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FYN Publications: Native Landscape Plants for South Florida

Ornamental Grasses, Ferns & Groundcovers

Note: U indicates plants commonly available in nurseries and/or garden centers in south Florida

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

 

Common name
Scientific name

Size
(feet)

Light
preference

Salt tolerance

Comments

Quail berry, ground holly U
Crossopetalum ilicifolium

12”

Full sun to partial shade

Low

Prostrate, evergreen shrubby groundcover with small, holly-like, spiny leaves and attractive red berries.

Penny grass
Dichondra carolinensis

2”

Full sun

High

Low-growing groundcover for edges and mass plantings. Inconspicuous flowers and evergreen foliage. Prefers moist soil.

Elliott’s love grass
Eragrostis elliottii

12-24”

Full sun to light shade

Low

Small, fine-textured bunchgrass with beautiful, silvery-blue leaves and masses of tiny, delicate flower spikes.

Purple love
grass U
Eragrostis spectabilis

12-18”

Full sun

Low

Clumping ornamental grass with soft, light green, fine-textured leaves and delicate panicles of tiny, reddish-purple flowers held high above foliage. Grows well in hot, dry sites; will not tolerate wet, shady sites.

Sunshine mimosa
Mimosa strigillosa

6-9”

Full sun

Moderate

Prostrate, carpeting perennial with creeping, widely spreading stems. Leaves are finely divided and bipinnate. Flowers are pink powderpuffs. Can become weedy.

Long-stalked stopper
Mosiera longipes

1.5-3

Full sun to light shade

Low

Small shrub with small, dark green, glossy leaves and pale green new growth. Small white flowers are delicate in appearance, and are followed by blackish purple berries. Psidium longipes is a synonym.

Muhly grass U 
Muhlenbergia capillaris

2-3’

Full sun to partial shade

High

Elegant, compact, tuft-forming ornamental grass with fine, feather-like, pink flower spikes held high above the leaves.

Native sword fern
Nephrolepis biserrata

3-4’

Partial to full shade

Low

Tall fern with elegant leaves. Makes an excellent groundcover or informal hedge. Commonly available form is called fishtail fern, variety ‘Furcans’.

Baby rubber
plant U
Peperomia obtusifolia

12-18”

Partial to full shade

Low

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

Silkgrass U
Pityopsis graminifolia

24-36

Full sun

Low

Perennial, grass-like herbaceous plant with silvery, silky stems, grass-like basal leaves, and small, terminal yellow flowers.

Pineland brake
Pteris bahamensis

1-2’

Full sun to light shade

Low

Elegant fern that grows in tidy clumps. Old, brown leaves accumulate after awhile. Entire plant can be cut back to the ground in early spring to rejuvenate the plant.

Sea purslane
Sesuvium portulacastrum

6-8”

Full sun

High

Sprawling, succulent groundcover with small, light green to yellow, bead-like leaves and tiny purplish-pink flowers. Good for beach-front properties.

Lopsided Indian grass
Sorghastrum secundum

24-48”

Full sun to light shade

Low

Beautiful, clump-forming grass with fairly nondescript leaves in spring and summer. In late summer or early fall, however, 4-6 foot spikes emerge containing multicolored flowers along only one side of the spike.

Sand cordgrass U
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.

Pineland dropseed
Sporobolus junceus

1-3’

Full sun

Moderate

One of the most beautiful and ornamental of all grasses. Forms large, hemispherical clumps of tiny, wire-like leaves of blue-green or silvery green. Flower spikes are tall and bear numerous tiny, reddish-colored flowers.

Blue 
porterweed U
Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

12-36

Full sun to partial shade

Moderate

Small, shrubby, perennial groundcover bearing tiny bluish-purple flowers that are highly attractive to butterflies. Commonly mistaken for the imported S. urticifolia.

Fakahatchee
grass U
Tripsacum dactyloides

4-5’

Full sun to partial shade

Moderate

Large grass with rich green foliage that erupts from fountain-like clumps. Distinctive flowers rise above leaves on slender stems in midsummer. Easy to grow. Virtually free of pests.

Florida gamma
grass U
Tripsacum floridana

2-4’

Full sun to partial shade

Moderate

Similar to T. dactyloides, but smaller and with finer-textured leaves. Also called dwarf Fakahatchee grass.

Florida coontie U
Zamia floridana

1-5

Full sun to shade

High

Florida’s only native cycad. Comes in a variety of sizes and with narrow to wide leaflets. Separate male and female plants. Sole larval food source for atala hairstreak butterfly. Requires well-drained soil. Zamia pumila and Z. integrifolia are synonyms.

 

Native Plant Categories

The 135 native plant species listed in this publication are grouped according to their functions in the landscape. Separate pages are provided for the following categories: