Florida Ground Cover: Here are Your Best Options

If you, like so many other Floridians, are constantly looking for landscaping hacks to improve the health of your lawn, soil, or plants, then we’ve got good news for you – we’re about to change your life talking about ground cover.

If you’ve never heard of ground cover before, that’s okay. With over twenty years in the landscaping business, we’ve got plenty of ground cover knowledge and we’re happy to answer all of your ground cover questions.

As you likely already know, growing thriving plants, trees, flowers, and a maintained landscape can be a challenge in Florida, and ground cover is no different. The solution? Plant the ground cover that’s set up to thrive in your specific climate (and landscape type). Admittedly, that can be pretty complicated, but we’ve taken our decades of experience and culminated a list of the top ground cover options in Florida!

Without further hesitation, let’s get down to the details about ground cover, which would work best for your landscape, and how to care for your specific ground cover choice.

What is Ground Cover Anyway?

Before we dive into the types of ground cover that will make the most sense for you, let’s first discuss ground cover in general.

Ground cover is considered any kind of plant that covers a vast amount of the ground (seems pretty obvious, right?) Ground cover plants are typically short, quick-growing perennials that don’t require all that much care or soil. Low maintenance, they’re typically referred to as an herbaceous layer (or even a regenerative layer) or a step over. Ground cover plants can hold soil in place, add nutrients to your plants and soil, and snuff out weeds without an issue.

Though ground cover is typically considered a living plant, there are non-living ground cover options like mulch, decorative stone, shade clothes, and other options, too! These synthetic options are able to sterilize soil (if needed), keep soil from drying out too fast during incredibly hot periods, and even help to control weeds.

What are the Best Options for Ground Cover in Florida?

Now that you’ve got a better idea of ground cover, let’s dive into the types of ground cover that make the most sense for your specific Florida landscape. As you know, in Florida, you can’t make something grow if it doesn’t want to, so we’ve taken our years of experience in ground cover and put together a Florida-friendly list for you to review.

Check out a few of our tried-and-trues below:

Beach Sunflower

This is one of the most Florida ground covers we could possibly offer. This Florida-native is a butterfly attracting cover that’s perfect for hot and dry areas – specifically those coastal areas. It’s colorful, it’s tough, and it is drought-resistant, making it one of the best ground cover options for Floridians.  These sun-following flowers have broad yellow petals clumped around a brown center and are perfect for controlling soil conditions. These beauties can even be found growing naturally on the Gulf Coast, so we’re sure you Pinellas County folks have noticed these on the mini dunes of your favorite St. Pete Beaches.

Beach Bean

Another Florida option that’s perfect for anyone looking to cover their coastal landscape. The Beach Bean is a dense ground cover that’s found in the sands of South East Florida. Typically, this plant will form a ground cover that’s 6-12 inches in height, and frequently blooms small pink and purple flowers among the bright green leaves throughout the year. This type of bean is native to Florida, making it a perfect option for a thriving ground cover. They help to resist erosion of your soil from wind and light, are incredibly high drought and salt spray tolerant, and can thrive in full sun!

Ferns

Utilizing ferns in Florida as ground covers, specifically the Asparagus Fern and the Leatherleaf Fern, are particularly clever ways to keep your soil healthy, your plants happy, and your landscape looking beautiful. The Asparagus fern is a rounded, fine-textured foliage that  grows directly from the ground. While it’s a wonderful option, it can grow to become woody and thorny, so take note of the spines on the fern. Another Florida fern option is the Leatherleaf Fern, a ground cover plant that requires quite a bit of irrigation but is incredibly sun-resistant.

Asiatic Jasmine

It’s likely that you’ve seen Asiatic Jasmine Minima, even if you don’t know that you’ve seen it. Asiatic Jasmine is a dense mat of foliage that’s often substituted for turf due to its drought-tolerant nature and low-maintenance requirements. This type of ground cover is able to survive in both full-shade with ample moisture or full sun – it’s also well-known for adapting to most any type of soil. Because this ground cover is known for its sturdiness, it isn’t often subject to pests or disease issues, and is often used to help maintain areas with harsher environments (think urban areas or traffic circles).

Non-Living Ground Cover Options

If you’re looking for something a little less herbaceous but still want to provide your soil and roots with some ground cover, consider some non-living ground cover options.

Rocks are a good choice for ground cover – they’re easy to install, don’t cost very much, and require almost no maintenance. They’ll smother weeds before the start and keep your soil in place, preventing any kind of wind-related soil erosion.

Mulch is also a great choice as a ground cover. This will keep your soil wet and nutrient-rich, won’t allow for weed growth, and will likely keep your landscape looking fresh and beautiful. With mulch, though, you’ll need to replace it at least once a year and ensure that you’re not over-mulching and smothering your roots and plants.

Other options like decorative stone and plastic sheeting can help keep your soils and roots in tip-top shape as well.

How to Care for Ground Cover

It goes without saying that every ground cover, living or not, is going to require different types of care. For things like rocks and decorative stone, you’ll likely be free to leave it be for a long period of time before you need to replace or tidy up the ground cover itself. With things like mulch, you’ll likely need to clean out your mulch beds and replace them with fresh, new mulch because this type of ground cover is going to deteriorate.

For other ground cover, like perennial peanut, ivy, sunflower and more, you’ll need to respect the ground cover for what it is – alive. This means caring for it with a regular maintenance schedule, protecting it from pests, regularly irrigation and fertilizing it, keeping it from the cold and sudden freezes, and ensuring that your living cover is thriving to the best of its ability.

Just remember, if your ground cover isn’t being cared for, it’s likely to going to mangle and destroy any progress you’d hope to make with your soil, plants, and surrounding flora and fauna.

Did you enjoy our chat about ground cover options for your Florida landscape? We hope so! If you’re interested in learning more about groundcover, how to care for it correctly, and what kind of groundcover your landscape could benefit from, give our office a call at (727)-201-3947 today! Want to learn more about other Florida landscaping tips and tricks? Check out our regularly-updated blog for tons of landscaping tips, tricks, and advice!