Low-growing ground cover plants can be used in areas of light foot traffic, along walkways, in front of taller flowers, and in shady spots where grass will not flourish. They are also used to control soil erosion. A hardy native ground cover plant in Florida can easily thrive and reduce garden maintenance. Florida's varying weather conditions--from the northern region to the southern region--need to be taken into consideration when choosing the perfect ground cover. Some ground covers require a cooling period to thrive and others are tropical with continuous growth.
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The wandering Jew (Zebrina pendula) is an evergreen perennial that sports tiny pink flowers. Its foliage is silver-turquoise in color with a purple underside and variegated in appearance. This ground cover can thrive in sun or shade in the northern and central regions of Florida. A "succulent stemmed" variety, the wandering Jew holds water within its stems during seasons of drought. The plants grow well in well-drained soil with a high organic content. For their leaves to sport vibrant colors, wandering Jews require moist soil conditions. Without adequate water the leaves often appear washed out and lackluster. The plant can withstand a hard freeze and will spring back once warmer weather arrives.
Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei var. radicans) can be grown as a ground cover or a vine. The plant easily spreads across a 50-foot area. The leaves of the wintercreeper can be purple, green or yellow, and are evergreen in nature. Wintercreeper is exceptionally cold hardy and grows well in northern Florida. Plant in sun or shade in well-drained soil. The plant enjoys being moist, but will not tolerate standing water around its roots. Wintercreeper is a popular plant for controlling widespread areas of soil erosion, or as an exceptional, fast-growing ground cover. It can thrive by the ocean in areas of salt and wind.
Dichondra (Dichondra carolinensis) is a low-growing, green ground cover with oval leaves. The plant can be maintained by mowing it like grass to establish a thick, flat cover in difficult areas. The dichondra plants will commonly grow where grass will not, such as in shady or rocky areas. The plant requires regular watering to thrive and its leaves will appear wilted. Dichondra can be planted in areas of low foot traffic, but will not tolerate extensive crushing. It can be planted with other plants as a filler to hide the soil and to help inhibit rapid weed growth. Dichondra grows well in southern Florida.
Big Leaf Periwinkle
Big leaf periwinkle (Vinca major) is a large-leafed evergreen ground cover that thrives in nutrient-poor soil. The plant can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Each spring this ground cover blossoms with bluish purple flowers that can often measure two inches in diameter. Big leaf periwinkle thrives in partial to full shade where other plants often have a difficult time. Certain varieties of periwinkle have variegated leaves. The plant grows easily in all parts of Florida. Winter cold snaps have very little effect on the plant, and even the ongoing heat of southern Florida will not affect it.