I Need a Subtropical Groundcover for Partial Sun


“What would be a good ground cover for a small area in the garden with partial sun for Zone 11a?” Question from Susan of Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Answer: There are many lovely subtropical groundcover plants for partial sun that are easily grown in smaller areas. I’ll supply both native and non-native options.

Non-Native Subtropical Groundcovers

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior): This tough evergreen groundcover is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 7b-11a.

Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus):  Grassy, evergreen mondo grass is very tidy, low-growing, and thrives in partial sun.

Fan Flower (Scaevola aemula): Fan-like blue flowers and semi-succulent green leaves make this a perfect perennial groundcover for those living zones 10-11.

Moses-in-the-Cradle (Tradescantia spathacea): Semi-succulent purple and green leaves and a spreading habit make this an excellent groundcover for tough growing areas. It is also easily pruned back.

Native Subtropical Groundcovers

Baby Rubber Plant (Peperomia obtusifolia): The glossy evergreen leaves of this southern Florida native are always pretty. Look for variegated varieties. This groundcover is hardy to zones 10-12.

Frogfruit (Phylnodiflora nodiflora): This low, succulent verbena relative tolerates partial sun, has lovely clusters of lavender flowers, and feeds butterflies (see image above). I highly recommend it!

I hope these tips help!

Happy Gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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