While many Southern gardens have the benefit of mild winters, they also experience high heat and humidity which some plants simply do not enjoy. A good mix of flowering annuals and perennials can thrive in the Southern garden and many new varietals of traditionally Northern garden staple plants are now available with characteristics suitable to the Southern landscape.
For creating lush beds and borders of bright color, annuals cannot be beat. Planted early in the spring, many annuals will continue to bloom and perform right up to a hard frost. Annuals to plant in the Southern garden are: Amaranthus, ageratum, alyssum, asters, impatiens; begonia, bells of Ireland, calendula, Chinese lantern, chrysanthemum, dianthus, foxglove, geranium, hollyhock, lobelia, nasturtium, nicotiana, phlox, snapdragon, sunflower, thunbergia, vinca and zinnia.
Even some bulbs, which traditionally require cold winters to set their bloom, will thrive in the Southern garden including: crinums, dahlias, lilies, gladiolus, anemones, amaryllis, freesia, ixia and ranunculus. Roses are the queen of the garden flower and have traditionally been difficult to grow in the Southern landscape due to the heat and high humidity which seems to encourage disease and invite insects. New shrub rose varietals on the market such as the Knock Out Roses from Conrad Pyle Co. are highly disease resistant and do not mind the heat or humidity of a Southern garden. They come in single and double bloom varietals that mimic the best roses of the North for performance. Tropical and semi-tropical flowering plants are also good choices for the Southern garden. Where the winter temperatures are cooler these tender plants can be bright indoors for protection. Consider planting, gardenias, genista, plumerias, Chinese violet, jasmine or sweet almond verbena for a flowering and sweetly scented garden.
Exotic foliage in varied colors and clumping ornamental grasses with feathery plumes can rival many flowers for dramatic effect in the garden. Combined in with annual and perennial flowering plants these can add dimension, visual interest and texture. Some distinguished ornamental grasses to consider for a Southern climate garden include: pennistsetum alopecuroides, pennisetum setaecum, cortaderia selloana and juncus spiralis. Plants with interesting foliage that will do well in the warmth and humidity include: hostas, ginger, yarrow, artemesia, helichrysum, lambs ear and rose campion.
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