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Southeast Gardening: Plants for Our Climate

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Choose plants carefully so your garden can weather whatever climate our region throws against it. 

red and white flowers in garden bed

By Glenn DiNella

When it comes to selecting plants that are right for our Southeastern climate, you’ve got a lot to consider.

geraniums ready for planting

First is whether a plant is labeled as “annual.” These plants typically last only six months at most. Annuals include geraniums (right), pansies, and petunias. You get a lot of pop for one growing season, then a winter freeze ends the show.

Another thing you should consider is the idea of stretching the limits a bit. If every home in your neighborhood limits its plant palette to a handful of tried and true varieties, it makes a pretty boring scene. So although it’s wise to mostly use plants labeled for your climate, it’s nice to experiment with a few marginal specimens that grab your eye. The key is to place them in protected microclimates. One example is a small nook or corner surrounded by heat-retaining brick. This may provide an extra five- or 10-degree boost in winter, allowing you to grow something unusual.

brown foliage on pittosporum

Most areas of the Southeast experienced extremely cold winter temperatures the last few years, so you might have some extra early spring chores to do. Don’t worry; this dwarf pittosporum (right) isn’t dying. But you need to cut off the cold-damaged foliage so new spring growth can replace it.

trimming holly fern

The same goes for this holly fern. Most Southerners have come to view this plant as a great evergreen groundcover, but recent winters leave it looking mostly brown. There’s nothing to do but cut off the dead and dying fronds, and let the plant start anew in spring.

mondo grass

While mondo grass is classified as an evergreen groundcover, single-digit temperatures cause burned foliage, which you need to remove in late winter. If you have a lot of mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), also called monkey grass, use a string trimmer. Be sure to cut it before new growth begins in early spring or you cause cut, brown tips on the new foliage.

blue spruce

On the other end of the spectrum, many plants, such as hemlocks and spruces, relish our recent cold winters. The potential problem is they may languish in our triple-digit temperatures come summer. This is why it’s good to read plant tags and learn the ideal temperature range for a plant.

plant tag

Rest assured, Lowe’s stocks plants that are suited to our climate. (Many come with a one-year guarantee.) The plants’ tags relay helpful information on the ultimate size; growth rate; and preferences for light, moisture, and climate. Some tags only list the cold tolerance. Other tags go a step further and give you the plant’s tolerance for a range of heat and cold.

Choosing Plants That Fit Your Climate: A Regional Guide

Take a big step toward ensuring success in your garden. Stick with plants that are well adapted to your region’s climate.

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Southeast Gardening

Diverse Southeast geography gives gardeners a mixed palette of plants.

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Gardening & Planting Tips by Region

Check out a variety of garden ideas, plans, articles, videos and projects for your region. No matter what region you live in, Lowe's has garden tips for you.

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