Helen Yoest

BHG Guest Blogger

Tried-and-True Plants for the Southeast

The following is a guest blog post from Helen Yoest.

The Southeast and autumn are like shrimp and grits, the two just go together so well. After a long hot summer, fall is the perfect time to venture back outside. The air is drier, cooling the Southern garden even if the thermometer still registers temps in the 80s.

Let’s head out to garden to visit with some tried and true friends, ones that will give you reason to enjoy the season.

Threadleaf Bluestar, Amsonia hubrichtii

Standing near the mailbox is my old friend, Threadleaf Bluestar, some people call him Hubricht’s Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii). This amsonia is native to the Southeast and is a tough plant with three long seasons of interest. The spring is the time this herbaceous perennial begins to send up stalks of narrow thread-like foliage topped with sweet blue star-like flowers giving rise to its commonnames.

During the summer, Threadleaf Bluestar takes the form of a soothing mound of soft green leaves. The fine texture is enough to desire the plant in its summer garb, and if you know what’s coming, you’ll find yourself looking at it for what it will be once autumn arrives. As the weather cools, this amsonia will turn bright gold. Flashy, fresh, and a little bit frisky.

Grows to 2-4 feet high. Prefers full sun to light shade; regular to moderate water.

Perennial in zones 4-10. You can remember the botanical Latin name by thinking, (I) Am So N (to) Ya.

 

Tatarian aster, Aster tataricus

 

In the back garden, near the Love Shack,  is Aster (Aster tataricus), some call him Tatarian Aster. He’s leaning against the birdhouse post. This aster is one tall drink of water. Reaching 6 feet tall, with little to no staking required, this late fall blooming herbaceous perennial radiates with scores of cornflower-blue daisy-like flowers and sunny yellow centers.

Grows up to 6 feet high. Prefers full sun; moderate water. Perennial in zones 3-9. You can remember the botanical Latin name by thinking A STAR. Indeed, I think this plant is a star since I named my son after it, Michael Aster.

 

Rain Lily, Zephyranthes candida
 

Mingling in the front garden near the fountain are the rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida). They visit on and off all summer through fall but come out in great numbers after a rain, hence their common name.

I first got interested in white rain lilies when I learned about a ceremony in 2007 of the Southern Garden History Society honoring Elizabeth Lawrence, the first women Landscape Architect from North Carolina State University and revered garden writer. Members made a pilgrimage to Lawrence’s unadorned grave in a colonial churchyard outside Annapolis where they planted white rain lilies donated by Old House Gardens – Heirloom Bulbs. Rain lilies were some of Miss Lawrence’s favorite little bulbs. Then and there I purchased my first few of these  pass-along plants, and now I have hundreds growing in my garden, Helen’s Haven http://gardeningwithconfidence.com/blog/about-helens-haven/  sharing with other gardening friends who visit in late summer.

Grows grass-like floppy foliage about 8 to 10 inches long topped with perky flowers 3 to 4 inches tall. Prefers full sun to part shade; moderate to moist soil. Perennial, semi-evergreen in zones 7-10. You can remember the common name by thinking, RAIN LILIES ;~\

Ginger, Hedychium ‘Elizabeth’
 

Ginger, Hedychium ‘Elizabeth’ shows up in the fall and steals the show. You can put her next to anyone, even some of your favorite friends like the colocasias, but ginger will be the one getting all the attention. It’s her nature to want you to feel tropical, as if you were stranded on a desert island.

Grows 6-8 feet tall. Prefers full sun to part shade; moderate water. Perennial, in zones 7b-11. You can remember the common name by thinking, of Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. Tall, beautiful, (although I’m more the Mary Ann type) and in this case, like Gilligan’s Ginger, with an orange top. And like the Ginger character, this perennial will have your lips moving even when you aren’t saying anything.

Red Spider Lilies, Lycoris radiata
 

A crazy plant if there ever was one, the red spider lily, Lycoris radiata, sends up stalks, seemingly out of nowhere, because there’s no foliage until after the flower blooms. Then you have a nice tuff of green to carry you though the winter, only to die back in the heat of summer.

This beauty hails from the Orient but has a strong connections to North Carolina. It was first introduced to the United States by Captain William Roberts, who brought a few dried bulbs back with him to his New Bern home after he sailed on Commodore Matthew Perry’s famous mission to open up Japan’s trade routes in 1854.

Grows 18-24 inches tall. Prefers full sun to part shade; moderate to moist soil. Perennial, semi-evergreen in zones 7-10. You can remember this plant by its other common name, NAKKID LADIES. This name was given because the stalks rise in the absence of leaves.
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Helen Yoest is an award winning garden writer and author of Gardening with Confidence:  Fifty Ways to Add Style for Personal Creativity and Plants with Benefits:  An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden. Helen is also author of the popular blog, Gardening with Confidence®.

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