Best Southern Perennials – Choosing Perennials For Southeast Gardens

Best Southern Perennials – Choosing Perennials For Southeast Gardens

By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

Growing perennials in the South can create a vibrant and beautiful garden when used alone or in combination with the entire landscape. Choose perennials for Southeast gardens that are hardy to grow in your USDA zone to ensure they can perform in relentless heat and humidity.

Perennials for Southeast Gardens

You’ll find some plants that grow well in Southeast areas, like bulbs, require a chilling period for best performance. If you live in a southern area where it does not get cold enough to chill them, put them in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Fall planted bulbs that bloom in spring include daffodils and tulips. If you don’t have a cold winter and must use the refrigerator, don’t chill them near fruit. Don’t expect perennial performance from bulbs that must be chilled this way. It is best to treat them as annuals.

Most information about perennial flowering plants are based growing them in the Northeast. Keep this in mind as a southern gardener and double check care and growing info for your plants.

Most perennial plants put on a flowering display for at least three years after planting. Many continue to flower for several years after this, and some appear to produce blooms indefinitely, such as the crinum. Species of this plant have been found growing on old southern plantations and in cemeteries well over 100 years.

While spring is known as a great time for perennial blooms, these flowers aren’t limited to this time period. Perennial plants in the South bloom in summer, autumn, and a few blossom before winter is finished. Nodding flowers of perennial hellebores often appear when snow is on the ground. These may be joined by the tiny, yet beautiful, crocus.

Perennial Plants That Grow Well in Southeast Gardens

While the list of perennials for Southeast gardens is far too long to include here, these are some of the most popular flowering plants (and shrubs) you’ll see growing in this region:

  • Lilies
  • Daylilies
  • Gardenias
  • Peonies
  • Hydrangeas
  • Black-eyed susans
  • Clematis
  • Crinum lilies
  • Calla lilies
  • Canna lilies
  • Azaleas

Planting and Care of Southern Perennials

Perennial flowering plants are available in all sizes, with a plethora of shapes and flower colors. Some perennial plants are foliage only and some have indiscreet flowers that are almost unnoticeable. However, many have large showy flowers with lots of blooms on each plant. As an added bonus, many are fragrant.

Some of them demand full sun for the best performance. Many prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Whatever area you’re wanting to plant in your landscape, there’s a perennial plant for it.

Water needs vary among perennial flowering plants. Some need watering as often as every day, while some perennial succulents only need water once a month or less. Others grow immersed in water.

Prepare beds well and deep, as perennials will grow for several years without moving. They usually need division after the three-year point, and you can add amendments on top. Other than those methods of care, plants stay in the ground for several years. Make sure the soil is ready to support them.

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Flowering Perennials for South Florida

These small flowering perennials bloom on and off all year for bright spots of color in a home landscape.

Though there are many more perennials than listed here, each of these plants is commonly used and most are usually available from plant nurseries. All require regular water but don't like being kept overly wet.

Blue Daze

Grows 8 to 10 inches tall and is often used as a groundcover. Full sun to part shade. Bright blue flowers close up for a midday nap.


Attracts butterflies with orange or yellow flowers. Groundcover or border plant. Overall size about 2 feet. Cold and drought tolerant, full to partial sun.

Bush Daisy

Likes full to part sun and a regular "haircut." Keep about 2 feet tall. Moderately cold hardy. Accent or lining the front of the shrub border.


Sometimes called "Alder." Some varieties grow bushy - like the yellow pictured right - and can be kept at 2 feet. Others, like the white variety pictured above, stay low and can be used as a groundcover. Full to part sun.

Cat's Whiskers

Wispy blooms in lavender or white that attract butterflies. Part sun to part shade, trim to about 2 feet. Accent plant.


Comes in a rainbow of colors and likes full to part sun. Some tend to grow leggy - cut back regularly to stay full and bushy at about 2 feet. The white and the purple lantanas stay lower, and multi-colored Anne Marie (pictured above) grows in a well-behaved mound. Excellent butterfly plant. Accent or groundcover.

Mexican Heather

Likes full to part sun and grows to a foot tall. Plant for front of the border, planter boxes, or grow in "drifts." Cut it back several times a year. Attracts butterflies.


Great butterfly and hummingbird attractors that do best in part sun to part shade. Dwarf varieties are the ones to buy since they only get about 2 feet tall and come in pinks, purples, red and white.

Shrimp Plant

Unique golden flower bracts and white blossoms for a part sun or part shade area. Blooms during warm months and grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Use behind shorter plants in a mixed bed or butterfly garden.

Society Garlic

Likes full sun to part shade and looks its best when planted in groups several deep. Grows about 2 feet overall. Said to be deer-resistant. Has a tweak-your-nose aroma so best in open areas.


Sometimes called "Periwinkle." It's super easy-care, drought tolerant and likes full to part sun. Available in many colors. Keep trimmed to about 1 to 1-1/2 feet. Nice around the mailbox or a specimen plant or grouped in a mixed bed.

20 Must-Have Perennials for Iowa

By Veronica Lorson Fowler The Iowa Gardener

If I could have just 20 perennials flowers in my garden for both sun and shade, these are the ones I'd choose.

Just as with choosing your favorite children, choosing your
favorite flowers is difficult.

But I bit the bullet and did it. I chose these particular flowers because for the most part, they're incredibly easy to grow in Iowa--they're super cold-hardy and they'll survive on just our natural rainfall. (However, some, to look good and bloom their best, need watering in late July through September. Still, if you don’t do that, they're not likely to die out.)

I also chose a variety of flowers that will bloom from early April through the end of October so that you can have something blooming in your garden all growing season long. A bonus: Most are fairly good cut flowers to bring indoors and put in a vase!

These perennials, unless otherwise noted, are a convenient medium size, grow a foot or two high and/or a foot or two across. And, as with most perennials, they like rich, well-drained soil with plenty of compost worked in. (Can't have too much compost!) Mulch them with about two inches of bark mulch or another type of mulch that eventually breaks down to help suppress weeds and conserve moisture.

Additional Resources

Need help selecting the right plant for you? The Clemson Extension Carolina Yards Program can help! Visit the Carolina Yards plant database to select plants based on region, soil, sun, stormwater best management practice and more.

The South Carolina Native Plant Society is a statewide organization with active chapters that meet throughout the state. Find out about a plant sale, field trip or other native plant events near you! Learn more at

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at [email protected] or 1-888-656-9988.


Kimberly C. Morganello, Water Resources Associate, Clemson University
Cathy Reas Foster, Former Water Resources Extension Agent, Clemson Extension

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.

Whether you’ve lucked out with a South facing garden or not, these planting cheat sheets will help you to unleash the full potential of your garden! Each guide below outlines which plants to grow and where, depending on where the shade falls in your garden.

Planting cheat sheets for each garden aspect

North facing garden:

One huge benefit of a North facing garden is the evening sunshine it’ll enjoy throughout May to October. Vegetables that do well in these conditions, with three to four hours of sun, include rocket, lettuce, mint, oregano and chives.

Emma from Garden Organic also recommends sarcococca and ivy as two of the most reliable plants in a North facing garden. “Sarcococca can be used as hedging or a standalone shrub and has a beautiful scent. Ivy is a rapid climber with wonderful autumn colour and gives good coverage on buildings.”

South facing garden:

South facing gardens see very little shade so they’re the perfect opportunity to grow heat loving, sun basking plants. Grow watermelon, squash, okra, tomatoes and peppers for the kitchen, while allium can promise glorious colour and extravagant shape in the spring and summer months. Additionally, a grass like Hakonechloa will provide year-round interest.

East facing garden:

East facing gardens are especially lovely for morning larks, as they see most of their sunshine in the morning hours, while evening shade will enhance the impact of white flowers in the garden. Emma says, “East facing can be cooler and shadier. Euphorbia characias has lime flowers which stand for an exceptionally long period and are very reliable, whilst hardy geraniums flower all summer and are easy to grow.”

East facing gardens are perfect for growing carrots, peppers and leafy greens.

West facing garden:

Unlike the East, the West facing garden will see sunshine in the afternoon and evening so must incorporate plants which will flourish in hot summer afternoon sunshine. Ideal plants for these conditions include camellias, daphne and verbena bonairiensis. Try out tomatoes, squash and peppers in your veg patch.

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Salt Tolerant Plants for the South Carolina Coast

Factsheet | HGIC 1730 | Updated: Nov 25, 2019 | Print

Coastal landscaping can be challenging due to salt exposure.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Salt exposure is just one of the many environmental factors that makes coastal landscaping challenging. Selecting plants that are tolerant to salt exposure will increase the rate of success. Salt tolerant plants can range from highly to moderately tolerant.

High salt tolerance means the plants will grow where they are subject to direct salt spray received along sand dunes and adjacent to the oceanfront. These plants are highly resistant to salt drift and can be used in exposed environments. Plants with a moderate salt tolerance will grow adjacent to the beachfront, but are sheltered by higher salt tolerant plants, structures, or sand dunes. They will tolerate some salt spray, but will grow best where they are protected from direct contact.

Watch the video: 10 Tough Foundation Plants