Southern gardening means a different kind of gardening: long, hot, humid summers provide a long and productive growing season, but they also provide prolific weeds, drought dangers and abundant garden pests. Once you learn how to deal with the problems, however, you can enjoy the benefits. Mild winters make it possible for Southern gardeners to grow tropical plants and get into year-round gardening. In the South, the gardening benefits outweigh the difficulties.
Invest in flowering trees such as the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), Japanese magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana), dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), redbud (Cercis canadensis L.), and crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). Make them the backbone of your landscaping design; once established, these trees form deep root systems that can better withstand periods of drought. They provide shade, much needed on hot summer days for both people and plants.
Drought Tolerant Plants
Plant drought tolerant plants in order to save time and money on watering and establish a lush yet low-maintenance look. Choose clumping grasses such as pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), weeping lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula), ribbon-grass (Phalaris arundinacea var. picta) or purple threeawn (Aristida purpurea). Drought-tolerant shrubs include white forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum), wintergreen barberry (Berberis julianae), nandina (Nandina domestica), flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) and bridalwreath spirea (Spiraea prunifolia ).
Tropical and subtropical plants work well in the South, which is "the transition zone between temperate and tropical climates," according to Southern Gardening. Some tropical plants can be grown as annuals, and others will survive the mild winters with some protection. All will thrive during the hot, humid summers. Try black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia), mandevilla (Mandevilla sanderi) and acalypha (Acalypha hispida) as annuals. Use overwintering techniques to grow a banana tree (Musa spp.), needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix), dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) or canna lily (Canna X generalis) as a perennial.