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Native Plants of the Southeast

rhododendron image by Anja Langner from

Gardeners each have their own reasons for growing native plants. Native plants grown in the Southeast are easy to grow because they have already adapted to the climate and soil conditions found in that part of the United States. Growing native plants improves the soil because much less, if any, chemical fertilizer is needed for the plants to thrive. Native wildlife will return to the area drawn by an abundance of plants bearing their favorite fruits.

Annuals and Biennials

American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum), also known as tall bellflower, can grow up to 8 feet tall if located in moist, fertile soil, but typically grows to between 2 and 6 feet in height. The bellflower is an annual/biennial with 1-inch light blue to dark blue flowers that bloom from mid-summer to mid-fall; the flower thrives in fertile garden soil in light shade.

Butterweed (Senecio glabellus) is a biennial or winter annual plant. Flowers of the S. glabellus appear in golden-yellow clusters from mid-spring to early summer. The plant grows to 3 feet tall and grows best in moist, rich soil in full sun.

Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a biennial plant with large yellow blooms from early summer to mid-fall on plants ranging from 1 to 5 feet tall. O. biennis will grow in sandy, dry soil. Blooms open in early evening, remaining open until the midday heat causes them to wilt the next day.


Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum) is a perennial and one of the most easily recognizable plants of the southern U.S. It features a tall stalk with white or pink blooms and light, grass-like clumps of foliage. Its common name, Nodding Onion, comes from the scent of onion given out by the plant and the fact that the stalk becomes so heavy that it has the appearance of "nodding." A. cernuum thrives in full sun to light shade in well-drained loamy soil with more than average moisture.

White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) has clusters of white flowers that bloom from April to June, followed by small, oblong berries with red dots that bear a slight resemblance to eyeballs. For this reason, the plant is nicknamed "Doll's Eyes." A. pachypoda prefers partial to full shade, well-drained loamy soil and regular moisture. The plant grows to 3 feet in height.

Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata) is a perennial iris that remains under 3 feet tall and often never grows taller than 6 inches. Blooms can be blue, purple or white and appear from March through May. Iris cristata thrives in damp locations in partial shade.


American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) is a perennial, deciduous shrub that can grow to 9 feet tall if given the right conditions. Most stay between 3 to 5 feet tall and as wide as it is tall. Small white, pink or lavender-pink blooms appear from May through July, followed by purple or white berries.

Carolina rhododendron (Rhododendron carolinianum) is an evergreen shrub offering beautiful pink, rose or white blooms in mid- to late spring. R. carolinianum reaches 6 feel tall and 6 feet wide at maturity.

Possumhaw Viburnum (Viburnum nudum) is a large perennial shrub growing to 12 to 20 feet in height. White blooms appear on V. nudum in early to mid-summer, followed by red or blue berries. V. nudum prefers moist soil but thrives in sunny or shady areas equally well.

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