31 Recommended Native Plants For the Southeast

Are you gardening in the Southeast and wondering which native plants you should grow? Many plants grow well in this region, and there’s a spectacular assortment of beautiful, interesting, and easy-to-grow native species you can add to your garden. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen recommends 31 of her favorite native plants.


The southern and southeastern United States have a long growing season, mild winters, lots of sunshine, and plenty of rainfall. It is an easy region to start a garden because so many plants grow well here. Southeastern native plants are particularly advantageous for a low-maintenance landscape because they are already adapted to your local environmental conditions.

Native plants contribute to the natural ecosystem by providing valuable food and shelter for wildlife, including birds and pollinators. Plus, there is a huge diversity of beautiful southeastern native plants that look fabulous in the home landscape.

Keep reading to learn more about 31 wonderful native plants for the Southeast.

How Do I Find the Best Plants for My Southeastern Landscape?

First, check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to identify your local hardiness zone. The Southeast includes zones 8a through 11a. You can use this resource to find perennial plants that can reliably overwinter in your area.

Your plot of land will also determine a lot about which plants you can grow. You, of course, want to choose the best plant for your site. It’s not possible to grow every plant in every location. You want to match plants to your landscape based on important factors:

  • Sun exposure
  • Soil type
  • Soil drainage
  • Moisture
  • Available space

Also, decide which style of garden you want to grow. Do you want to attract butterflies or birds? Would you like to focus exclusively on native plants? Do you have space to include trees and shrubs? This is your chance to be creative and design the garden you want to enjoy and interact with. This list includes plants for almost any aesthetic and function.

Native Southeastern Trees

If you have the space, trees can enhance your landscape and serve as an excellent long-term investment for your property. They provide shade, stability, year-round beauty, and plenty of wildlife habitat for birds, insects, and mammals. Check out these beautiful native trees for your front or back yard.

American Holly

A cluster of American holly leaves, characterized by their deep green hue, glossy texture, and serrated edges, complemented by red berries. The red berries add a festive touch, creating a visually striking and seasonal composition.
Also known as Christmas holly, this tree boasts vibrant red berries and glossy green leaves.
botanical-name botanical name Ilex opaca
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 15 – 30 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

The American holly is a broadleaf evergreen tree with tough, glossy, prickly leaves. Small, white, inconspicuous flowers bloom in the spring, followed by clusters of round, glossy fruits. The fruits turn from green to bright red in the late summer and persist into the autumn months, providing a showy display and an excellent food source for foraging birds. 

American holly does best in full sun and tolerates partial shade. Trees develop fuller and denser fruits and foliage in sunny areas. Give your holly a location with medium-moisture and well-drained soil. These trees are low-maintenance and make an excellent privacy hedge. There are several cultivars available with variations in height and form.

Flowering Dogwood

A close-up of a dogwood tree branch covered in delicate pink flowers. The flowers have four slightly wrinkled, velvety petals and a central cluster of yellow stamens. The branch is also adorned with green leaves, which provide a sharp contrast to the vibrant flowers.
Dogwoods complement ninebarks with vibrant red bark and delicate pink or white blossoms.
botanical-name botanical name Cornus florida
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 15 – 30 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Flowering dogwood is a small to medium-sized tree native to eastern North America. Many beautiful cultivars are available, some with pink or bicolor flowers and some that stay very compact, so you are likely to find one that suits your specific needs. Flowering dogwood blooms in the spring and is a familiar sight along roadways and forest edges. Trees have attractive fall foliage as their leaves turn green to burgundy red. They are great for stabilizing slopes and riverbanks.

Flowering dogwood trees do very well in full sun and partial shade. They need moist, well-drained soil and become stressed during prolonged drought. Stressed trees may turn brown and drop their leaves early but generally grow back with vigor the following year. Birds use dogwood trees for nesting, and they forage on the showy red fall fruits.

Red Maple

Red maple leaves in autumn season.
This southeastern tree has a gorgeous autumn color.
botanical-name botanical name Acer rubrum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 40 – 120 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Red maple is a beautiful tree native to central and eastern North America. It tolerates various conditions, is low-maintenance, and makes a great landscaping tree. Maples bloom in the early spring with small reddish or yellowish flowers eaten by birds and other small wildlife. After flowering, maple trees produce familiar “helicopter” seeds. 

Grow your red maple in a location with full sun to partial shade and moist soil. Make sure you plant your tree somewhere that you can see it and enjoy it. Red maples have very showy yellow, orange, and red fall foliage displays. These trees make attractive shade trees for urban and suburban yards.

Southern Magnolia

A close-up of a white Southern Magnolia flower with lustrous green leaves. The petals exhibit a delicate, layered structure, surrounding a prominent cluster of golden stamens. Glossy, evergreen leaves gleam in sunlight, providing a striking contrast to the radiant bloom.
The southern magnolia is a majestic, large tree ideal for spacious landscapes.
botanical-name botanical name Magnolia grandiflora
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 60 – 80 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6 – 10

Southern magnolia is a familiar native tree in the southeastern United States. The large, thickened, shiny leaves are evergreen and provide abundant winter appeal. The southern magnolia blooms in the springtime with huge, fragrant white flowers that attract pollinators and plenty of interest. By mid-summer, magnolias produce large, showy, cone-like seed pods.

There are several southern magnolia cultivars, some of which are more winter-hardy in cooler climates and others that stay more compact and fit well in smaller spaces. Magnolias make a great privacy screening plant because they are large, thick, and green all year. Birds and other small wildlife will also use these trees for shelter.

Southern Red Oak

Image of the top of a Southern Red Oak tree, with its thick gnarled trunk and branches reaching up to the clear blue sky. Few leaves have already begun to turn yellow and orange, signaling the onset of autumn.
Distinct from its northern counterpart, the southern red oak thrives in warm southeastern landscapes.
botanical-name botanical name Quercus falcata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 60 – 100 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6 – 9

If you are looking for a superb shade tree, the southern red oak is a great option. This tree grows quite large and contributes to a park-like look for your landscape. The southern red oak typically grows a tall, straight trunk with a rounded crown of sturdy horizontal branches. Oaks produce fairly insignificant flowers in spring, but you will certainly notice the conspicuous acorns in the fall.

The southern red oak is a great wildlife tree. Birds use these trees for foraging, nesting, and resting. Birds, insects, and mammals all use oak trees as a food source and shelter. Fall foliage tends to be a muted reddish-brown, but still attractive in a subtle way. 

Native Southeastern Shrubs

If you don’t have enough room for a tree, consider adding a few shrubs to your landscape. Even if you already have trees, some shrubs are suitable for both sunny and shaded locations.

Shrubs add diversity and variety. They create a lower structural layer, provide habitat for wildlife, and many have beautiful flowers, fruits, or foliage. These native herbaceous and semi-woody native plants grow well in the southeastern states.

American Beautyberry

The striking pinkish-purple berries of American beautyberry attract local birds.
botanical-name botanical name Callicarpa americana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6 – 10

American beautyberry is a small to medium-sized shrub native to the southeastern United States. It blooms in the spring, but the small white flowers are not particularly noticeable. By late summer, however, plants have formed clusters of small round fruits that change from green to bright pinkish-purple. These fruits persist along the stems throughout the fall and provide a valuable food source for birds and small mammals. 

If you want to try growing American beautyberry, give it a location in full sun or partial shade, as it does well in both, as long as the soil is somewhat moist. This plant can be at home in a hedge or as a stand-alone accent shrub. It has a somewhat sprawling and loose-looking growth form. American beautyberry occasionally will reseed itself, but any unwanted seedlings are easily removed or can be left to naturalize.

Highbush Blueberry

Bluejay blueberries, nestled among verdant leaves showcasing their juicy allure. In the vicinity, clusters of unripe blueberries hide coyly behind a tapestry of leaves. The background, a soft blur of verdant foliage, sets the stage for this vivid tableau.
This fast-growing, disease-resistant bush yields large, edible, tart fruits.
botanical-name botanical name Vaccinium corymbosum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 12 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Highbush blueberry is a welcome addition to an edible native landscape or wildlife-friendly garden. These many-branched shrubs bloom in the springtime with clusters of small, white, bell-like flowers. The flowers attract native bees and other pollinators, and these plants rely on pollinators to develop a productive crop of fruits. 

Blueberry fruits are sweet and tasty, ripening in mid-summer. However, you will be competing with the birds to eat the fruits, so you might want to grow a few bushes to ensure you have enough to share the bounty. You can also use bird netting to protect the berries.

In the fall, these native southeastern plants develop beautiful red foliage. Prune your blueberry shrubs regularly to keep them healthy and compact. There are many interesting blueberry cultivars available for the home gardener. To maximize fruit production, grow at least two different varieties for cross-pollination.

Mapleleaf Viburnum

These shrubs develop attractive bluish-black fruits in the fall.
botanical-name botanical name Viburnum acerifolium
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 4 – 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 8

Mapleleaf viburnum is a small to medium-sized shrub native to eastern North America. It blooms in the springtime with attractive clusters of small white flowers that attract pollinators. In the fall, plants have sparse berry-like fruits enjoyed by birds. The maple-like leaves turn bright red-orange in the fall for a nice display of autumn color. 

Grow your mapleleaf viburnum in a shaded site. This plant is naturally found as an understory shrub in moist woodlands, so if you have this type of habitat in your yard, the mapleleaf viburnum is an excellent choice. Over time, plants will spread by suckering roots to form small colonies. You can allow this viburnum to naturalize as an understory plant or informal hedge.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

These hydrangea plants are native to the southeastern quadrant of the U.S.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea quercifolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4 – 8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

The oakleaf hydrangea is a spectacular plant for a partially shaded location. This small to medium-sized shrub has deciduous leaves resembling large maple leaves. Healthy plants become dense and bushy, making good hedgerows or massed plantings with other open woodland shrubs. Give your plant moist, well-drained soil.

Oakleaf hydrangea blooms in late spring to early summer. There are many different cultivars with fragrant, showy flowers. Flowers may range from white to pink to creamy pink-tinged light brown. The flowers attract pollinators, and the leaves turn brilliant shades of red in the fall for long-season interest. 


A close-up unveils clusters of purple Shadbush Serviceberry fruits hanging from brown branches. Their rich color stands out against the backdrop of fresh green leaves, creating an inviting sight in the garden.
Prioritize native tree and shrub species over non-native ornamental ones.
botanical-name botanical name Amelanchier laevis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 15 – 25 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 8

Serviceberry is a versatile deciduous shrub or small tree. It is naturally found as an understory plant in a variety of woodlands. Serviceberry spreads by root suckers, forming dense shrubby growth within a small area. Allow your plants to grow naturally in this form to make a dense hedge, or prune the root suckers to encourage a more tree-like form.

Serviceberry blooms in the springtime with clusters of fragrant, showy white flowers. The flowers are followed by small, round, red fruits. Birds love the fruits, making this an excellent native plant to attract wildlife. In the fall, serviceberry displays attractive yellow, orange, and red foliage.

Sweet Azalea

This rhododendron relative develops adorable flowers that attract butterflies.
botanical-name botanical name Rhododendron arborescens
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 8 – 20 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 7

Sweet azalea is a deciduous, many-branching shrub native to the eastern United States. In its natural habitat, it is found in moist, shaded woodlands. Sweet azalea does best in medium-moisture, well-drained soil. Grow it under the canopy of trees or in the shade of a building or other shrubs. It makes an attractive hedgerow. It can handle full sun too.

Sweet azalea blooms in late spring or early summer. The flowers are typically white with tinges of pink. They are a favorite of butterflies and other pollinators. If you are growing sweet azalea in your landscape, surround your plants with a layer of mulch to protect the roots from drying out, and shelter them from cold winter freezes. 

Sweet Pepperbush

A sweet pepperbush plant is adorned with elegant white spike flowers. A brown butterfly clings gracefully to one of the flowers, savoring nature's nectar. The vibrant green leaves around it form a lush backdrop.
This medium-sized shrub features white spike flowers, attractive fall foliage, and small fruits.
botanical-name botanical name Clethra alnifolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 5 – 10 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9 

Sweet pepperbush is a small to medium-sized shrub that does well in either full sun or partial shade. It is a native plant throughout the southeastern United States, growing wild in moist woodlands and woodland edges. In the home landscape, you can grow sweet pepperbush in a location with moist to wet soil, along creek or pond edges, as part of a rain garden, or in a hedgerow.

Sweet pepperbush blooms in mid-summer with dense spikes of fragrant white flowers. The flowers attract butterflies, native bees, and other pollinators. Not many other shade-loving shrubs bloom later in the season, so you can appreciate these flowers well after your spring-blooming shrubs have stopped flowering. In the fall, the leaves turn green to yellow for some late-season color. 

Southeastern Native Wildflowers

Herbaceous perennial flowers are some of the easiest to grow and most readily available plants for gardeners. There are certainly plenty of native wildflower options available for southern gardeners to choose from.

Many of these plants are easily grown from seed or can be found as young plants from garden centers and nurseries specializing in native plants. Try multiple species so you can enjoy flowers blooming from spring through fall in a variety of colors, shapes, and forms. 

Aromatic Aster

Asters bloom prolifically throughout the summer.
botanical-name botanical name Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Aromatic aster is a spectacular wildflower native to the central and eastern United States. This showy plant blooms in late summer and continues blooming prolifically until the first frost. The pale purplish-blue flowers open en masse, creating a beautiful display as the flowers also attract birds and butterflies. Aromatic aster releases a distinctive scent when the leaves are crushed.

This aster spreads freely by underground rhizomes and creates a dense mass of bushy vegetation. The stems are semi-woody and tend to sprawl as they get taller. If the stems are falling over, support them by staking or allowing them to lean on something else.

You can also pinch the tips of the plant as they form to encourage a bushier growth pattern. Prune yours to ground level in late winter, and they fully regrow again into dense shrubby clumps by mid-summer.

Eastern Bee Balm

The native southeastern bee balm plant spreads freely by self-seeding and rhizomes.
botanical-name botanical name Monarda bradburiana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 8

Eastern bee balm, also known simply as bee balm, is native to the southeastern United States. This plant is a member of the mint family and tends, like many mints, to spread freely by self-seeding and rhizomes. It is generally not bothered by deer or rabbits, although it may develop powdery mildew late in the season, particularly in humid conditions with poor air circulation. 

Eastern bee balm is a versatile perennial wildflower that is tolerant of various conditions. Grow it in full sun or light shade with moist to dry soil. This is an excellent plant for a pollinator-friendly garden or hummingbird garden.

The pale purple flowers bloom through the summer months. You may find several different Monarda cultivars with slight variations in flower color, bloom time, and growth form. 

Blue False Indigo

The deep taproot of blue false indigo makes it drought-tolerant but difficult to transplant.
botanical-name botanical name Baptisia australis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Blue false indigo is a beautiful perennial flowering plant native to the southeastern United States. It grows best in full sun with dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil.

Plant your blue false indigo in a location where it can stay for a long time because this plant develops a deep taproot, which makes it tolerant of drought but difficult to transplant successfully. Over time, plants will spread to form a slowly expanding clump of vegetation with the appearance of a small shrub.

Blue false indigo grows several upright leafy stems. In late spring, taller spikes of pea-like deep purple flowers bloom, attracting plenty of pollinator activity. After flowering, you can enjoy the showy seed pods. Blue false indigo is a larval host plant for several species of butterflies. If you start these plants from seed, they will take a few years to reach flowering maturity. 

Butterfly Milkweed

Native milkweed plants are better for monarch butterflies in the Southeast.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias tuberosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Butterfly milkweed, also known as butterfly weed, is one of several native milkweed species that make good perennial wildflowers for your garden. This species of butterfly milkweed has orange flowers.

Be careful not to buy tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), which looks similar. The tropical species is non-native, invasive in warmer climates, and potentially harmful to monarch butterflies because it is associated with spreading a harmful butterfly parasite.

The native butterfly milkweed is very easy to grow and simple to start from seed. You can grow it in a location with full sun and dry to medium moisture with aerated soil. Milkweed develops a long taproot, making it drought-tolerant but almost impossible to transplant successfully once it becomes established. Young seedlings can be transplanted without problems. Butterflies and other pollinators love the flowers, and monarch butterfly caterpillars feed on the foliage.

Carolina Phlox

This perennial flower grows well in moist areas.
botanical-name botanical name Phlox carolina
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Carolina phlox is a spring-blooming wildflower native to the southeastern United States. This plant is a wonderful addition to a shade garden, hummingbird garden, or pollinator garden. Grow it in full sun or partial shade with rich, moist, well-drained soil. In the wild, Carolina phlox grows in moist fields, open woodlands, and along stream banks.

Carolina phlox is an easy-to-grow perennial. Start it from seed, stem cuttings, or division. Clusters of purplish-blue flowers bloom each spring and make a beautiful early-season floral display. Grow this phlox in bunches for added effect. They will slowly expand over time but do not grow aggressively.


The flowers of red columbine are graceful and unique.
botanical-name botanical name Aquilegia canadensis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

The red columbine is native to moist open woodlands and glades of eastern North America. There are many colorful cultivars of columbine plants available, but only this pinkish-red variety is native to the southeastern states. This plant grows best in partial shade but tolerates full sun. Make sure your soil has medium moisture and drains well. Plants grown in full sun and warmer climates may experience a decline in foliage during the summer months. 

Columbine is a showy spring-blooming wildflower. The pendant-like flowers are very unusually shaped, dangling gracefully from the stems. The delicate-looking foliage is very attractive, especially in early spring when it’s fresh and lush.

Columbine self-seeds freely, forming colonies in ideal conditions. You can deadhead spent flowers, but then you lose the attractive seedheads. Or you can pull any unwanted seedlings each spring.

Dwarf Tickseed

Coreopsis flowers naturally, forming clumps by self-sowing and spreading with underground runners.
botanical-name botanical name Coreopsis auriculata ‘Nana’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 0.5 – 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

Dwarf tickseed, also known as ear-leaved tickseed, is an herbaceous perennial wildflower with golden blooms. This plant needs full sun with well-drained soil that maintains consistent moisture. Tickseed is easy to start from seed and reseeds in ideal conditions.

The dwarf tickseed is a clump-forming plant, slowly expanding by underground runners. As a low-grower, it works well along borders and edges and makes an effective ground cover.

Flowers bloom primarily in the spring, sometimes re-blooming in the summer. The flowers are bright yellow, appearing singly on long stems and attracting butterflies and bees.

Prairie Blazing Star

A close-up reveals the intricate beauty of Prairie blazing star flowers, showcasing their vibrant petals with a feathery texture. Beneath these striking blooms, deep green leaves provide a rich backdrop.
The tall prairie blazing star grows up to 5 feet with rosy-purple blooms attracting pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Liatris pycnostachya
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 – 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

The prairie blazing star is a perennial plant native to the central and southeastern United States. This showy wildflower is easily started from seed or divided from established clusters. Grow your blazing star in full sun with medium to moist, well-drained soil. Once established, it is resistant to drought and prefers dry sites. 

Prairie blazing star is a spectacular wildflower. In mid-summer, tall, dense spikes of pinkish-purple feathery flowers stand out above the foliage. The flowers are extremely popular with butterflies and other pollinators. After flowering, the showy seedheads attract seed-eating birds such as goldfinches and continue to provide late-season interest. 

Purple Coneflower

The iconic purple coneflower is resistant to deer and drought.
botanical-name botanical name Echinacea purpurea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

If you have room for just one wildflower, consider the purple coneflower. This very showy native plant has large pinkish-purple flowers with prominent red-orange centers.

The flowers bloom in early to mid-summer and attract butterflies, bees, and many other pollinators. In the fall, when the heads have dried, birds come to feed on the seeds. This plant looks right at home with a grouping of prairie plants or any other wildflowers.

Grow purple coneflowers in full sun or light afternoon shade. Give them dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil. Mature plants are resistant to deer and occasional drought. Plants self-seed in ideal conditions, but they don’t become weedy. Larger clusters can be divided as needed or allowed to form attractive groups.

Solomon’s Seal

This easy-to-grow plant is perfect for moist, shady areas.
botanical-name botanical name Polygonatum biflorum
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Solomon’s seal is native to central and eastern North America. It is a wonderful addition to an understory garden, as it thrives in moist, shaded woodlands. It is easy to grow and spreads slowly by rhizomes, creating attractive swaths.

Solomon’s seal is most known for its showy, almost fern-like foliage. Long, graceful stems bear simple, alternating leaves. The nodding, greenish-white flowers appear below the stems in early spring. At a glance, a clump of Solomon’s seal closely resembles a large cluster of ferns but with a row of flowers dangling from the underside of mature stems.

Stokes’ Aster

Pollinators love the showy flowers of Stokes’ aster.
botanical-name botanical name Stokesia laevis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Stokes’ aster is an awesome summer-blooming perennial wildflower native to the southeastern United States. This showy wildflower has large purple double-petaled flowers that open in early to mid-summer. The flowers attract many butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. There are several very showy cultivars available.

Grow your Stokes’ aster in a location with full sun or light afternoon shade. Plants do best with moist, well-drained soil but tolerate an occasional drought. This is a clump-forming plant that slowly expands over time and should be divided to start new clusters. Stokes’s aster is a worthwhile, easy-to-grow plant that is not bothered by deer or rabbits.

Threadleaf Coreopsis

The delicate leaves provide a nice backdrop to bright yellow flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Coreopsis verticillata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2.5 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Threadleaf coreopsis is a showy wildflower native to the eastern United States. It grows best in full sun with dry to medium-moisture and freely-draining soil. It’s low-maintenance and grows easily from seed. These perennials re-seed to form dense colonies. You can pull any unwanted seedlings each spring or offer some to your neighbors.

Butterflies and native bees love this coreopsis, and the flowers attract many pollinators. The bright, sunny yellow flowers bloom from mid to late summer. The foliage is particularly attractive, with thin, delicate-looking leaves that add varied texture to the perennial garden. This is a good plant to grow along borders or areas with poor soil quality.

Southeastern Vines

Vines can be a great addition to your home landscape. Grow vines along a fence, arbor, or sturdy trellis. Some vines can quickly get out of hand, but the three species below are native to the Southeast and generally well-behaved without being aggressive. 

Carolina Jessamine

A close-up of yellow Carolina Jessamine flower blooms, petals unfurling gracefully amidst glossy, green leaves. The intricate details of the blossom stand out against a softly blurred backdrop of more flowers and leaves.
Native to the southern U.S., Carolina jessamine is a tenacious evergreen vine with sweetly scented flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Gelsemium sempervirens
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 10 – 20 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6 – 10

Carolina jessamine, also called false jasmine, is an evergreen vine native to southern North America. It is typically found growing in moist, open woodlands and is most easily recognized by its profusion of bright yellow flowers. Carolina jessamine blooms in late winter or early spring, adding a burst of early-season color. The flowers are broadly tubular and lightly fragrant. 

Carolina jessamine is a twining vine that grows multiple stems and needs a sturdy structure to grow along. It looks wonderful climbing up an arbor or draping along the top of a fence or wall. It can also be used as a sprawling ground cover if you want to cover a fairly large area with low vegetation, but it will try to climb any shrub or tree it encounters.

Coral Honeysuckle

A close-up captures the vivid orange and yellow flower cluster of the Coral Honeysuckle in exquisite detail. The individual flowers shine in the sunlight, against a backdrop of vibrant green leaves, creating a stunning contrast in colors and textures.
For optimal performance, place your coral honeysuckle in a spot with full sun to partial shade.
botanical-name botanical name Lonicera sempervirens
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 10 – 20 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

Coral honeysuckle is a vigorous vine native to the southeastern United States. It grows best and produces the most abundant flowers in full sun but also tolerates partial shade. Coral honeysuckle prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil. This vine can grow up to 20 feet long and needs a sturdy trellis, arbor, fence, or other structure to climb along.

If you are looking for a reliable plant to attract hummingbirds, coral honeysuckle is an excellent choice. It blooms throughout the summer, and the narrow, bright red, trumpet-like flowers are a hummingbird favorite.

It also attracts a variety of insect pollinators and is the host plant for the spring azure butterfly and the clearwing moth. Coral honeysuckle is evergreen in warmer climates, providing year-round interest in the landscape.


A close-up view of a profusion of pink crossvine flowers with delicate yellow hue adorning their interiors. Lush dark green leaves encircle the vibrant pink blooms, providing a rich backdrop that accentuates the flowers' beauty.
Large and trumpet-like, the flowers of crossvine are truly beautiful.
botanical-name botanical name Bignonia capreolata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 35 – 50 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Crossvine is a vigorous twining vine native to eastern North America. This vine will happily climb up fences, arbors, trellises, trees, mailbox posts, and even buildings. It grows well in full sun or light shade. It isn’t picky about soil conditions, although it will do best with organically rich, moist, well-draining soil. In its natural habitat, it is often found in open woodlands and along forest edges.

Crossvine blooms in the springtime. The large tubular flowers are primarily dark orange with yellow around the opening, although there is some color variation with the proportion of yellow and orange.

There are also several cultivars available with variable flower colors. Hummingbirds and insect pollinators come to feed on the flowers. Crossvine is semi-evergreen, generally staying evergreen in warmer climates within its range. 

Ground Covers for Southeastern Gardens

Ground covers are useful plants easily incorporated in many garden and landscape settings. Place ground covers along borders and edges, walkways, or other places where you need low-growing plants. Some ground covers are vigorous and spread quickly, while others occupy much smaller spaces, so you can select whichever best suits your needs.

Green and Gold

The low-growing rosettes of green and gold slowly form mats of vegetation in the shade.
botanical-name botanical name Chrysogonum repens
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 0.5 to 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Green and gold is an unassuming ground cover native to the southeastern United States. It is a perennial wildflower that typically grows in shaded forests and is probably noticeable only in the springtime when it is blooming. Leafy rosettes grow close to the ground and slowly expand to form mats of vegetation in your shaded garden plot.

Green and gold blooms primarily in the springtime but may rebloom in summer and fall in ideal conditions. The yellow flowers are showy and bright and complement other forest floor plants nicely. Green and gold can be grown from seed or by dividing larger clusters. Plants will slowly expand and spread, creating a loose mat of vegetative rosettes in moist areas. 

Moss Phlox

Purple Moss Phlox flowers along their slender stems reaching confidently towards the sky. In the backdrop, the beautiful blur enhances the feeling of a vast meadow, adorned with an abundance of these mesmerizing blooms.
This ground cover is native to North America, with dense carpets of leaves and colorful spring blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Phlox subdulata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 0.25 – 0.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Moss phlox is a low-growing flowering perennial native to the central and eastern United States. It grows best in full sun with aerated, consistently moist soil. Grow moss phlox in smaller areas, along edges, or as part of your rock garden. Deer and rabbits don’t bother this plant. 

This phlox grows a dense mat of densely leafy vegetation. They don’t grow aggressively and don’t typically fill in large areas with vegetation. In early spring, these plants come alive with blossoms. The flowers may range in color from a bluish-purple to pink to white, depending on the cultivar. Flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other insect pollinators. 

Southern Lady Fern

A close-up of Southern Lady Ferns highlights their luxuriant fronds, radiating an air of elegance and grace. These feathery fronds are a testament to nature's beauty and diversity.
To cultivate the southern lady fern successfully, plant in a shaded garden with damp soil.
botanical-name botanical name Athyrium asplenioides
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 2 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Ferns make an excellent choice for a moist shade garden area. The southern lady fern is native to the central and eastern United States, where it is found growing in moist forests and along streambanks. For the home gardener, ferns offer lush green foliage throughout the growing season and a bit of interest and diversity for landscapes.

The southern lady fern grows into dense, rounded groups. While this fern can grow to 3 feet tall, it also makes a great ground cover because clusters enlarge and spread over time to fill the available space with greenery. You can divide clusters every few years, as needed, or simply allow them to grow and spread out.

Wild Ginger

Fresh, vibrant wet wild ginger leaves glisten with moisture, inviting a tactile exploration of nature's wonders. Their circular shape adds a touch of elegance to the lush green foliage.
Consistently moist soil is ideal for the native wild ginger.
botanical-name botanical name Asarum canadense
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 0.5 – 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 6

Wild ginger is a perennial native to eastern North America. While this plant produces flowers, it is best appreciated for its prolific green foliage. Rounded heart-shaped leaves grow on single stems that emerge directly from the ground. Wild ginger spreads slowly over time via rhizomes and forms large, dense swaths within a few years, making an excellent ground cover.

Wild ginger blooms in early spring. The flowers are showy and interesting but inconspicuous because they are located at the base of the leaves at ground level. This plant thrives in a shaded location with rich, moist soil.

Use wild ginger in your shade garden. This native wild ginger plant differs from the culinary ginger root used for cooking and baking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I mix both native and non-native plants in my garden?

You can grow native and non-native plants side-by-side in your garden or landscape. Many people have some favorite plants they want to include in their gardens, and that’s perfectly okay. Just avoid planting any invasive species in your garden because these plants will grow very aggressively and will be difficult to control as they try to outcompete your other plants.

Can I grow native plants in a raised bed?

You can grow native plants in just about any environment, including raised beds. A raised bed garden is an excellent option for limited space or challenging growing conditions. Choose a colorful assortment of perennial wildflowers for a raised bed garden, and you can still enjoy a beautiful native garden that attracts plenty of birds, butterflies, and pollinators.

Can I dig native plants from the wild?

It’s best not to remove a native plant from its natural habitat. Instead, buy native plant seeds from a reputable seller or young plants from a nursery. Sometimes botanical gardens and garden clubs provide lists of local sources for native plants. Or if you have a gardening friend or neighbor who grows native plants, they may be willing to share the next time they divide their plants.

Final Thoughts

If you live in the southeastern United States, you are fortunate to have a wide selection of beautiful native plants that should grow well in your landscape. Take a close look at the features you have in your yard, including available sunlight and soil type, and select the best plants to grow in these conditions.

Choose a variety of species so you have a blend of plants that provides structure, habitat, and year-round color. You can create your own healthy and well-balanced ecosystem to enhance the environment and support pollinators, and it will look great, too!

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