Lawns planted with turfgrass can require a lot of maintenance. Bahia grass is a drought-tolerant turfgrass with minimal pest and disease problems and a low nitrogen requirement. Bahia is the most Florida-friendly turfgrass, but many do not like to plant it because it looks a little thin. Also, many HOAs require certain types of turfgrass, and bahia is usually not on that list.
St. Augustine grass has a high demand for water and fertilizer and is affected by chinch bugs and fungal diseases. Many homeowners are looking for a lower maintenance alternative to turfgrass. Below are some options for Florida-friendly alternative lawns. Residents should check with their HOA rules before planting these turfgrass alternatives.
Perennial peanut (Arachis glabrata) is a mowable legume. It does not produce peanuts but has yellow edible pea flowers. It is native to South America. Ecoturf is the most common variety used in lawns. It can grow in sun or shade, wet or dry. In the winter, it may reduce growth, freeze back or go dormant depending on how cold it gets. This plant fixes nitrogen levels in the soul and requires little fertilizer.
Sunshine mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) is a native, mowable groundcover with pink powderpuff flowers. It’s a host plant for the caterpillars of the little sulphur butterfly. During the winter, its growth may be reduced, and it may go dormant. Be careful when planting, as sunshine mimosa spreads and may need a barrier. Some people dislike it for that reason. It’s good for easements where it is contained. Sunshine mimosa is drought-tolerant and likes sun.
Frogfruit, also known as fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), is another mowable Florida native. It has small purple and white flowers and is a host plant for the caterpillars of the phaon crescent, buckeye and white peacock butterflies. Frogfruit cannot withstand heavy foot traffic. It grows in sun or shade and likes moist soil.
Asiatic jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) is great groundcover to fill the space instead of a lawn. It is native to Japan and Korea. Varieties come in many colors and include Bronze Beauty, Goshiki, Long Leaf, Snow and Summer, Summer Sunset and Variegatum. It’s not mowable and not meant to be walked on. It looks best when trimmed with hedgers or a weed whacker. It grows well in deep shade where turf and other groundcovers struggle.
Twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia) is a Florida native, low-growing evergreen wildflower. It does not spread by runners, so buy plants from a native nursery and plant them closely to get full coverage. It has purple flowers and is a host plant for the caterpillar of the buckeye butterfly.
There are other species of groundcovers and low-growing plants that can be used in an alternative lawn and are mowable. Some native species include oakleaf fleabane, elephant’s foot, lyre-leaved sage, white clover and spiderwort. See what works in your yard.