Innocence, Houstonia procumbens


Pictured above: Innocence (Houstonia procumbens) by Mary Keim. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View as a PDF.

Although often overlooked, the diminutive white flowers and verdurous leaves of Innocence (Houstonia procumbens) are a welcome sight for anyone with the winter blues. This low-growing perennial creeps along the floors of many open habitats throughout Florida including pine flatwoods, sandhills, scrub and ruderal areas.

Innocence goes largely unnoticed until late winter and early spring when it blooms with lovely white four-lobed flowers on a tidy carpet of green ovate leaves. Although its solitary flowers are only 4–6 mm in diameter, the plant can form a miniature wildflower garden. The leaves are oppositely arranged. Stems are prostrateSeeds are born in tiny capsules.

Photo by Emily Bell
Photo by Emily Bell

The species epithet procumbens is from the Latin procumbo, meaning “to lie down.”

Family: Rubiaceae (Madder or coffee family)
Native range: Throughout Florida
To see where natural populations of innocence have been vouchered, visit
Lifespan: Perennial
Soil: Moderately moist soils
Exposure: Sunny, open areas to light shade
Growth habit: 1” tall, spreading up to 12”
Propagation: Seed
Florida regions of landscape suitability: North, Central, South
Garden tips: Innocence is rarely for sale in nurseries, but is easy to grow and can be used as a slow-spreading winter groundcover in a lightly mulched or open area. Although dormant in summer, it co-exists well with sparse grasses and seems to reseed or be long-lived.