15 Top Native Plants for Southern Gardens

These tough plants withstand hot, humid conditions.

Kelly D. Norris


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Rose mallow, Hibiscus moscheutos
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Hardy Hibiscus

    Treat yourself to the big, bold flowers of hardy hibiscus. Dinner-plate-sized flowers adorn the plants through late summer and early fall and appear in shades of red, pink, and white.

    Name: Hibiscus moscheutos

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist soil

    Size: To 8 feet tall

    Zones: 5-10

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Indian Pink

    A hummingbird favorite, Indian pink offers bright red flowers topped with yellow. Plant towards the front of the border and enjoy this native perennial's traffic-stopping show all season long.

    Name: Spigelia marilandica

    Growing Conditions: Part shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall

    Zones: 6-9

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Crested Iris

    This charming woodland iris bears delicate blue, white, or purple flowers in mid-spring. Even when not in bloom, the tiny clumps of foliage are a great textural contrast in the shady garden.

    Name: Iris cristata

    Growing Conditions: Part sun to shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 1 foot tall

    Zones: 3-9

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Bee Balm

    Native bee balm bears bright red blooms through the summer months. It's a butterfly and hummingbird magnet -- and thanks to its aromatic foliage, is usually ignored by hungry deer or bunnies.

    Name: Monarda didyma

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 4-8

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Northern Sea Oats

    One of this ornamental grass's best features is it tolerates light shade well. It's also beautiful: The delicate, oat-like heads provide great winter interest and add character to the garden when rustling in the breeze. Note: This can be a fast spreader, so give it lots of room or grow it where you can keep it contained.

    Name: Chasmanthium latifolium

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 3-8

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Helen's flower

    This fall-blooming daisy comes in a multitude of autumnal colors, including warm golds, reds, and oranges. An easy-to-grow perennial, it's great for a shot of color at the end of the season. One top-notch selection we love is multicolored 'Mardi Gras'.

    Name: Helenium autumnale

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 3-8

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Stokes' Aster

    Grow this tough perennial for its long season of bloom and easy-growing habit. The blue or lavender flowers appear continuously through summer and into fall. Top selections to watch for include 'Blue Danube', 'Peachie's Pick', and 'Mary Gregory'.

    Name: Stokesia laevis

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall

    Zones: 5-10

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Royal Catchfly

    Grow this tough little perennial to satisfy yourself and the hummingbirds. It produces bright, eye-popping red trumpet flowers in mid- and late summer.

    Name: Silene regia

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall

    Zones: 5-8

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Woodland Phlox

    Woodland phlox has it all; it's disease resistant, doesn't mind shade, and offers blue, purple, or white fragrant springtime flowers.

    Name: Phlox divaricata

    Growing Conditions: Full to part sun and moist, well drained soil

    Size: To 16 inches tall

    Zones: 3-8

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Swamp Lily

    A top marsh or water-garden plant, swamp lily bears beautiful clusters of pink or white flowers from spring to fall and long, blue-green, strap-like leaves.

    Name: Crinum americanum

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist to wet soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 8-11

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Pitcher Plant

    Though they're native to swampy areas, carnivorous pitcher plants will also grow in moist gardens. Enjoy their interesting funnel-shaped leaves and alien-like springtime flowers.

    Name: Sarracenia purpurea

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist or wet soil

    Size: To 18 inches tall

    Zones: 4-7

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Rain Lily

    This crocus look-alike offers charming flowers in shades of red, pink, and white. They appear in autumn, giving the garden a punch of color after the long, hot season.

    Name: Zephyranthes candida

    Growing Conditions: Sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 18 inches tall

    Zones: 7-10

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Foamflower

    A charming groundcover for shady spots, foamflower produces clusters of starry flowers in early spring. For more interest, look for newer selections that have purple-marked foliage or pink-tinged flowers.

    Name: Tiarella cordifolia

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 1 foot tall

    Zones: 3-8

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False Indigo

    False indigo is a must-have perennial for your garden. Its blue or purple flowers make a statement in late spring, and its blue-green foliage and charcoal-gray seed pods are beautiful in late summer.

    Name: Baptisia australis

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall

    Zones: 3-9

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Bugbane

    Tall spires of white flowers make bugbane an attractive accent in the shade garden. While bugbanes are pretty, we especially love 'Hillside Black Beauty', a selection that sports dark chocolate-purple foliage.

    Name: Actaea racemosa (formerly known as Cimicifuga racemosa)

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall

    Zones: 3-8

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