A state where delightfully mild winters compensate for ferociously hot and humid summers, South Carolina turns many normally tender bulb plants into perennials. Other perennials, however, require cold autumn temperatures to stimulate their bloom. Successfully planned South Carolina perennial gardens will accommodate the local climate. One way to ensure the success of yours is to choose plants that thrive in your state's wild places.
Clumps of 2- to 3-foot-high swamp lilies (Crinum americanum) scattered about will brighten your perennial garden with up to six blooms atop each 1-inch-thick stem. The lily flowers can be completely white, or white with a faint pink blush. In either case, they have deep purple stamens extending beyond their backward curving petals.
Blooming from June to October, swamp lilies provide perennial gardens with a long season of fragrance and color. They are easy to grow in any rich, wet soil on the acid side, and bloom in both sun and deep shade. Like other lilies, their foliage dies back in winter but is quick to regenerate.
A member of the lily family, Solomon's Seal reaches between 1 and 5 feet high. It has an arching habit with yellow-green leaves and graceful white, tube-shaped pairs of flowers followed by attractive blue-green berries. Solomon's Seal blooms between March and June depending on climate.
These plants grow from rhizomes but do not naturalize. Both Native Americans and early colonists used the rhizomes as food. New shoots boiled for 10 minutes are similar to asparagus, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The berries, however, are mildly toxic if ingested.
Wild plants grow in partly shady to shady woods and thickets. Plant Solomon's Seal in moist acidic soil with a high humus content. The plants tolerate a range of soil from sand to clay. They're very effective in concealing bare areas at the base of trees. Solomon's Seal attracts butterflies and birds.
Virginia Saltmarsh Mallow
Virginia saltmarsh mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica), a 3- to 5-foot perennial up to 4 feet wide, needs room to spread. Saltmarsh mallow is a good choice for summer and fall gardens, producing 2-inch white or pink hibiscus-like blossoms from June to October. The shrubs have large gray-green triangular leaves and small brown seedpods. Yellow flower stamens add to their color. Hummingbirds and butterflies love the nectar.
Saltmarsh mallow is native to South Carolina's marshes and coastal swamps. It needs a sunny location with moist soil, preferring sand to clay. Plants aren't fussy about pH but seem to perform better in slightly acid soil. Available at nurseries, plants seldom live more than five years. Planting replacements when original plants reach four years will ensure ongoing color.