Finding out which plants thrive in our garden is a lifelong commitment. As you may have not figured out yet, it takes about 3 years or so for a perennial to “settle in” and perform the way it’s supposed to. The plant you’re buying may not look exactly like the picture you see on the tag in its first year.
Gardening and plants that are trending now, may not be popular a year from now, but there are mainstays that we can always depend on to bless us with foliage or flowers. Tried and true plants that people will never get tired of.
I’ve put together a list of hardy plants and some of them that are like Southern Icons. Most of these plants invoke memories of your childhood home or Grandma’s house. The smell alone of a few of them may bring back vivid memories of years gone by, back to a quieter more peaceful time.
Lots of the plants I am trying to incorporate in my garden are transplants or cuttings from the area’s I lived in as a child. Filling your garden with heirlooms and gifts from friends and family is a great way to hang on to your happy times.
As you travel around, keep an eye out for these plants or variations of the species and you’ll see why so many people continue to incorporate them into their gardens again and again.
Probably the most popular shrub in the south. Comes in many shades of pink, magenta, red, speckled and solid white. Grows great in shade or part sun.
Comes in evergreen or deciduous varieties.
Bloom times vary. Most will bloom in the Spring time only but with the addition of the Encore varieties, you can enjoy blooms in the Spring, Middle of Summer, and even in Fall. Truly amazing plants!
Who doesn’t remember the huge camellia bush in the yard? Camellias dazzle us with their display in early Fall through Winter. Some varieties bloom Winter through Spring. Camellias will be putting on a show when little else is happening in the garden. They range in color from white, to pink, to deep red. The blooms come in all forms from single blooms, double blooms, even anemone and rose forms and can be up to 5 inches across in some varieties.
These beautiful glossy green plants, with pure white flowers are a permanent part of many a garden. There are different varieties with early, mid, and late season blooms to fill your garden throughout the season. They come in many different shapes and sizes. Tall and upright to short and spreading. The sweet smell of gardenia wafting through the yard is something you have to experience to truly appreciate it.
Irises are some of the easiest perennials to grow. Many varieties like Siberian or Bearded make a bold statement in your cutflower arrangement or in your garden bed. Irises always stand out and their unmistakeable shape is always an eyecatcher.
With its billowy blooms swaying in the wind, the Bridal Wreath Spirea is a lovely addition to any garden. It gets its name from the bouquet like clusters of tiny flowers that bloom along its long stems. Spirea are deciduous shrubs that depending on variety will bloom in spring or fall. There are new varieties out now with foliage that changes through the seasons. The flowers can be white or shades of pink.
Sweet Olive Tree
These are evergreen shrubs that begin to bloom in early fall and have a sweet citrus smell like orange blossoms. They can be planted along walkways or driveways to create a privacy hedge or border that fills your yard with this heavenly scent. I have seen one about 20 feet tall although I don’t know how old it is.
Okay so most of you may know this as Eleagnus, a fast growing invasive border plant. The way I discovered this shrub was by smelling it in the nursery. In the fall, its will begin blooming with tiny white perfumey scented flowers that resemble small bells. Later in the season they bear a small sweet fruit that can be enjoyed by wildlife. You can totally eat it as well but they are very small. The new leaves have a silvery tint to them on one side and turn greenish grey as they mature. They grow very quickly and are beyond easy to grow.
Crepe Myrtles are everywhere here in the south. Lining driveways, streets and parking lots. Their beauty comes in many forms and colors. Their delicate blossoms resembling crinkled up crepe paper, range in colors including white, many shades of pink, red and deep purple. Even when they lose their leaves in the Fall, their bark and the smooth texture of the trunks and limbs has a pristine beauty to it. Easy to grow and care for, these flowering trees come in many colors and sizes to fit any landscape design.
Few plants can rival the old-fashioned charm of hydrangeas. Their showy blooms can go from Spring to Fall in some varieties. Magnificent mophead, tall narrow panicle, and lace cap are some of the varieties. Blooms range in shades from White to Dark Purple, Blue, bright red and even green. No matter the color, their blooms are always a show-stopper in the landscape.
There are different types and sizes that can fill most any spot or condition in the garden. Some are bred to be smaller than three feet, while some grow larger than eight foot tall. There are even vining ones! They grow well in damp areas, some in full sun and many varieties do even better in the shade. With more varieties being introduced by growers every year, you are sure to find one just right to brighten your backyard.
If you would like to watch a video of how to Deadhead a Mophead Hydrangea click here.
Canna lily are a very common plant in most gardens around the south. They are easy to grow, and tend to naturalize very quickly on their own. Bright red, orange, or yellow flowers depending on your variety, emerge from the tall slender stems throughout the summer. Like all these plants, they flourish in the humid southern heat and require little care. They enjoy a damp area but will tolerate many different types of soil.
Canna lilies have their quirks though but if you can learn to overcome them, they are definitely a tropical beauty to add to the landscape. They can be prone to Canna Leaf Rollers, a caterpillar that can do heavy damage quickly to a mass of plantings. Click here to learn how to avoid these nasty caterpillars.
The scent of jasmine in the air and the bright white flowers blooming in the warm evening of Summer evoke memories of old New Orleans. These vining perennials are a huge favorite in the south and are used to decorate trellis’s and fences as well as gates and arbors.
Jasmine can be grown in a pot or hanging basket but are usually planted in the ground and trained to cover garden structures. Jasmine grows well in full sun to partially shaded areas and most varieties are evergreen and will flower most of the year and fill your yard with that heavenly scent.
These tropical bright flowers thrive in the southern heat and sunlight. This gorgeous plant is a great plant for beginners. You will get lots of growth relatively quickly and the flowers are amazing!
Hibiscus can handle poor, sandy soils and still do very well. Many gardeners prefer to grow them in pots so they can be moved for different times of the year.
Rose of Sharon
The exotic Rose of Sharon will continue to dazzle your landscape, year after year, with very little care. Typically growing from 8 to 10 feet and high and just as wide. These shrubs will be covered with huge flowers throughout the season in various shades of blue ,red, pink or white. They make a great backdrop for any flowerbed.
Daylily are an easy to grow perennial. They are also huge favorite to many gardeners. They come in an array of amazing colors sure to brighten up any garden. Blooming in almost every color except blue and pure white their bloom time is late Spring to early Fall.
They can be propagated by division of the tubers they grow from. You can read about how to do this HERE.
Amaryllis are known for growing as a single bulb in small pots as a single spectacular bloom around Christmas. Here in the South though, we have huge beds of this bright red huge flower that bloom in late Winter to early spring along with the daffodil and iris’.
Most are bright red but there are a few with red and white stripes. The flowers can be up to 8 inches across and will last for several weeks.