5 Astonishing Native Plants for the Southeast United States

5 Astonishing Native Plants for the Southeast United States

5 Astonishing Native Plants for the Southeast United StatesThe Southeast United States is home to some beautiful places to visit. These locations are home to some incredible native plants thriving with little recognition.

Today, we'll talk about five native plants from the Southeast United States. Native plants are defined as plants that have been established in a given area for hundreds of years. This definition is often paired with a geographic location, in this case, the Southeast US.

It is challenging to pinpoint an exact geographical boundary, as plants do not follow the same boundaries people do, so in Part Four of Six of our Native Regional Plants Series, we will focus on natives that grow in the Southeastern States.

Top Natives For The Southeastern US

From the Mississippi River to the Mason Dixon, the Southeastern US has a lot of coastline, humidity, warmth year-round, and sometimes tumultuous weather with hurricanes and tornadoes. The Southeast is considered to have predominantly USDA growing zones 7 through 10 and includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, and sometimes Kentucky, and Virginia.

Southern Live Oak Tree

Southern Live Oak TreeSouthern Live Oak trees (Quercus virginiana) are historical broadleaf evergreen trees that are icons of the Southeastern US. Growing broad and tall, these long-lived trees are significant wildlife and shade plants in the landscape. Fantastic icons, the spreading limbs create an elegant silhouette that stands up and out for all to see for generations.

  • Mature Height 50 - 80 feet
  • Mature Spread 70 - 90 feet
  • Long-Lived Broadleaved Evergreen Tree
  • Massive Wildlife & Shade Trees
  • Extremely Hard Timber

With such a long life, it's obviously also an exceptionally hardy tree. Because it's resistant to pests and disease, you won't have to fuss over it.

Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum)

Sourwood TreeThe fantastic four-season native Sourwood Tree is a great-sized deciduous tree that handles drier soils and modern lots. The romantic weeping appearance is accentuated by sprays of fragrant, Lily of the Valley style blooms! These arrive for pollinators in the early summer when few other trees are in flower. Summer also brings lush glossy green leaves, and then you’ll enjoy a fantastic blend of scarlet, burgundy, yellow, and brilliant crimson-red fall color!

  • Mature Height 20 - 30 feet
  • Mature Spread 10 - 15 feet
  • Fragrant Sprays of Bell-Shaped White Flowers
  • Glossy Green Foliage & Dramatic Fall Color
  • Pollinator & Bird-Friendly
  • Weeping Space-Saving Form

The seed capsules in autumn feed a wide variety of birds! Even in the winter, the weeping form is a sight for sore eyes.

Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)

SweetshrubWith unusual dark burgundy blooms and a suckering nature, the fragrant Sweetshrub is an aromatic deciduous shrub with two-tone leaves! Glossy pale green undersides, and dark green topsides, the foliage perfumes the air as much as the sculpted flowers do! Pollinators adore these plants and birds flock to the urn-shaped seed capsules in the autumn. Dry the bark for a cinnamon substitute, or use it for potpourri, or simply allow Sweetshrub to naturalize in the sunny landscape. Many in the South will know this plant's common name as Carolina Allspice!

  • Mature Height 6 - 8 feet
  • Mature Spread 8 - 10 feet
  • Burgundy Red Fragrant Spring Blooms
  • Two Tone Glossy Leaves - Spicy & Aromatic
  • Pollinator- Friendly & Bird-Friendly Seed Pods
  • Suckering Native Shrub

Alternative Evergreen Shrub - Star Anise Shrub - Star Anise/Anise trees (Illicium) are highly aromatic shrubs with unique yellowish-white flowers and bright and sunny broadleaf evergreen foliage. Deer-resistant and bird-friendly plants with star-shaped seed pods, Anise love moist soils and are long-lived.

Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica)

Indian PinkThe Hummingbird's favorite perennial, the Indian Pink is not exactly pink, but rather a shocking red and yellow flowering plant that grows tall and stands boldly as a border plant. This native wildflower is showy and hardy! Fantastic upright wedge-shaped foliage boasts sprays of brilliantly colored, tubular red blooms with yellow tips and star-shaped openings!

  • Sprays of Red Blooms With Star Shaped Yellow Openings
  • Wedge Shaped Green Leaves
  • Upright Perennial Clumps
  • Hummingbird & Pollinator Friendly
  • ~2 Feet Tall & Wide

Snip the blooms for bouquets, or show off with these underutilized native blooms in the sun garden. We’re sure no one else on your block has them growing and Indian Pink will add a fiery modern and eclectic flair.

Adam’s Needle Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)

Adam's Needle YuccaThese native succulents are hardy across most of the United States but do very well in the entire southern US. You'll love the handsome, spikey lance-shaped blue-green evergreen leaves of Yucca all year long. Perfect for novice and experienced gardeners alike, this perennial can develop a tall, flowering stem in summer, and a spike can reach 6 feet or more! Full of creamy white, tulip-shaped flowers that can last for a month.

  • Native Evergreen Shrub Stays Green All Winter
  • Grows Towering White Flower Spikes
  • Pollinator & Hummingbird Magnet
  • Cold Hardy, Pest Resistant, Drought Resistant, & Salt Tolerant

Bees, Butterflies, and hummingbirds love these plants! They’re heat, cold, deer, drought, disease, and insect-resistant! When the main plant blooms, it will die out and smaller plants will take over for this long-lived carefree plant.

Honorary Mentions

  • Loblolly Pine - The long needles and rosemary-like fragrance of this tall, straight legacy tree. Handling the acidic clay, coastal conditions, and heat, these are impressive bird-friendly, fire-resistant, and long-lived native evergreens!
  • Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) - the early spring flowering Redbud is a four-season deciduous tree with zig-zag stems, hot pink flowers, heart-shaped leaves, and fall color.
  • Blue Mist Flower (Eupatorium coelestinum) This native wildflower known is hardy across the United States Growing zones 6-11! Also known as Ageratum, this is a very special fuzzy periwinkle-colored perennial for the summer and fall garden!
  • Muscadine Grape Vine and the Honorable MentionsMuscadine Grape Vines (Vitis) are a tasty southern fruiting vine with fat musky sweet fruit and lush leaves. Found growing wild in the canopy of the hot and humid southern forest.
  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is a wetland native shrubs that handle wet soil and even occasional standing water. You will love the round ball-like white fragrant flowers that bloom in June in sun or shade, reaching 5 - 10 feet. Growing Zones 5-9, these are pollinator friendly and even hummingbirds drop by.
  • Coastal Dog Hobble (Leucothoe axillaris) is a great seaside and woodland broadleaf evergreen shrub with bell-shaped white flowers blooming all across the plant in distinct and uniform clumps. Growing Zones 5-8, the white flowers are in contrast starkly against the shiny dark green leaves. 

Supporting Plants in the Southeastern US Climate

How can you help your plants along in the Southeastern? There are a few key tactics to remember to give your new plants the best start and keep them growing beautifully. One good thing about the Southeastern area is the amount of fertile soil, ample moisture access, plus year-round mild to warm conditions.

  • Choosing The Right Plants
  • The Right Location
  • Good Drainage or Raised Beds
  • Proper Way To Water
  • Mulch Mulch Mulch!
  • Nature Hills Root Booster

Choosing native plants that grow in your Growing Zone and weather, means they will not require as much care once established. Ensure they can handle the sunlight quality and quantity in your planting area, then find your Hardiness Zone. Then find more information on choosing Perennials and Shrubs for your area. Search for native plants for your state on the NatureHills.com site, or you can contact your local County Extension Office for more localized information and support in choosing plants for your immediate area.

InfographicThe higher air humidity of the south can sometimes lead to plants struggling with powdery mildew and other fungal problems. So selecting a planting site that gives them plenty of air circulation and has access to the morning sunlight that dries leaves of dew is vital.

When you can’t plant in your landscape’s soil due to it having poor drainage or being soggy - instead grow up! Raised beds, berms, and large planters allow you to control the soil your plants are in, and pinpoint water the plants without having to water an entire area.

Rain splashing on soil causes dirt to cover leaves and infect them with potential mold and fungal issues. In the higher humidity and rainfall that is common in the Southeastern US, you need to water at the roots of your plants and spread mulch around their root zone to stop splashing mud. Use the Finger Test method to ensure whether they need moisture or not. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses installed beneath the surface of the soil and mulch layers help save you time!

Speaking of mulch, this 3-4 inch deep layer of shredded bark, compost, and/or arborist mulch will make or break any success you have with your landscaping! Mulch holds moisture in the soil by preventing evaporation, and keeps roots insulated from heat and chill, while slowly breaking down and enriching the soil by adding organic matter to improve soil health.

Using Nature Hills Root Booster when planting helps you and your plant roots harness the power of mycorrhizal fungi that have a symbiotic relationship with feeder roots for the life of the plant! This living support network lives underground and helps roots take up moisture better and break down nutrients faster!

Tough Native Hardiness

These Native plants are already adapted to the soils and climate of the area, increasing their chances of success.

Including these trees, shrubs, and plants in your landscapes not only provides beauty to your space but also enriches the habitat available for pollinators and wildlife by providing them shelter and food resources!

Be amazed at how they thrive and watch the wildlife around you thrive as well!

Nature Hills ships plants with mature root systems that establish faster in your landscape and pump out bigger and more bountiful blooms year after year!

Happy Planting!

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