20 Drought-Tolerant Native Plants for Southern Gardens

Scarlet Salvia
Photo: Thang Tat Nguyen/Getty Images

When it comes to finding new species to plant in our gardens, we often turn to native plants. They're well suited to our environment and can stand up to the heat and drought of Southern summers. Why plant native plants? The U.S. Forest Service says, "Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds and other animals." We've gathered twenty native plants in this list that will bring attractive blooms, foliage, and fruits to your Southern garden. These drought-tolerant, Southeastern-native flowers and trees are a pleasure to tend and, as a plus, thrive in even the hottest summer temperatures.

01 of 20

Beach Sunflower

Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Beach sunflower
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Helianthus debilis

These pretty plants may be prostrate or upright. They like full sun and are often seen growing on dunes, hence their common name, beach sunflower.

02 of 20


Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Beautyberry
Ralph Anderson

Callicarpa americana

This fun plant has clusters of purple berries that appear in late summer and fall. It grows best in sun or light shade and can reach 6 feet tall.

03 of 20

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan
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Rudbeckia hirta

This dainty wildflower brings some brightness to the landscape thanks to its golden petals that resemble those of daisies.

04 of 20


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Aquilegia canadensis

Native red columbine grows in rocky woodlands and produce delicate red-and-yellow flowers loved by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

05 of 20


Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Firebush
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Hamelia patens

This shrub is a butterfly and hummingbird favorite. It blooms all summer and thrives in full sun. In the right conditions, it can grow from 8-10 feet tall.

06 of 20


Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Goldenaster
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Pityopsis graminifolia

This sweet flower is a Southeastern native that grows to 2 feet high. It likes full sun and sandy soil, and with the right conditions is a long bloomer, bringing yellow blooms to the garden for several months.

07 of 20

Longleaf Pine

Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Longleaf pine
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Pinus palustris

This is a classic pine of the Southeast. It has graceful, long needles. As for its growing conditions, it likes plenty of sun and deep, moist soil.

08 of 20

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea
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Hydrangea quercifolia

This native shrub has big green leaves that resemble those of oaks alongside large conical clusters of flowers that fade from white or cream to pink and purple.

09 of 20


Southern Living

Asimina triloba

Known for their big drooping leaves and edible green fruit (also known as pawpaws), these trees are native to and can be found throughout the United States.

10 of 20

Pineland Heliotrope

Pineland Heliotrope
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Heliotropium polyphyllum

This perennial produces dainty yellow or white flowers and attracts pollinators. It's best grown in full sun or part shade and is often seen as a wildflower.

11 of 20

Pink Muhly

Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Pink muhly
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Muhlenbergia capillaris

This native grass grows from 3-4 feet tall. It tolerates sun or light shade. It's a popular landscaping plant because its very showy plumes appear in early fall.

12 of 20


Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Powderpuff
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Mimosa strigillosa

This is a fast-spreading ground cover with showy blooms. It grows best in sun and can reach 2-3 inches tall.

13 of 20

Railroad Vine

Railroad Vine
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Ipomoea pes-caprae

This native plant is tolerant of the salt and the sea, making it great for coastal gardens. It produces pink flowers and is sometimes called beach morning glory.

14 of 20

Scarlet Salvia

Scarlet Salvia
Thang Tat Nguyen/Getty Images

Salvia coccinea

This bright blooming plant has vibrant red flowers loved by hummingbirds and butterflies. It's extremely drought tolerant.

15 of 20

Silver Saw Palmetto

Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Silver saw palmetto
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Serenoa repens 'Cinerea'

This popular palm-shaped plant grows from 6-7 feet tall and wide. It's versatile and can tolerate both sun and light shade. It's also tolerant of tough temps and is hardy to 15 degrees.

16 of 20


Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Spiderwort
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Tradescantia virginiana

This blooming plant is a Southeastern native with a long blooming season. It likes sun or shade and blooms in several colors.

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Star Anise

Star Anise
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Illicium floridanum

This fast-growing native shrub has fragrant leaves that smell of licorice when crushed. They can reach heights of 20-25 feet tall.

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Swamp Lily

Swamp Lily
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Crinum americanum

These blooming plants, also known as crinum lilies or string lilies, grow in standing water and swampy areas such as streams and bogs. They are drought resistant when conditions deem it necessary.

19 of 20

Trumpet Honeysuckle

Drought-Tolerant Native Plants: Trumpet honeysuckle
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Lonicera sempervirens

This twining vine, also known as coral honeysuckle, produces tube-shaped red and coral flowers in spring and summer. It likes the sun and is a favorite of hummingbirds.

20 of 20

Yellow Jessamine

Yellow Jessamine
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Gelsemium rankinii

This vine, also known as swamp jasmine, can be found in wet environments and is known for its small yellow flowers, which appear in spring and fall. It appreciates regular water but can survive dry spells.

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