun

Low

Large, stemless bromeliad with thick, heavily spined leaves. Tall flower spikes bear narrow, blue-violet flowers. Also known as Aechmea petropolitana and P. gardneri.

Purslane --
Portulaca oleracea

4-8”

Full sun

Moderate

Sprawling, low growing groundcover. Thick, reddish, fleshy stems and many yellow flowers. Cultivars with flowers in many different colors. Needs excellent drainage. Not long lasting.

Moss rose --
Portulaca grandiflora

UF Fact Sheet (225KB pdf)

4-8”

Full sun

High

Small, annual, low-growing succulent with small, lance-shaped, fleshy, bright green leaves on reddish stems. Yellow, pink, red, or orange flowers in summer; close at night and on cloudy days. Suitable as groundcover, in rockery, or as border.

Bromeliad
Puya berteroniana

3’

Full sun

Low

Large bromeliad with blue-green, strap-like foliage and prostrate stems. During summer, metallic blue flowers with vivid orange stamens form dense panicles. Rosette of leaves dies after flowering, leaving offsets. Also known as P. alpestris.

Inkberry ©
Scaevola plumieri

UF Fact Sheet (38KB pdf)

2-4’

Full sun to partial shade

High

Native plant with succulent leaves. Insignificant, small, pink/white flowers. Spreads by underground stems. Well-suited to sandy soils at beach-front. Caution: Scaevola sericea (=S. taccada v. sericea, S. frutescens) is FLEPPC Category I invasive.

Saw palmetto -- © water drop
Serenoa repens

UF Fact Sheet (97KB pdf)

3-8’

Full sun to partial shade

High

Native clumping fan palm with subterranean, prostrate, or upright trunks. One of the most abundant and widely-planted palms in Florida. Green and silver forms. Spreading tendency can be problem when left uncontrolled.

Sea purslane ©
Sesuvium portulacastrum

6-8”

Full sun

High

Native, sprawling, succulent groundcover. Small, light green to yellow, bead-like leaves. Good for beach-front properties.

Palm grass -- water drop
Setaria palmifolia

8-10’

Full sun to partial shade

Low

Evergreen, tropical grass with wide, accordian-pleated leaves that resemble palm seedlings. Greenish, cylindrical flower spike arches above leaves.

Sand cordgrass --
Spartina bakeri

4-6’

Full sun

High

Large, bunch-forming grass with thin, brownish-green, rolled, wire-like, sand-papery leaves. Highly adaptable and underutilized. Good for beach-front.

Carrion flower
Stapelia spp.

UF Fact Sheet (49KB pdf)

6-12”

Partial shade

Moderate

Perennial succulents from southern Africa, resembling small cacti in grown habit, but without thorns. Flowers are wide open stars, elegant in their symmetry.

Yellow star jasmine
Trachelospermum asiaticum

UF Fact Sheet (98KB pdf)

6”

Partial to deep shade

High

Durable, low-growing, viney groundcover with slender stems that form dense, tangled mats. Small, glossy green leaves and small yellow flowers with spicy, jasmine-like fragrance. Not a true jasmine.

Fakahatchee grass -- © water drop
Tripsacum dactyloides

4-5’

Full sun to partial shade

Moderate

Large, native grass. Rich green foliage erupts from fountain-like clumps. Distinctive flowers rise above leaves on slender stems in midsummer. Easy to grow. Virtually free of pests. Prefers moist soil, but has good drought tolerance.

Dwarf fakahatchee grass -- © water drop
Tripsacum floridana

UF Fact Sheet (82KB pdf)

2-4’

Full sun to partial shade

Moderate

Native grass similar to T. dactyloides, but smaller.

Florida coontie -- ©
Zamia floridana

UF Fact Sheet (80KB pdf)

1-5’

Full sun to shade

High

Florida’s only native cycad. Host for atala hairstreak butterfly. Comes in a variety of sizes. Narrow to wide leaflets. Separate male and female plants; both bear reddish-brown cones; male cone small, elongate; female cone larger and wider. Also known as Z. pumila, Z. integrifolia, Z. sylvatica, Z. umbrosa. Requires well-drained soil.