Low-growing flowers play many roles in a landscape. Used as ground covers, they bridge the gaps between flowerbeds or replace grass in situations where it has difficulty growing. As border edgings, they can accent or contrast with the colors and forms of larger plants. Several varieties of flowers that stand less than 10 inches high are suitable for Florida's hot, humid summers. Some of them thrive in the Sunshine State's coastal sand and salt spray.
Beach Morning Glory
Beach morning glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae) is an evergreen vine native to the United States' southern shores, from Georgia to Texas. Trailing up to 75 feet, it will form a ground cover between 4 and 6 inches high, says University of Florida professor Edward F. Gilman. It has thick, bi-lobed green leaves up to 4 inches long. In summer and fall, it produces heavy blooms of funnel-shaped, purple-throated lavender flowers. Like cultivated morning glories, the 3-inch flowers open early in the morning and close by noon of the same day.
Beach morning glory grows rapidly and is a popular cover for sand dunes. Place the plants in a sunny, well-drained location and plant them 3 feet apart. Unaffected by salt spray, it suffers from over-watering. Water lightly until it's established. Prune it as needed for containment.
Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), a vine of the pinkroot family, is common across the southern United States will climb to 20 feet. As a ground cover, it stands just 6 inches high. Its glossy deep green foliage, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, has tinges of yellow or purple in the fall. In early spring, Carolina jessamine is at its peak with fragrant, trumpet-like golden yellow lowers. Hummingbirds find them irresistible. The disease-and-pest-resistant plants may also bloom lightly in early fall. Leaves, flower and roots are toxic to livestock. Plant Carolina jessamine in sun to partial shade and rich, moist loamy soil. It does best in acidic (pH below 7.0) locations.
Zinnias (Zinnia elegans), among the most popular garden annuals, grow anywhere from 6 inches to more then 3 feet tall. They have the vivid colors appropriate to their native Mexican, Central and South American habitats. Their yellow-centered flowers grow in white and shades of pink, yellow, red, orange and purple. Many of them have variegated blooms. All have straight stems and large, coarse green leaves that contrast well with their flowers. Zinnia grows rapidly from seed and blooms all summer.
Some popular varieties of dwarf zinnias, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden, are Short Stuff, up to 10 inches tall with double flowers, and 6-inch Small World. Look for disease-resistant zinnias that will tolerate Florida's heat and humidity. Plant the seeds in March or April, according to the University of Florida. They need full sun and acidic sand, loam or clay soil.