Sunday, January 7, 2018

Ground Covers South Florida Style v.II

Aloha Everyone!  Dang it's cold here, I know if we are this cold down here in South Florida then ya'll must be super duper freezing!!!  Maybe if we think we're in Hawaii it'll warm our bones.  Moloka'i, Kauai, Maui, Ni'ihau, O'hau, Lanai, Kaho'olawe, Waikiki....nope still cold as a witches nose.  I guess a hot cup of something will give us some warmth.  What's the weather like where you are?  Are you in a winter wonderland of wintry mess?  Good day to be indoors with me, right?!?

Today let's do our part deux of ground covers since we have some time.  Maybe if we get some brain power going it'll warm us up.  The first one on the list is a cutie called baby sunrose, aptenia cordifolia, which is a short living plant but packs a powerful punch with it's gorgeous kelly green colored leaves and bright pink flowers.  The leaves are really soft and like a portulaca you can cut pieces off to stick them in the ground to grow more.  There is also an orange color flower but that's a rare find.  Baby sunrose stays very low to the ground but gets nice and full.  It can spread about 2-3 ft wide.  It needs full sun, not alot of water, no maintenance, very affordable, is edible like the purslanes and grows in a variety of soils.
Look at all these gorgeous baby sunrose's looking for a home!

Remember in the first ground cover post I mentioned jasmine minima, Asiatic jasmine?  Ok, let's just get it over with, ugh, this plant....what can I stay, so many landscapers like to use this.  I'm probably gonna get some slack for this but hey it truly is not my preference of plant unless I'm using it for a vine....wait nope wouldn't use it for that either.  Yeah, just not my type.   Most landscapers use it as...wait for it...a ground cover when it really is a vine.  If it is being used as a ground cover you need alot of them to fill even a small area and in the meantime you have to consistently hand pull the weeds out until it grows in, which luckily it's a super fast grower but still takes a considerable amount of weed pulling time until that happens.   And who wants to do that, right?!?   Since it is a super fast grower you're going to have to constantly keep it from growing into your sod.  If it's a vine then it needs to be kept in check or your neighbors may be tifted.  A couple of houses we do the maintenance has this plant growing all over their wood fence.  We have to cut this beast all the time.  What's wrong with that you say?  The second you cut it, sticky sticky sticky sap pours out and drips all over you, your clothes, your equipment, etc.  Then everything sticks to the sap like super duper glue.  It's really hard to clean off once it dries, if at all.  I guess most landscape designers think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread but I can guarantee you they never had to maintain it.  It really should be considered invasive like ivy.  In my opinion the creeping wire vine is a better plant for a similar look.  Or golden creeper or coral creeper or ganges primrose or green island ficus...ok I can't believe I said that last one, but anything is better than this Asiatic plant.  Well that's all I'm going to say about that, now you know how much I like jasmine minima, lol.
Jasmine minima in Orlando, FL.

Believe of not, juniper's grow very well this far south (zone 10b if you're curious).  There are a handful of junipers, juniper chinensis, we use as ground covers: juniper 'parsoni' or parson's juniper, juniper 'blue pacific' and juniper procumbens 'nana'.  These varieties either stay compact or grow horizontally depending on the hybrid.  They can be fairly drought tolerant, can grow in a variety of soil types, are pretty good at being salt tolerant, grows in full sun to part shade, very low to no maintenance and are long living plants.  They have a beautiful blue-grey-green color to them which is a nice contrast to other greens in the landscape.
I used juniper 'parsoni' in the fore ground of this landscape with white iris in the middle, violet cat whiskers on the sides, balaria obtusa in the back with the client's existing crotons 'petra'.  The junipers going to spread out to completely fill the area like a carpet.

One of my favorite ground covers is the bulbine, bulbine frutescens, which is originally from South Africa but has been seen as a naturalized native here in South Florida.  It has two different colored flowers, a solid lemon yellow and an orange with a bit of yellow in it.   Both are just as pretty but it's hard to find a flowering orange anything so I tend to use the orange one a little bit more often.  The yellow flowering bulbine has a kelly green color to its slender tall succulent foliage while the orange has a bit darker reddish green color.  They look like a grass but have more of a succulent feel to them.  They are a perfect plant for south Florida since they grow in full sun, grow in a clumping compact habit, are very drought tolerant, little to no maintenance and flowers all year round.  The foliage grows between 14-18 inches high and the flowers reach from 18-24 inches high.
Orange bulbine
Yellow bulbine

Look at all these baby bulbine waiting for their new homes, so cute!

The coral creeper, baleria repens, is a lot like the jasmine minima not only in its growth habit but also in the rate of growth, i.e. super fast!   Also like j. minima, once it grows in nice and full it can take some serious shaping, like a low formal hedge.  So if you are looking for a plant to literally take over an area for not a lot of cost then this is another one for you.  Definitely not intended for small gardens without a considerable amount of work to keep it in check.  Unless you want the natural look of overlaying plants, like in the wild.  Grows about 1-2 ft high and rambles outwards by rooting itself from new growth.  Not a picky plant by any means so in can grow in variety of soils.  It likes full sun to be a consistent bloomer of the pretty coral pink flowers but can grow in part shade like a champ and needs moderate water in full sun but can really be left alone in part shade once established.
Coral creeper

This next plant can not only be used as a ground cover but the perennial peanut, arachis glabrata, can also be used in replace of traditional grass like how I did at my house in Pompano Beach.   The sunshine mimosa, mimosa strigillosa, has the same uses as well, either a ground cover and as an alternative to grass.  Though we are going to talk about the peanut here.   And no unfortunately it does not produce the type of peanut you eat, this is a gorgeous ornamental variety.  It spreads by rhizomes and can really take over so if your neighbor has St. Augustine grass then you will need to install a type of landscape edging to keep it from jumping ship.  This plant is a beautiful bright green with a bright yellow pea flower that grows in full sun, grows in a variety of soils and once established can be fairly drought tolerant.  They bloom all year round though I found they really grow best when fertilized two or three times a year with an organic fertilizer like milorganite.  This is another one that by experience you have to plant a lot of them close together right off the bat so you can reduce the amount of weeding that will need to happen before they can take over.  Once the peanut plants have filled in, no weed may enter.  And you won't have to mow it if you don't wanna, but it does well if you wanna.
Here you can see how I used the perennial peanut in the front yard to replace the grass.
You can see how it is creeping over the edge of the driveway and the storm drain.   So we had to constantly be keeping it trimmed in certain areas, but look how gorgeous!
Isn't this perennial peanut at my Pompano Beach house just gorgesous!?! I would always have people stop to ask me about it.  Oh how I miss that house and landscape.

So the last one is an usual plant that most people round here probably haven't heard of.  It's called an ice plant, carpobrotus eduli, which are great for a garden that just needs to be left alone and admired.   There are quite a few varieties but this far south I have only found one variety and found one grower in the tricounty area.  It is definitely an under used plant that is really hearty to be able to with stand our harsh environment.  The ice plant is soft like a succulent with a pretty green color and a bright pink flower like the baby sunrose with foliage like a bulbine.  Whereas the bulbine foliage is round and long, the ice plant foliage is shaped in a triangle and is only about 4 inches high.  It actually looks like it could be a dune plant growing along the beach side.   Grows in full sun, likes a sandy loamy soil, can do pretty good in a dry environment and a good salt tolerant plant.  If you find this plant grab some and give them a try cause you probably be the only one in your area with this beauty!
Ice plant
Ice plant with pink flowers

So we are going to end it here cause someone, namely me, has got to get the Christmas decor packed up and back in the attic.   Based on our work load, if I don't get it done today, it'll be Christmas/Valentines around here.
Wishing you a wonderful and blessed new year!

Happy Gardening and Best Wishes,

Sheri B.

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