Click on terms for botanical definitions.
If you are tired of mowing, watering and fertilizing the lawn, and fighting chinch bugs and other lawn pests, consider replacing your turf grass with oblongleaf twinflower, an easy-to-care-for native groundcover.
Oblongleaf twinflower has small (1-inch) blooms that are light blue to purple and funnel-shaped, with five lobed petals. The lower petals bear dark marks or streaks that extend into the throat. Each bloom has four stamens and five calyces. The calyces are lobed, pubescent and subtend the flower. Twinflower’s simple leaves are linear, dark green, pubescent and oppositely arranged on thin stems.
Oblongleaf twinflower occurs naturally in dry to moist sandhills, flatwoods and mixed upland forests. It attracts bees and butterflies, including the malachite (Siproeta stelenes) and white peacock (Anartia jatrophae). It is a host plant for the common buckeye (Junonia coenia). Look for small pale-green eggs laid singly on leaves. Common buckeye caterpillars eat both leaves and flowers and may be seen on the plants year-round and especially in fall.
The common name “twinflower” refers to its flowers being born in pairs (“twins”) atop the stems.
Family: Acanthaceae (Acanthus family)
Native range: Central and eastern Panhandle, north and central peninsula
To see where natural populations of oblongleaf twinflower have been vouchered, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Soil: Acidic, well-drained, sandy soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 6-10” and sprawling
Propagation: Seed, division
Garden tips: Twinflower is exceptionally adaptable to the home garden. Plants should be spaced between 18 and 24” apart in order to cover an area effectively. It will spread rapidly by underground runners and from seeds, which are dispersed when the seed capsules split open. Although drought tolerant, extended dry periods will harm the plant; it will be necessary to water occasionally.
Oblongleaf twinflower plants are often available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit www.PlantRealFlorida.org to find a nursery in your area.