How to Landscape Plants for the South


Landscaping in the South requires a few special considerations. The warm temperatures and mild winters give you more options for tropical plants, but the high humidity and heat waves mean you want to create a beautiful look that requires little maintenance in the summer. The typically wet springs of the South lessens the need to water new plants, but watering will be the key as you establish your plants over July and August when it tends to get dry.

Step 1

Plant large shade trees to shape and structure your landscaping, to help conserve water and to provide much-needed shade in the hot summer months. Trees are a foundational part of landscaping anywhere, but especially so in the South where you are dealing with hot, humid summers often interspersed with periods of drought. Water your trees regularly for the first year after planting, even during the cold months. Once trees are well-established, an occasional watering will suffice.

Step 2

Plant hearty, nonpicky plants in areas where clay dominates. The South has a lot of clay in the soil, and in areas where you are breaking ground for new plantings or where the soil has just not been improved, you'll need to choose plants that are tolerant of all soil types. Good choices include mayhaw (a shrub), snapdragon, butterfly bush, sunflower and Chinese hollies.

Step 3

Mix native plants in with your other choices to conserve water. Native plants have survived the heat of the South and can survive with little or no additional watering during dry times. Great native plants include dogwood and Magnolia trees, oakleaf hydrangea and Virginia sweetspire.

Step 4

Fill in with colorful annuals which don't require a lot of work during the hot summer months. Begonias, impatiens, salvia and lobelia need little help when it comes to deadheading or foliage removal. In full humidity and hot sun, you may not want to spend an hour plucking dead blossoms.

Step 5

Go subtropical on the Southern side and in protected areas, such as in corners, against fences, and other spots that will be protected from the Northern wind. Semitropical and even some tropical plants can survive in the South, especially if you provide a protective covering of mulch in the winter. A few great options include banana trees, palms and hibiscus.


  • Southern Native Plants: Plant Index
  • Landscape Horticulture at Auburn University: Growing Plants in Clay Soil
  • PinellasCounty (Florida): Things to Do in the Landscape - Winter Protection for Semi-Tropical/Tropical Plants
Keywords: southern gardening, landscaping south, southern region gardens

About this Author

Annie Mueller is a writer, editor, professional blogger, website designer, and tutor. She attended Missouri Baptist College and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Mississippi State University, with a Summa Cum Laude standing. She has written extensively on gardening, parenting, education, and personal growth for women.