The Best Low-Maintenance Perennials for Southern Gardens

phlox paniculata perennials
Photo: Kim Cornelison

Grow a low-maintenance garden in a cinch with these perennials that thrive in the South.

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phlox subulate moss phlox perennials
Denny Schrock

Beautiful landscapes don't have to be a lot of work. You can enjoy a low-maintenance garden with beautiful blooms from spring into fall—it's just a matter of picking the right plants. We've pulled together a group of low-maintenance garden plants that are among the easiest to grow in the South. These perennials are old-fashioned favorites—in fact, you may see them thriving in old gardens that have been untended for years.

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The Obedient Plant

physostegia virginiana obedient plant
Richard Hirneisen

This fast-spreading obedient plant offers beautiful spikes of snapdragon-like flowers in late summer. Native to the South, it adds easy-growing grace to your low-maintenance garden—as long as you give it plenty of room to roam.

Plant Name: Physostegia virginiana

Growing Conditions: Full sun or part shade and moist soil

Size: To 4 feet tall and wide

Grow it With: Black-eyed Susans for a stunning contrast in color and texture. Both bloom like crazy in late summer and into fall.

Zones: 4-8

03 of 11

Ajuga

ajuga reptans plant
Blaine Moats

Plant this easy-to-grow groundcover to add splashes of color to shady areas in your yard. Ajuga offers short spires of blue flowers in spring, but the real value is in the green, burgundy, bronze, or variegated foliage that looks good from spring into fall.

Plant Name: Ajuga reptans

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 6 inches tall and 3 feet wide

Grow it With: Japanese painted fern; varieties such as 'Burgundy Glow' complement the colors perfectly for a professionally designed look.

Zones: 3-9

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Crinum

crinum americanum bog lily
Bill Stites

Crinum is one of the toughest and lowest maintenance garden plants you can grow. Sometimes called bog lily, because it loves moist soil, crinum offers bold, fragrant clusters of pink, purple, or white flowers from spring to fall.

Plant Name: Crinum americanum

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist soil

Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

Grow it With: Daylilies, which offer beautiful foliage and similar clusters of flowers.

Zones: 9-11

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Yellow Flag Iris

iris pseudacorus yellow flag iris
Nancy Rotenberg

A vigorous plant, yellow flag iris loves wet spots—they're happiest near a pond or water garden. Yellow blooms add color in the spring, and the evergreen foliage adds interest to your garden the rest of the year.

Plant Name: Iris pseudacorus

Growing Conditions: Full sun or part shade and moist soil

Size: To 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Grow it With: Ranunculus plants, which add a playful contrast in shape and texture.

Zones: 5-8

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Canna

canna indica pretoria plant
Robert Cardillo

Canna is a low-maintenance tropical garden classic. Its triumphant foliage and large, multipetaled flowers add distinctive summer beauty to your garden. Search out varieties such as 'Pretoria,' with its variegated foliage, for added garden interest.

Plant Name: Canna indica

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

Size: To 7 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Grow it With: Lantana, which acts as a great and flowery skirt at the base of the tall canna.

Zones: 8-11

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Lilyturf

liriope muscari lilyturf
Kritsada Panichgul

A wonderful accent and low-maintenance border plant, lilyturf (also called liriope) clumps are topped in autumn with spikes of interesting lavender or white flowers. Choose varieties such as 'Silver Dragon' for its variegated foliage, which will lighten up the dimmest areas of your space.

Plant Name: Liriope muscari

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

Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

Grow it With: Grasses often work well with other grasses, and the same is true with striped lilyturf. Play off its shorter height with the blue hue of little bluestem.

Zones: 6-10

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Southern Shield Fern

dryopteris ludoviciana southern shield fern
Clint Farlinger

Ferns prove that plants don't need flowers to add beauty to your garden. The southern shield fern is common in forests and fields across the South. While not as lush as other ferns, it adds simple elegance and beauty to woodland plantings.

Plant Name: Dryopteris ludoviciana

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Grow it With: Pair it with hostas; choose large-leafed versions with deep green or variegated foliage for visual interest.

Zones: 6-8

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Black-Eyed Susan

rudbeckia fulgida black-eyed susan
David Speer

If the South's summer heat causes your garden to fade, add the versatile, low-maintenance black-eyed Susan. Hot temperatures bring out the best in this summer border and container favorite.

Plant Name: Rudbeckia fulgida

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Grow it With: Black-eyed Susans make for a great addition to a casual garden bed, as do the summer blooms of accenting phlox.

Zones: 4-9

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Cast Iron Plant

aspidistra elatior cast iron plant
Dan Piassick

A cast iron plant is the perfect pick if you're trying to garden in deep shade. Its tolerance of low light isn't the only reason this easy-to-grow plant earned its moniker—a cast iron plant is really one of the toughest outdoor plants you can grow.

Note: It's commonly grown as a houseplant in the North.

Plant Name: Aspidistra elatior

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

Grow it With: Variegated cultivars of cast iron plant look great against the vertical foliage and lacy leaves of ferns.

Zones: 7-11

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Phlox

phlox paniculata perennials
Kim Cornelison

Beloved by southern gardeners, bees, and butterflies, phlox adds showy flowers starting in early summer and continuing through the season. Many of these low-maintenance perennials are also wonderfully fragrant, especially on warm, humid evenings. The scent can fill the yard (or the house if you cut the flowers and bring them inside).

Plant Name: Phlox selections

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

Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Grow it With: Purple coneflower; the two bloom at the same time and will put on a display the butterflies can't resist.

Zones: 3-8

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