No green thumb required
Who wants to fuss with annuals when you can tend a garden of lovely perennials? Perennials are great foundation plants for your garden, as they come back year after year with eye-catching blooms and foliage that is both architectural and textural. Many of these flowers, shrubs, and grasses are also hardy, drought-resistant garden plantings, a quality that makes them ideal for outdoor spaces that must withstand sweltering summers down South.
If you’re looking for easy-care options, we have you covered. We've chosen a few of our favorite perennials that are also hardy, easy-to-grow, and low-maintenance plantings for Southern gardens. These plants are either easy to tend from the get-go or they are easy to care for after they’re established in the garden. Here are twelve of our favorites—including perennial favorites coneflower, hesperaloe, and others—with plant information courtesy of The New Southern Living Garden Book.
Also known as milkweed, plants in the genus Asclepias have small, showy blooms that range in hue from white and purple to orange and red. They require full sun, and their water needs vary depending on the species. We like Blood Flower (A. curassavica) for its vibrant red blooms and Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa) (pictured above) for its minimal water needs and bounty of bright orange blooms that attract butterflies.
Learn more about Asclepias.
Monarda didyma, also known as bee balm or Oswego tea, is a perennial in the mint family. It has scarlet flowers and requires full to partial shade and regular water. Bee balm is a great planting to attract butterflies and other pollinators to your garden. Also check out bergamot (M. fistulosa) for a low-maintenance plant with lavender flowers, and spotted horsemint (M. punctata), an easy-care, wildflower-type planting.
Learn more about Monarda.
This vibrant perennial (which is in the sunflower family, Asteraceae) loves the sun. It’s hardy and drought-resistant, and some, like Gaillardia x grandiflora, have a long, low-maintenance blooming season which will fill your garden with red and yellow daisy-like flowers.
Learn more about Asteraceae.
Another drought-tolerant, sun-loving flowering shrub from the family Asteraceae, Coreopsis is also known as calliopsis and tickseed. It requires minimal care, blooms orange, red, and yellow in fall and summer, and is also the state wildflower of Florida.
Learn more about Coreopsis.
An herbaceous plant in the genus Echinacea, this low-maintenance flowering perennial is both drought tolerant and deer resistant. It blooms in a variety of hues, including purple, yellow, pink, and green, making it a cheery addition to Southern gardens.
Learn more about coneflower.
Hesperaloe parviflora (also known as Texas Red Yucca) are flowering plants that burst into spiky pinkish red blooms in the summer, and they are extremely drought tolerant. Hesperaloe, also known as false yucca, are hardy succulent plants that, not surprisingly, resemble the yucca plant.
Learn more about Hesperaloe.
This perennial—a bloomer with small green leaves that resemble a ladder (hence the name)—prefers to be planted in shady spots with plenty of well-draining soil. Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium caeruleum) blooms in blues, purples, and whites, and is hardy and resistant to grazing deer.
Learn more about Jacob’s ladder.
The unmistakable pink flowers of this low-maintenance perennial grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) make it a favorite of many Southern gardeners. This is an ornamental grass that requires partial to full sun and minimal watering. It tolerates extreme heat (even drought) and has long grassy foliage in addition to the distinct clouds of showy pink plumes.
Learn more about Muhly grass.
Also known as dusty miller, this tough, flowering perennial (Lychnis coronaria) is a member of the carnation family. It has vibrant blooms in pink tones and soft, gray leaves; plus, it’s tolerant of hot sun and very dry areas.
Learn more about Lychnis.
Common sage (Salvia officinalis) is a fragrant, easy-to-grow perennial with pollinator-attracting purple flowers. It is a drought-tolerant plant that thrives in full sun. Woodland sage (Salvia nemarosa ‘Caradonna’) is another hardy salvia that also bursts into bloom with showy, purple flowers shaped like spikes.
Learn more about sage.
If you’re looking for a border plant that can attract pollinators and offer garden color all while being low-maintenance, plant speedwell, a full-sun-loving perennial. We love the spiky blue blooms of Veronica austriaca teucrium 'Crater Lake Blue.’
Learn more about speedwell.
This tough herbaceous perennial (the scientific name of which is Achillea millefolium, i.e: “thousand leaves”), is a good low-maintenance plant choice that can grow to several feet tall and has fragrant blossoms that bloom in a rainbow of colors. It requires full sun and minimal watering and can withstand dry, hot climates.
Learn more about yarrow.