Top 5 Perennials in the Southeast

Verbena is a beautiful, draught-hardy perennial.­
Verbena is a beautiful, draught-hardy perennial.­
iStockphoto.com/Terraxplorer

­Want to add color, greenery and life to your yard without having to do loads of gardening work year after year? These five popular perennials could be just what you -- and your garden -- need. Perennials are plants that come back every season, as opposed to annuals, which have to be replanted and grown each spring.

Planting in the Southeast presents some challenges. Though it is more humid than the deserts of the West, it still gets very hot­ during the summer, and any drought that might hit could destroy your hard work. You also­ might be thinking you only need to invest in sun-loving plants. While the Southeast has a lot of hot sun, your particular yard might not. Are you looking to plant your perennials around your house? Maybe you want a border around the big, leafy trees in your yard. Either way, you're looking at perennials that need to withstand at least some shade. In this article, you'll find two popular sun-loving perennials, two popular shade-withstanding perennials, and one drought-resistant perennial that you might employ if you're in an area prone to drought or have watering restrictions in place in your town during the highest heat of the summer.

Before you decide to plant perennials, study your land carefully. Watch where the shadows fall throughout the day. You might not have any trees in your yard, but you'll suddenly realize your neighbor's tree drapes the corner of your yard in shade all afternoon -- right where you were about to grow those sun-loving plants! In addition, since perennials come back season after season, you're stuck with what you plant for a while. So take some time to make a plan before you get started.

5
Peony
Peony blooms have a pleasant scent and are a lovely addition to any bouquet.
Peony blooms have a pleasant scent and are a lovely addition to any bouquet.
iStockphoto.com/Photogal

­Though its flowering season is a bit short, the peony remains a very popular perennial, and with good reason. These beautiful blooms smell wonderful and make a great cut flower to add to your favorite bouquet, pulling double duty to decorate y­our house inside and out. Most people choose peonies for their bright, showy flowers. You can choose from white, pink, magenta, yellow, cream and red -- peonies come in just about every color but blue. And once the flowers fade, they still leave nice greenery for the rest of the season.­

While peonies are sun-lovers (they need six good hours of sun a day) a little shade won't hurt them. In fact, shade can help them if it reaches them in the late afternoon. After a day of bright sunshine, a bit of shade can help to revitalize fading flowers.­

Certain varieties of Peonies do need a winter chill in order to become dormant and re-grow the next spring. If you live very far south, look for varieties that work specifically for your area and don't need the ground to get so cold. With many varieties in plants, hybrids and trees, you're sure to find one that works for you.

And don't forget, these perennials are here to stay. Though peonies are slow to start growing, they can live for up to 100 years!

­

4
Coreopsis
Many coreopsis bloom from early summer through late fall.
Many coreopsis bloom from early summer through late fall.
iStockphoto.com/dinadesign

­If you like the flowers of the peony but are disappointed by its short flowering period, then coreopsis might be a good sun-loving alternative for you. These perennials bloom for a very long season, from the early summer to late fall. Though the flowers are generally smaller, there a lot of them -- and they multiply. Clumps of coreopsis spread, so you'll have to divide them about every other spring.

Coreopsis is very­ easy to grow, as long as it has lots of sun and a little water. Lucky for you, these don't need to be watered or fertilized very much once they have grown enough to become established plants. However, don't think that you are completely off the hook for maintenance if you grow these daisy-like flowers. As said above, you will have to divide these multiplying flowers every two years, and you will have to deadhead them throughout the season so the flowers keep coming back. With so many tiny flowers, it can get to be a bit of work, but many gardeners feel these versatile landscape additions are worth the labor. They can be planted in gardens, as borders, in containers and even in hanging baskets. If you have naturally dry soil with a very sunny lawn -- or you just hate to water -- several varieties of these might be just the solution to many of your foliage needs.

Maybe you have a sunny yard, but you­r house casts a long shadow where you want those plants to grow. It's difficult to find good areas bordering a house that aren't in shadow most of the day. You're going to need a different solution to your perennial dilemma. Read on to solve the problem.

3
Hosta
There are more than 500 varieties of hosta.
There are more than 500 varieties of hosta.

­If you are familiar with hostas, you might be tempted to skip ahead to the next page. Hostas are just so…common. You want an exciting, colorful garden, not lots more green leaves. That's what you have trees for, right? Not so fast. There are more than 500 varieties of hostas that come in many patterns and colors in blue, green, gold, white and yellow [source: The Hosta Patch]. Plus, there is a reason you see them in front of so many homes -- they're so easy to grow.

Hostas do well in shady areas, so they're perfect to surround your ­favorite tree trunk and give it some visual excitement. Just a little morning sun is all they need -- too much, and the leaves can be burnt. There are a few varieties that are more sun-tolerant, so if you are still interested in planting hostas but want to put them in a sunnier area, you should be able to find a few that fit your needs.

Though hostas are very easy to grow, they are susceptible to snails and slugs. In addition, if you live near the woods and deer are frequent visitors to your yard, hostas might not be a good idea for you. If left to his own devices, a deer could eat your entire garden of hostas in one night.

Read on if you want a shade-lover with a bit more flare.

2
Helleborus
Unlike most flowers, the Helleborus flowering period is from late winter to the early spring.
Unlike most flowers, the Helleborus flowering period is from late winter to the early spring.
iStockphoto.com/kongxinzhu

­If you live in the Southeast, chances are your favorite season isn't winter. Maybe that's even why you live in the Southeast - you prefer a warmer climate. And while the Southeast's winter can't compare to those in say, Denver, Chicago or New York, it's still often nicer when winter is finally giving into spring, no matter where you live. If you want an early sign that spring's coming to pull you out of your winter funk, you'll definitely want to add helleborus to your garden.

Unlike most flowers, the helleborus flowering period is from late win­ter to the early spring. While everything else in your yard is recovering from the winter, helleborus will fill your garden with white, pink and purple flowers before anything else will. In very warm climates, helleborus can start blooming before December. In cooler places they should start by March (still early for most of the United States) and can bloom until May, right around the time when the rest of your flowers will begin to come into bloom [source: Woodard].

The hotter your area, the more shade your helleborus wants. It's a pret­ty remarkable plant -- it will bloom when all your other plants are taking a vacation and doesn't even request the sun's spotlight. Though the plants will grow best in a richer soil, it doesn't need a lot of water. Just bring out the hose when droughts come along.

If your area of the Southeast is less humid than most, or you're prone to drought in the summer, check out the next page for a great drought-hardy perennial for the Southeast.

1
Verbena
Verbena is a beautiful, draught-hardy perennial.
Verbena is a beautiful, draught-hardy perennial.
© iStockphoto.com/Terraxplorer

­If you want a casual, no-fuss relationship with a plant, consider verbena. These perennials hate it when you pamper them -- their main problems result when people overwater or over-feed them, making them perfect for a dry area. They do require one housekeeping task -- the dreaded deadheading, as many flowering­ plants do. If you want your verbena to keep flow­ering, you will have to continually cut or snap off the dead flowers so new ones can blossom.

There are more than 200 types of verbena, and they are so easy to grow; they can be easily started from seeds [source: Botany.com]. They might be a bit slow to start, but starting them from seeds is an inexpensive option to buying the plants and transplanting them to your garden. They also come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, purple, mauve, white, blue and peach -- or multicolored. Within those many colors, you can get a variety of pale colors or bright bold ones. Verbena's many varieties almost certainly have what you're looking for, all tucked inside big clusters of flowers. Just like the coreopsis, these clusters of flowers work well in a variety of spots in your landscaping including borders, window boxes, hanging baskets and even rock gardens.

­From butterfly attractors to herbal tea, verbena does a lot more than sit, look pretty and survive droughts. These pretty flowers can also attract hummingbirds and other bright birds to fill your yard. Several species of verbena oil are good enough to trade, and are even used in expensive perfumes and candles.

Now you have a good list to start from when planning out your garden and landscaping­ whether your humid land is sunny or shady -- and even if it's not so humid. For more ideas, take a walk around the neighborhood to see what your neighbors are planting after you visit the links on the next page.

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More Great Links

Sources

  • Associated Content. "Drought Resistant Plants for the Southeast." 6/27/07 (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/320491/drought_resistant_plants_for_the_southeast.html?page=2&cat=32
  • Botany.com "Verbena (Vere'na)." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.botany.com/verbena.html
  • Clemson Extension. "Peonies." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/hgic1170.htm
  • Flower Gardening Made Easy. "Helleborus x hybridus: 2005 perennial plant of the year." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.flower-gardening-made-easy.com/2005-perennial-plant-of-the-year.html
  • Garden Guides. "Verbena - Garden Basics - Flower - Annual." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.gardenguides.com/plants/info/flowers/annuals/verbena.asp#
  • Heinke, Gretchen and Jane Martin. "Growing Hostas." Ohio State University Fact Sheet. (Accessed 1/20/09) http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1239.html
  • Heritage Perennials. "2002 Top 10." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.perennials.com/topten2002.html
  • Hosta Patch, The. "Welcome to the Hosta Patch." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.hostapatch.com/
  • Mackey, Betty Barr. "Coreopsis (Perennial)." HowStuffWorks. (Accessed 1/20/09) https://home.howstuffworks.com/define-coreopsis-perennial.htm
  • Richardson, Jennifer. "Southeastern Shade Lovers (For the Southeast and Beyond)." Learn 2 Grow. (Accessed 1/20/08) http://www.learn2grow.com/gardeningguides/perennials/featuredplants/SoutheasternShadeLovers.aspx?page=1
  • Sooner Plant Farm. "Coreopsis (Tickseed)." (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.soonerplantfarm.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/specials.specDetail/recID/22/index.htm
  • Woodard, Joseph. "Hellebores." Hellebores.org. (Accessed 1/20/09) http://www.hellebores.org/index.html