Frog Fruit (Phyla Nodiflora), also known as Texas Frog Fruit, Creeping Lip Plant, Mat Grass, Matchhead, Cape Grass, or Turkey Tangle, is a member of the verbena family. It is a native plant of Texas and the southern USA, down to the tropics, where it flourishes in a multitude of conditions.
Phyla Nodiflora is a rapid grower and provides excellent ground cover. It is a fabulous choice for attracting bees, hummingbirds, and especially butterflies, thanks to it being a great nectar source – this makes it an excellent choice for a wildflower garden. It is characterized by a burst of pretty white flowers, tipped with purple, with protruding centers and daisy-like leaves on the flowers. The plant leaves are green, but can turn shades of red or purple as a result of cold conditions. Despite its name, it does not actually produce any fruit – and it has nothing to do with frogs!
Frog fruit plants flower through the summer and have an unusually long flowering time, sometimes starting as early as May and carrying on flowering right through to October. It grows to a height of between 3-6 inches high, but can, if left uncontrolled, spread up to 3ft in diameter.
How to Grow Frog Fruit
Frog fruit is not typically grown, and you may struggle to find seeds to buy. Instead, consider taking a cutting from a wild plant. Its fast-growing, rapidly spreading nature means that care should be taken not to plant Frog Fruit near more delicate, fragile plants in your garden, as it can quickly overpower and overgrow them. In addition to being relatively easy to grow, it is also relatively pest and disease resistant and is a great nectar source for insects.
Its rapid-growing nature and easy maintenance make it a great choice for a novice gardener, or someone looking for rapid groundcover with minimal effort. It is also a great choice for growing around a garden pond as it will quite happily tolerate soggy, waterlogged soil.
What conditions do you need to grow frog fruit?
Frog Fruit is a relatively hardy plant, and quite tolerant of droughts or flooding. It is an evergreen in milder conditions and grows rapidly in warm and sheltered locations. It is, however, quite sensitive to frost and colder conditions. In colder climates, it can only be considered half-hardy.
These plants require very little in terms of specialized care, but prefer a dryer, sandier soil. That said, it can also flourish in soils with poor drainage, such as clay soil, and a more saline environment, and is equally happy in a soil low in nutrients and pH. In more tropical environments it can be found on riverbanks and floodplains and in and around swampland.
However, the one thing that is essential to grow Frog Fruit successfully is full sun. It is not a fan of the shade and needs a reasonable amount of shelter from the winds in the early years.
When should you plant Frog Fruit?
If you are growing Frog Fruit from seed, plant them in groups in a sunny greenhouse or conservatory from mid-spring when any chance of frost has passed. When they are large enough (3”- 4”), split them out into individual pots to start to harden them off as hardy perennials. The small plants remain quite delicate in their first year and should be kept protected until they reach their second spring.
Growing tips for Frog Fruit
Plants may be relocated by dividing at the root and replanting with care. Tips may also be snipped and propagated to take root in water and grown on from there.
If you are using Frog Fruit to grow as ground cover, allow four plants per square meter. You will find that once it is established, it will, if there is no frost, self-sow and require no extra planting.
Frog Fruit should be cut back over winter, to help ensure it flowers well for the following year.
Frog fruit does not require any special fertilization, but if you do want extra blooms in the springtime, you can feed a little liquid food for blooming once in the early spring.
If you are planning to grow as a lawn substitute, ensure it is not mown during its first year and then only mown once it has flowered to help ensure it retains its density. Alternatively, smaller areas may be cut back with shears and take the time to trim lawn edges regularly to keep it from spreading into borders. It will only tolerate light foot traffic, so do not use it if you are planting as lawn in a heavily-used area.
Frog Fruit Uses
Frog Fruit juice can be extracted and drunk as a tea. In this form it has antifungal properties, and some people use it to treat hookworm and even reduce fevers and help with coughs and colds, thanks to its cooling properties. It is often mixed with cumin powder if it is to be drunk as a tea.
It is popular in Chinese, Asian and Ayurveda medicine, where it is often used to treat non-fatal snake bites. A poultice is made of the pounded leaves and is applied to skin. It is also used as an antibacterial or diuretic and even as a digestive supplement and as a treatment for spots, pimples and acne. Other uses include for boils, abscesses, bronchitis, asthma, vertigo and swollen glands. It is also used to treat E. coli.
As well as teas and poultices, Frog Fruit can also be dried and powdered – either just the leaves or the whole plant.
In tropical areas it can be grown as a good alternative to grass, thanks to its tolerance to many conditions and wide-spreading tendencies.