Top Six Perennials for Southern Gardens

Gardening - Top Six Perennials for Southern Gardens

There are many great perennials that grow well in the South, but which are the best ones for your garden? Here are the top sic: Irises, Pavonia lasiopetala, Moonglow magnolia, Marsh Marigold, and Sweet William. These perennials thrive in the region’s climate and are easy to care for. In addition to these great plants, they’re also low maintenance and can be divided and moved around when needed.


Irises are the most popular of all garden flowers and can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes. The flowers of irises are a delight, and there is a variety of shapes to choose from. Most species feature intricate flowers with three upright petals and three lower ones. Some irises are beaked and bearded, while others are flat. Irises have attractive gray-green foliage that will add interesting texture to your garden.

Irises are a very diverse plant with more than 70,000 varieties. They grow well in most regions of the U.S., and they can tolerate very hot regions. You can choose from yellow, red, orange, white, pink, purple, blue, and more. They range in height from a few inches to five feet. They are inexpensive and will multiply to spread to friends’ gardens.

Irises are great for southern gardens, because they bloom in the summer. When they bloom, they produce offshoot rhizomes from the original rhizome. When you’re ready to plant your new irises, remove the mother plant and inspect the rhizome for soft spots, rotting tissue, and any signs of disease. Irises can be grown by anyone, from novices to professional gardeners.

Pavonia lasiopetala

The Pavonia lasiopetala is a perennial plant with bright pink blooms. Its compact growth habit makes it easy to grow in a home garden. The plant is tolerant of heat and drought and grows well in full sun. The petals of the Pavonia lasiopetala are flat and resemble hibiscus flowers. The plant’s leaves are green and clumped in a cluster. The leaves are about one to two-and-a-half inches long. The Pavonia plant grows in clumps of five to seven stems and are loosely arranged. It should be mulched before cold weather.

Another excellent perennial for southern gardens is phlox. Phlox has showy flowers that bloom in early summer and throughout the season. The plant is low-maintenance and fragrant, and its blooms can fill a room on humid evenings. Pair it with the purple coneflower, a popular plant in the southern United States. Phlox also attracts butterflies.

The bushy bluestem, or sugarbush, is a native to South Africa. Its flowers are excellent cut flowers, and the plant thrives in hot climates. It can grow to be four to eight feet tall, depending on the variety. Its foliage can be harvested in late winter. Pavonia lasiopetala is heat and drought-tolerant, and can be planted in the shade or in a protected location.

Moonglow magnolia

One of the most iconic trees of the Southern region, the moonglow sweet bay magnolia grows in almost any climate. It can tolerate a wide range of soils and can stay evergreen in zones 5 and warmer. In zone 4, this plant will produce new leaves in the spring and will flower in full sun. It is also tolerant of heat and clay.

This multi-stemmed tree grows up to 35 feet high and 25 feet wide within 20 years of planting. Typically, it has 5 main trunks and low branches, forming a dense upright tree. Its oval leaves are leathery and have a sweet scent. Although it is a semi-evergreen, it tolerates wet soil and can grow up to 50 feet tall.

While moonglow sweet bay magnolia isn’t native to Albemarle County, it has been found growing wild in neighboring Augusta County. It can grow to between 20 and 30 feet tall and a similar spread. Because of its dense root system, it can be used as a foundation planting anchor. In addition to flowering, moonglow sweet bay magnolia is also good for screening purposes.

If you live in a mild climate, consider planting a variety of moonglow magnolias, such as the yellow-orange Sweet Bay magnolia. It’s a perfect plant for planting under overhead power lines, as it is not tolerant of too much drought. However, its hardiness depends on the climate and location. In Portland, Maine, it receives mild winters, but late frosts don’t damage the flowers. In colder climates, its flowers will be damaged by cold winters, but they will bloom. If you don’t have cold winters, consider planting the white Waterlily magnolia. It has fragrant pink buds and small, 5-inch flowers.

Marsh Marigold

This versatile plant is a favorite in many southern gardens because of its ability to bloom year-round. It thrives in moist, boggy soil and will grow alongside other water features, such as a pond, stream, or pond edge. Marsh marigold plants can tolerate a drought because of their ability to go dormant during dry spells. Moreover, they can spread their seeds quickly and reproduce themselves through division.

This spring-blooming ephemeral plant is native to eastern Asia and Europe, but has naturalized in 19 states. Because of this, it can form a large colony and displace native, less vigorous spring ephemerals. Therefore, marsh marigolds are a more appropriate choice for gardens with native flora. This plant is hardy in USDA Zones 2-7 and is a welcome addition to any native American garden.

Another native to the southern United States, the Marsh Marigold is often mistaken for a lesser celandine. This plant is similar in appearance to a buttercup, but is native to low, wet meadows. It grows from one to three feet in moist soil. In the spring and early summer, this plant blooms in large patches and is a great ground cover in rain gardens.

A yellow species of this plant has small, tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, and it requires little maintenance. Chelone species thrive in rain gardens, water gardens, and wet meadows. Its blooms are pinkish white, with a purple hue, and one cultivar even boasts black foliage. This perennial is perfect for moist soil and shade.

Obedient Plant

The obedient plant is a low maintenance perennial with a wide range of benefits. It can tolerate some frost and is very easy to grow. Plants can grow up to 4 feet tall and spread up to 3 feet via stolons. They are also tolerant of partial shade and flower from August through November. To ensure the best blooming time, divide the roots after the first blooms have faded.

The obedient plant likes moderately moist soil. In arid climates, regular irrigation is required, but rainfall is adequate. Deadheading helps extend the blooming time into late summer. Clipping the primary flower spike will encourage new flower buds to form lower on the stem. To maintain a beautiful garden in the winter months, remove dead foliage after the first spring sprouts appear. The obedient plant has no serious pest problems, but it may spread quickly.

The Obedient plant grows from underground runners that are easily pulled. Planting it in a flower pot prevents the rhizome from sending out runners. The open bottom of the pot allows the roots to grow. It will grow very quickly in a flower pot. A few years after planting, you might want to staking it. A little water will do wonders for the growth of your plant. If you don’t want the rhizome to spread too much, just plant it in a flower pot.


If you want to plant one of the most attractive shrubs for your southern garden, look no further than camellias. These plants trace their ancestry to the maritime regions of East Asia and are often considered among the hardesty shrubs around. In fact, some species even withstand very cold winters and even survive freezing temperatures, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require some extra care. Camellias are actually quite hardy and can be grown in Zones four through six.

A classic Southern shrub, camellias will keep you warm and comfortable through winter months. They are an excellent choice for shady areas because of their fragrant blooms. This plant is easy to grow and will provide plenty of color throughout the winter months. Its white flowers, with pink edges, contrast beautifully with the glossy green foliage. To ensure their blooming success, protect the plant from scale insects and vine weevil.

Growing camellias in southern gardens has long been an important part of gardening, but new varieties are now cold hardy and can survive even the coldest winter conditions. The ‘April’ series of camellias, developed by Dr. Ackerman, can handle temperatures as low as ten degrees Fahrenheit and most varieties can survive up to USDA Zone 8b. Colder regions of the South, such as zone six, will not be a problem for camellias.

Top 5 Perennials for Southern Gardens
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