Plants that are native to an area are adapted to grow there naturally without extra water or fertilizer. For that reason, they are often chosen as a low-maintenance alternative for landscaping in their native area. In the southern part of the United States, there are native plants to fit almost any landscaping requirement and growing condition, from sun to shade and from dry to wet. The key to success when gardening with native plants in the South is choosing the right plants for your area.
Choose an area to garden that is appropriate for the type of native plants you would like to grow. Because native plants are available that grow in all conditions of the southern U.S., almost any location is acceptable. However, your choice of plants, especially blooming plants, will be smaller if you are planting in dense shade, such as under an evergreen tree or the north side of a structure.
Clear the area you have chosen for your native plant garden by removing all weeds and other undesirable growth. Although the plants are native, they grow best if there is little competition from other plants and weeds.
Spread a 1-inch thick layer of compost over the planting area after it is cleared. Work the compost into the top 3 inches of soil with a hoe. Compost helps enrich the soil, retain moisture and create a more natural environment for the native plants. Use a rake to level the area.
Choose plants native to the southern U.S. appropriate for your native garden location. Keep in mind the eventual size of the plants you are choosing. Some plants native to the South, such as Solidago, aggressively spread from underground rhizomes and take over a planting area if not controlled. Also, choose plants that have similar moisture and sunlight requirements. For example, you would not put a moisture and shade-loving fern alongside a succulent in a sunny dry location because the fern would most likely die.
Look at the planting area and notice how it will be viewed before planting your native plant garden. If the garden is viewed from one side, plant the tallest growing plants in the back then medium height plants followed by smaller or border plants in the front. If the bed is viewed from all sides plant the tallest plants in the middle with smaller plants around the sides. Place plants in the ground at the same level as they were planted in pots or in their previous location.
Apply a layer of mulch around the plants to create a professional look and prevent undesirable weeds from sprouting. After planting, water the plants extensively to avoid transplant shock and allow the soil to settle around the roots. Keep the soil moist for about two weeks after planting, then water if the weather is unusually dry or if the plants begin wilting from heat stress.