Perennials are flowers that come back year after year, as opposed to annuals that only last for one season. Though their blooms will not be as extended and enduring as annuals, perennials are an economical and practical choice because they do not have to be replanted yearly. Because perennials do not flower all the time, you must take extra care to plan the overall look of your garden by considering the foliage, or non-flowering, aspects of the perennials you choose.
The South has quite a variety of terrain and climates, spanning from New Mexico to the Carolinas. Though it is safe to assume the South is generally warm and can sustain more plants during the winter months, there are different soils and humidity to consider when selecting planting materials for your garden.
Of course, there are numerous perennials you can grow in the South. In this article, we'll take a look at five of the most popular perennials of the South.
New England Aster
Although it might not seem correct to begin a top five list of Southern perennials with a flower called the New England aster, Aster novae-angliae is native to much of the United States and Canada, stretching from the Atlantic Coast to Wyoming. New England aster has since been cultivated across all of the U.S., and is one of the country's most popular summer flowers -- known for growing along roadsides just about anywhere. Aster, which translates from the Greek for "a star," probably got its name from an early European settler with an interest in botany in the Northeast [source: Garden Guides].
The New England aster grows anywhere from 3 to 7 feet (1 to 2 m) tall with furry, long leaves that are thick at the base and pointed at the end. The flower is composed of a yellow, disc-shaped head to which 40 or more purple or pink petals are attached. Unlike many Southern perennials, the New England aster requires about a month of cool soil to germinate properly, so successful gardening of these plants may not be possible in some areas of the U.S. South.
You may want to use an herbicide prior to planting the seeds, as some fungi and diseases are know to prey on New England aster. Once your New England asters have begun growing, the upkeep is fairly minimal. With the exception of some weeding and watering during the initial growth period, you won't have to do much to keep your New England aster flowers in bloom through the summer. Some modest weeding and watering should do the trick [source: Garden Guides].
Coneflower, or Echinacea purpurea, is a spring or fall perennial from the same family as the sunflower. It grows 3 to 4 feet (about 1 meter) tall, with long, narrow, purple petals 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) long. As the flowers bloom, the petals tend to grow away from the cone, giving the flower a wind-blown appearance. Coneflowers are native to the United States Midwestern plains and as far south as Georgia and Louisiana, with a hardiness zone of three to nine. Due to their height, coneflowers are often placed in the rear of flowering garden arrangements. Coneflowers are also known for their long and sturdy stems, which have made them a popular cut flower [source: Garden Guides].
In addition to being very beautiful flowers, coneflowers are relatively easy to maintain once you get them growing. They prefer a well-drained, almost dry soil in a spot with lots of sun. You may need to use some fertilizer to get them started if the soil in your region isn't nutrient-rich enough, but be careful not to use too much, as this may cause the flower to grow at an unhealthily rapid rate. You will need to water the seedlings until they are well established, but too much water will drown the plants. Similarly, once your coneflowers are in bloom they should be able to survive on whatever rainwater that comes their way, however, in periods of drought you should be sure to water them at least once a week.
To protect your cornflowers, you will want to weed consistently, as they don't compete well with most weeds. Rabbits and hedgehogs consider coneflower shoots a tasty treat, so take precautions to prevent those predators from entering your garden [source: Garden Guides].
In the health supplement world, coneflowers are better known as the herbal supplement Echinacea, and are touted as a natural remedy to the flu and common cold, as well as a natural supplement to boost the immune system [source: Fahs].
The Shasta daisy, Chrysanthemum maximum (Asteraceae), is allegedly named the Shasta daisy because it made Luther Burbank, the man that created this hybrid, think of the white snow on Mount Shasta in California. It is a small perennial flower with white petals and a yellow center. The white petals are all similar in size and tend to be slender in width. The yellow centers can be rounded high or quite flat [source: Perennial Plant Association].
Each flower is attached to its own green stem, which may grow to be 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 cm) tall. Shasta daisies are the taller and bigger relative of the Ox-Eyed daisy. The Shasta's typical blooming period occurs somewhere between June and July. Remember, Shastas do not bloom as long as an annual might, but their foliage will remain green throughout the year. Gardeners recommend that you use the Shasta as a groundcover or the flower along the border of your garden since the green part of the plant will last all four seasons. If you are looking for more uses of the Shasta, you can count on the Shasta to bring in butterflies but keep the deer away.
Once they are settled in a garden, Shastas create thick pockets of daisies. Shastas are wonderful for the South because they like the full sun and warm soil temperatures during their germination period. Germination takes anywhere between 15 and 30 days [source: TAMU].
The daylily is a very popular flower that can be found in planned gardens and seen along the sides of roads as if it were wild. Each flower only blooms for one day, which is why it is named the daylily. The good thing about daylilies is that there are several buds on one stalk, so the fact that each bloom lasts only one day isn't as obvious, because a new bloom quickly replaces those that disappear. They are great perennials for the South because they can sometimes bloom as early as March in warmer climates and can continue to bloom until late summer.
Daylilies originally came in only three colors: yellow, orange and red. Today, however, there is a whole spectrum of shades to choose from -- so finding the perfect color for your garden should be fairly easy. You can mix and match colors that go best with the color scheme of your garden, choosing between white, yellow, orange, pink, red, crimson, purple, blue and pastel-colored lilies.
In addition to a wide variety of colors, daylilies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including circular, triangular, star, informal, ruffled, flat, re-curved, trumpet, spider and double form. These forms indicate the different shapes a daylily takes when you view it from the front of the bloom [source: American Hemerocallis Society].
Our last entry in the top five list of perennials for the South is the tickseed, which is also referred to as Coreopsis grandiflora or "Early Sunrise" coreopsis.
Tickseed is a perennial that flowers almost like an annual, which is why people are attracted to it. In addition to staying in bloom longer than traditional perennials, the flowers are bright yellow and numerous on the plant. Bees and other pollinating insects are attracted to the tickseed's bright color. Tickseed is best suited to the South's heat and does not do well in cold winter regions. It also fares well in the South during periods of drought because it can handle growing in dry soil. Of course, that doesn't mean it can go completely without water. You do need to water it occasionally [source: Paghat's Garden].
A problem you might encounter with tickseed is that it may grow so tall and, as a result, get too top heavy since the stems are thin and the flowers are large. If this happens, you can use stakes to hold up the flowers and prevent them from flopping to the ground.
Using less water on gardening doesn't have to mean less of a garden. Learn how to save 30 percent of your gardening water just by watering at the right time of day in this article.
More Great Links
- American Hemerocallis Society. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.Daylilies.org/AHSfaq1.html
- Floridata. "Coreopsis Grandiflora." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.floridata.com/ref/C/core_gra.cfm
- Fahs, Barbara. "Echinacea: More Than Just a Pretty Flower." Garden Guides. (Accessed 1/21/2009) http://www.gardenguides.com/how-to/tipstechniques/herbs/echinacea.asp
- Garden Guides. "Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea)." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.gardenguides.com/how-to/tipstechniques/herbs/Coneflower.asp
- Garden Guides. "New England Aster." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.gardenguides.com/plants/factsheets/flowers/factsheet.asp?symbol=SYNO2
- Green, Douglas. "Coneflower." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.gardening-tips-perennials.com/Coneflower.html
- Hofer, Marie. "Deer-Proofing Your Garden." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.hgtv.com/landscaping/deer-proofing-your-garden/index.html
- McDonald, Jim. "New England Aster." Jim McDonald, Herbalist. Accessed 1/21/2009. http://www.herbcraft.org/aster.html
- Paghat's Garden. "'Early Sunrise' Coreopsis or Tickseed." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.paghat.com/coreopsis-sunrise.html
- Perennial Plant Association. "2003 Perennial Plant of the Year." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.perennialplant.org/ppy/03ppy.htm
- Plants for a Future. "Echinacea Purpurea." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Echinacea+purpurea
- Slater, Jill. "Beckoning Butterflies." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.hgtv.com/landscaping/beckoning-butterflies/index.html
- TAMU. "Shasta Daisy." (Accessed 1/21/09) http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed/36/36.7.html
- Totten, Lindsay Bond. "Perennials: More than Just Pretty Plants." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.hgtv.com/decorating/perennials-more-than-just-pretty-plants/index.html