Virginia is host to a large community of native plants, many that flower during the spring. A variety of trees, shrubs and perennials thrive throughout the state, from the wet, sandy coastal plains to the dry, rocky foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Gardening with native flowering plants adds interest to the landscape while also attracting insects and wildlife. Native plants suited to local conditions require little maintenance and can resist pests and disease.
Purple Passion Flower
Native to southeastern United States, passiflora incarnata is a hardy, climbing vine reaching 25 feet long. Commonly known as purple passion flower, it blooms with 3-inch lavender flowers. Showy pistils and stamens extend from the center of the flower and wavy, whisker-like filaments appear above the petals. The leaves are dark green on top and nearly white on the bottom. The large, oval-shaped, orange berries are edible and often attract birds. Plant the purple passion flower in sun or partial shade and rich, well-drained soil. It tolerates clay or loamy soil.
Eastern bluestar, or Amsonia tabernaemontana, grows 1 to 3 feet tall. Its smooth stems support thin oval, dark green leaves that turn yellow in the fall. Clusters of dainty, star-shaped flowers bloom at the ends of the bluestar's stems. Native to woodlands and plains in Virginia, the eastern bluestar prefers partial shade and wet, sandy soil. It tolerates some drought but prefers regular watering. Cut eastern bluestem back after it flowers.
A member of the sunflower family, the Lanceleaf coreopsis, or Coreopsis lanceolata, reaches between 1 and 3 feet tall. Its branching stems bear hairy, green leaves near the base of the plant. Daisy-like yellow flowers, 1 inch wide, bloom atop the stems. The flowerhead features four-lobed ray flowers and a ring of small flowers in the center. Lanceleaf coreopsis grows in sun or shade and prefers dry soil. Deadhead faded blooms to encourage another round of flowering.
Sweetbay, or magnolia virginiana, grows wild in swamps and wet woodlands of the eastern United States. Also known as sweetbay, this semi-evergreen tree grows 10 to 20 feet tall. White, fragrant flowers, 2 to 3 inches wide, bloom from its bright green branches. The dark green leaves are white underneath, lending a silvery appearance to the foliage. Plant the sweetbay in moist, acidic soil and partial shade or full sun. It tolerates constantly wet soil and requires regular watering, especially during dry periods.
The deciduous shrub known as flame azalea grows in dry, rocky woods of the Appalachian Mountains. Flame azalea, or Rhododendron calendulaceum, grows 6 to 12 feet tall and up to 12 feet wide. Spring brings clusters of yellow, red or orange flowers. The medium green foliage turns a subtle yellowish red in the fall. Plant the flame azalea in acidic, moist, well-drained soil. Choose a location in partial shade where the shrub can receive a few hours of sun each morning.