Q: I’d like to find a groundcover I can use in my yard where I have turf now. What can you recommend?
Answer: The first things to consider are your site conditions: the sun, shade, soil pH and type, if the site is wet or dry, and mature plant size.
Groundcovers are a Florida-friendly turfgrass alternative. They add color and texture to your landscape where turf won’t grow or you don’t want it to grow. Once established, groundcovers require fewer inputs than turfgrass. Inputs include fertilizer, pesticides, water and overall maintenance.
Two of many groundcovers we have on display at the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County location in Seffner are perennial peanut and bronze beauty jasmine.
Perennial peanut, which has a lovely rounded leaf, dies back above ground in the winter, but the rhizomes remain alive underground. Plants come back quickly in the spring and produce golden, edible flowers.
Bronze beauty jasmine produces small white flowers and is truly a beauty because of the three foliage colors: dark green, light green and a reddish-bronze.
Both of these groundcovers will fully cover an area within one to three years, depending on the plant spacing. If spaced 24 inches on center, from the center of one to the center of the next plant, you will need 100 plants to cover 400 square feet. If placed 36 inches on center, 100 plants will cover 900 square feet. The difference is the amount of money you want to spend on the plants, how many holes you want to dig, the amount of mulch you want to purchase and spread and how soon you want the area to be fully covered.
It is important to mulch between the plants, because mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, regulates soil temperature, suppresses weed growth, and as it decomposes it adds nutrients to the soil.
If you live in a deed-restricted community, be sure you follow the landscaping procedures before making any changes.
Feel free to stop by our office and look at the variety of groundcovers we have in the Bette S. Walker Discovery Garden, which may help you make a better decision for your landscape.
Lynn Barber is the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods agent at Hillsborough Extension.. Reach her at BarberL@hillsboroughcounty.org.