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Frog Fruit: My Favorite Native Ground Cover

Frog Fruit (also spelled Frogfruit) was foreign to me until just this year. I was immediately captivated by its fun name. But it wasn’t until I saw it in real life, abuzz with bees, that I fell in love! I now have this pretty ground cover with mini white flowers in my backyard landscaping and it seems right at home.

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Frog fruit or frogfruit (phyla nodiflora) is a great native ground cover and pollinator plant.
Frog fruit is a fast growing ground cover that blooms from spring to fall.

Why is it called frog fruit?

The scientific name of the Texas Frog Fruit I’m referring to is phyla nodiflora. Plants have only one scientific name, but can have many common names. Frog fruit is no different. It is also known as Matchhead and Turkey Tangle Fog Fruit. Another equally silly name!

Apparently, the plant initially was called “fog fruit”. In the Middle Ages, farmers would call low growing plants that took over their freshly hayed field “fog fruit”. This general name for low growing plants was given to phyla nodiflora. However, over time the name transitioned from “fog” to “frog”. So the name has nothing to do with frogs, just a mispronunciation of its initial common name!

Where is frog fruit native to?

Well, first of all, there are are actually four different species of frog fruit. All of them look pretty similar, and all are native to United States. That makes it a good candidate for growing in many parts of the US, not just South Central Texas where I live. Frogfruit is part of the Verbena family of plants.

Here are the states where phyla nodiflora is native. If you don’t see your state on the list, check out the other three types of frog fruit. Regardless, it is worth finding to grow in your garden!

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia

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Frog fruit flower

The frog fruit flower is a dainty white flower that packs a big punch when it comes to attracting pollinators! The white flower is actually several tiny flowers in one, all perched on a brown cone. The flowers are at the end of a skinny stem that sticks out from the ground cover.

The delicate clusters of flowers on frog fruit.
So dainty, yet so pretty up close! Photo source: Canva.com.

What are the benefits of frog fruit?

I hope this post convinces you to become a frog fruit lover as well. If you need some more convincing, here are five reasons why frog fruit is the perfect native ground cover addition to your home landscape or gardening beds.

1. It grows quickly

Some of my Master Naturalist friends may say it grows too quickly! It can be aggressive in flower beds, but if you are looking for a ground cover that grows quickly, this is the one for you. You can always trim it back. It is easy to remove because it doesn’t put out long roots. A ground cover like this does a great job in crowding out weeds so you have to weed less!

Many people even use frog fruit as a lawn alternative. It grows well in part sun to full sun conditions. Imagine replacing even a portion of your lawn with this pretty flowering plant. Rather than being an ecological dead zone like most non-native turf, it will bring your yard alive with pollinators!

My goal in 2021 is to remove part of the lawn in our backyard and replace with with more native plants. You can bet frog fruit will be a big part of that. I’ve already started incorporating it in two places in my backyard landscaping design and it is doing really well.

2. It is very low maintenance

While frog fruit blooms best in full sun, it can handle some shade too. My plants receive part sun as they are located in a bed beneath two large live oak trees. They seem as happy as can be. I’ve seen the ground cover growing naturally in the Texas Hill Country mixed in with grass. It can handle some walking on without being damaged. It can also handle very dry, hot conditions. That is quite a feat!

Frogfruit makes a great ground cover plant or lawn alternative.
Frogfruit looking very healthy in my backyard landscaping!

3. It has a long bloom period

The white blooms appear in April and last all the way until October. I love that it is a ground cover that flowers. It is just as visually interesting as my other flowering perennials. In addition to a ground cover, it can be used as a trailing flower for pots. That is something I plan to try next spring!

4. It is loved by pollinators

I have never seen my frog fruit in bloom without at least one pollinator around it. From bees, to wasps, to butterflies, it is alive with action. It is a fun plant for children and adults to observe alike. It would be a great addition to add to a pollinator garden.

5. It is a host plant for several butterfly species

When looking for new plants for your yard, I encourage you to prioritize host plants. Those plants that are used by butterflies and moths to lay their eggs and feed their caterpillars. This plant checks the box as a host plant for three different butterfly species:

I am excited to keep an eye out for each of these butterflies next spring so I can record them in iNaturalist!

Frog fruit is native to the United States and is a host plant for several butterfly species!
Bees and butterflies are constantly surrounding this plant. Photo source: Canva.com.

How to grow frog fruit

There is not much involved in growing frog fruit. You’ll want to water it regularly until it is established, but after that it is very easy going. I hand water mine around once a week during the summer. It can be trimmed back in the winter it it gets too dense or tangled. Frogfruit goes dormant in the winter but can be semi-evergreen in warmer climates.

How to transplant frog fruit

To transplant or propagate frog fruit, you can just take one of its runners with roots. Clip it from the main plant and carefully replant in a new area. I have taken some of the runners from my landscaping and transplanted them to grow between stepping stones leading to my wildflower garden!

Pin this image to spread the word about frogfruit!

How to grow phyla nodiflora

Frog Fruit: Plant Care Printable

Frogfruit phyla nodiflora
Scientific Name:

phyla nodiflora

Native to:

Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia

Mature Height and Width:

6-12" tall / spreads 1-4" wide

Sun Conditions:

Part shade to full sun. Tolerates a variety of conditions but blooms best in full sun.

Water Needs:

Low water once established. Can withstand drought conditions.

Wildlife Benefits:

Great nectar source for pollinators. Blooms last from April through October. Host plant for the Phaon Crescent, White Peacock and Common Buckeye butterflies.

Instructions

Watering

  1. Low water needs once established.
  2. Can tolerate drought conditions and hot temps.

Pruning

  1. Prune back plant in winter if it gets too leggy.
  2. It typically goes dormant in freezing temps, but can be evergreen in warmer climates.

Propagating

  1. Plant can be propagated by clipping a runner with roots and replanting carefully.

Notes

Frog fruit is a great alternative to grass turf, and can tolerate some walking on it. It can be mowed once after it flowers! This fast growing ground cover is a great addition to any native garden or pollinator garden.

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6 Comments

  1. Can I propagate now ( September) in Florida? Or should I wait until Spring? I am attempting to replace part of my lawn. Thank you.

    1. I think propagating Frogfruit now should work! You should have enough growing season left in Florida for it to get established. I would dig up a section with a good amount of roots, transplant it, and keep it well watered until it is established. Let me know how it goes!

    1. That is a great question. I can’t find a good source online. I’ve only seen it in transplants. Hopefully you can find a nursery near you that carries it, or have a friend that wouldn’t mind digging some up for you! It grows pretty readily here in Texas in the wild.

  2. I first discovered Frog Fruit growing along the roadside in the blistering sun and hard rocky soil. I saw its cute, little flowers and decided it would make a great groundcover in the full sun. After all, this stuff was thriving in nothing but heat with no water and cars driving over it! Being a lover of native plants, I checked it out that it was “okay” and not some formidable invasive. Not only okay, but totally beneficial! This has got to be one of the native superstars, yet it is relatively unknown up here in north central Texas. Love it! And recommend it often! Not found in nurseries here, but you can just pull it up along any country road and stick it in the ground!

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Kathryn! I had never heard of it until a year or so ago, and now I notice it growing everywhere! It is absolutely one of my favorite native plants for the amount of pollinators it attracts. It also is certainly hardy and I’ve also seen it growing in full Texas sun with no supplemental water.

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