Gardening with native species can help ensure success because the plants are adapted to the local climate. Other benefits include a natural tolerance of browse by native wildlife, providing habitat for some small animals and insects, and ease of care. Below is a list of easy to grow,spring flowering native plants of the southeastern U.S.
Amelanchier arborea, or serviceberry, produces clusters of white blooms in early spring. This tree commonly attains twenty feet, often with a multi-stemmed form. The berries it produces are large and sweet attracting both animals and humans alike. The deep, blue green leaves turn orange to gold in fall.
Cornus Florida, the popular flowering dogwood tree, is a wonderful specimen for formal landscapes or natural areas. A small tree, it reaches twenty-five or thirty feet tall and wide. The white bracts emerge in mid-april just prior to leaf emergence. Red dogwood berries are attractive to birds and squirrels. Fall leaf color ranges from gold to maroon.
Cercis Canadensis, eastern redbud, offers red, pink or purple blooms just before the dogwood blooms. It forms a low, wide canopy approximately twenty-five feet tall and thirty feet wide. The pollinated flowers of this legume produce seed pods which turn black, adding to its early summer interest. The deep green, heart shaped leaves turn yellowish before falling in autumn.
Chionanthus virginiana, the white fringe tree or Grancy greybeard, has perhaps the most unique bloom of all the native trees. The sweetly scented flowers are composed of tiny, cream-colored, thread-like petals that emerge in large soft clusters. When viewed from a distance, the tree in bloom looks like a cloud, up close the individual flowers are reminiscent of white beards. Soft green leaves then emerge for the summer, then the leaves turn yellow-gold before they drop in fall.
Calycanthus floridus, or sweet shrub, is well suited for the semi-shady shrub border or natural areas. It attains six to eight feet in height and width, producing maroon, sweet-fruity scented flowers in mid spring after leaf emergence. The leaves turn a rich yellow before fall leaf drop.
Rhododendron canescens is one of the seventeen American native azaleas. This deciduous member of the rhododendron family produces its clusters of pink-blushed white, sweetly fragrant honeysuckle-like bloom in mid spring just prior to leaf emergence. Native azaleas are wonderful plants for semi-shade shrub borders or natural areas. Plant them where the fragrance may be appreciated!
Kalmia latifolia, or mountain laurel, is a show stopper in the woods or in the landscape. The white or rose colored terminal flower clusters emerge to cover this broadleaf evergreen shrub in late spring. In the south it grows best in dappled sunlight; in cooler regions full sun siting works well also. Landscape cultivars may attain between three and nearly twenty feet, so it is important to make an informed choice when purchasing for your yard.
Vaccinium pallidum is one of several blueberry varieties native to the southeast. These shrubs have year round interest, with clusters of white bell shaped flowers in spring, the delicious fruit in summer, brilliant red fall foliage, and exfoliating bark on mature stems for winter interest.
Sanguinaria canadensis, or bloodroot, produces fantastic white flowers in early spring. The name bloodroot comes from the red sap which oozes from stems when cut. This woodland wildflower performs best in shade gardens with well drained soil and lots of humus. when flowers fade in mid spring, leaves continue to grow until the plant goes dormant in early or mid summer.
Tiarella cordifolia, also called foamflower, is an evergreen perennial that produces its ten inch, white flower spikes in mid spring. It prefers a dappled shade situation, but will tolerate morning sun as well. Foamflower is available in garden centers, alongside its close relative coral bells, in a wide array of leaf color patterns.
Geranium maculatum, wild geranium, is a wonderful plant for butterflies and other pollinators. It blooms in shades of white, pink and blue, in mid spring. Best used in natural or woodland settings, wild geranium is not picky. It performs well in average soil conditions.
Coreopsis spp., or tickseed, is the name given to a group of species that are well represented in landscapes and garden centers. Often blooming yellow, there are pink, red and purple selections available as well. These flowers grow well in sunny sites and bloom from late spring through summer, attracting an array pollinators.
Bignonia capreolata, crossvine, is a late spring bloomer. The orange-red trumpet shaped flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds. This vine may be evergreen in the south, but near the northern limits of its range, it may die to the ground in severe winters and resprout from the roots. It is a fast grower, with the ability to cover arbors and trellises in short order. Although a sun lover, it is tolerant of even deep shade but it will sacrifice blooms in such a setting.
Gelsemium sempervirens, also known as Carolina jessamine, is another evergreen vine in the south. The lightly fragrant yellow trumpet shaped blooms stand out against the glossy deep green foliage beginning in late winter and continuing through mid spring. Carolina jessamine is useful for covering fences and trellises. If grown in the open, it forms a deep ground cover, growing three feet deep and indefinitely wide.
Lonicera sempervirens, or coral honeysuckle, is also evergreen. The deep pinkish orange flowers with yellow throats attract hummingbirds and butterflies alike in mid to late spring. Plant coral honeysuckle where it can be enjoyed visually, because it is not fragrant.