It has been said that all Southern gardens have the same plants. This may be because many plants in the South have been passed down as heirloom plants from generation to generation, from family to family and from friend to friend for hundreds of years. Most of these "passalong" plants multiply rapidly, so there are always plenty to go around. Massive plantings of favorite Southern flowers are not uncommon, especially in older homesteads, and younger Southern gardeners are always thrilled to receive a gift of a treasured passalong for their own garden.
Daylily has long been a popular flowering plant in the south. Native orange daylilies, called "ditch lilies," are found planted in masses in many older Southern gardens. The introduction of varieties of daylily which bloom throughout the summer instead of just spring have made this perennial favorite even more appealing. Daylilies now come in a spectrum of colors, shapes, and sizes, and are being further hybridized and improved every year.
Phlox is a flower that has many faces and as many uses. Shorter growing varieties such as Phlox dirvaricata, with it's very early blooming blue flowers, are favorite ground covers in the lower South. The old-fashioned tall Phlox paniculam, with its balls of purple, pink and white flowers, puts on a show for the more northerly regions in early spring. Phlox subulata, commonly called "thrift" or "moss pink," is a dependable flower in all parts of the south.
With hundreds of species and varieties to choose from, there is an iris that will fit into any Southern garden. Sizes range from groundcovers, such as dwarf crested iris, to bearded and Japanese varieties that grow 3 to 4 feet tall. The spectrum of colors, including bi-colored flowers, has something for everyone's taste. Bearded irises do well in the central South, while the Louisiana, dwarf crested, and native flag irises are popular in more southerly areas. Japanese iris are perennials in the northern and central areas, and grown as annuals in the southern areas. Walking iris, or apostle plant, is a popular passalong plant in central and southern areas of the American South.
What would a shady spot in a Southern garden be without a mass of violets? These prolific plants with tiny purple, blue, white and confederate gray (blue and white) flowers are a treasured passalong plant. Violets multiply so rapidly that they sometimes become more of a pest than a desirable garden flower, but if you have an area that needs to be naturalized, violets are the way to go. No need to buy them; in fact, they can't be found in garden centers. You won't have to look far to find someone who has a yard full and will be happy to share. Children with violet chains adorning their necks are a common site at Southern family get-togethers, as are nosegays of tiny violets in specially made violet vases scattered on the tabletops of Southern homes.