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Low-maintenance landscape plants for south Florida

Groundcovers (J-Z)

Notes:

indicates plants commonly available in nurseries and/or garden centers in south Florida
indicates Florida native plants
 indicates plants that can tolerate wet soils or occasional flooding. 

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

Common name
Scientific name

Size

Light

Salt tolerance

Comments

Chinese juniper

Juniperus chinensis  

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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.

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

6-18”

Partial shade

Moderate

Similar to lilyturf, but creeping rather than upright habit.

Pink muhly grass, hairgrass

Muhlenbergia capillaris

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

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

Nephrolepis biserrata

2’

Partial to full shade

None

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

Mondo grass

Ophiopogon japonicus

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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.

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

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

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

Serenoa repens

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

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.

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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

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

Tripsacum floridana

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

2-4’

Full sun to partial shade

Moderate

Native grass similar to T. dactyloides, but smaller.

Florida coontie

Zamia floridana

(Click here for UF Fact Sheet )

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.

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  .
Perennials Palms, Cycads & Palm-like Plants (A-E)
Annuals Palms, Cycads & Palm-like Plants (G-Z)
Shrubs & Hedges (A-Ci) Ornamental Grasses
Shrubs & Hedges (Cl-Ha) Groundcovers (A-I)
Shrubs & Hedges (He-P) Groundcovers (J-Z)
Shrubs & Hedges (R-Z) Vines
Flowering & Shade Trees (A-E) Epiphytes
Flowering & Shade Trees (F-Z) Herbs & Vegetables
Fruit Trees  

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Scientific Name / Common Name Cross-Reference

Common Name / Scientific Name Cross-Reference

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