The South's Most Iconic Flowers

Field of Daffodils Near Barn
Photo: Art Meripol

These popular blooms have been bringing loads of color to Southern gardens for decades. There is a certain kind of energy that comes from a flowering landscape. Flower selections such as these make a house a home, and make a season shine beyond expectation.

Our notes on each of these varietals will help you determine where you best efforts need to be placed so that you might reap the colorful reward of these options. This is also an exploration in shape and growth options. Are you in search of shrubbery or a climbing vine?

Incorporate these beautiful flowering shrubs, trees, and vines into your landscape, and you will be surrounding yourself with some of the best poetry that Mother Nature has to offer. As Lord Alfred Tennyson said, "If I had a flower for every time I thought of you... I could walk through my garden forever."

Explore our ten options of the South's most iconic flowers.

01 of 10

Climbing Roses

Pink Climbing Roses
Jean Allsopp

Roses are beautiful, but roses climbing a rustic wooden fence are the ultimate. Climbing roses gracefully add height, dimension, and color to every space in the garden that might need a little softening. Antique roses have been the glory of Southern gardens for decades. They require minimal care, are resilient, and relatively bug free.

  • Botanical Name: Rosa setigera
  • Sun Exposure: Full, partial
  • Soil Type: Rich but very well-draining soil
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic

Helpful Tips

  • With good sunlight exposure (at least 6 hours a day) and consistently moist soil, this is a fast-growing shrub and "blooms on new wood." Cut stems back in the spring to promote more growth.
  • The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
  • Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring.
02 of 10


White Dogwood Flowers
Rainer Binder/Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

The dogwood has been called the most beautiful native tree of North America. Its blossom is the state flower of North Carolina and Virginia. It blooms profusely in mid spring before leaves expand, almost covering itself with small flower clusters. Flowering dogwood grows fine in full sun if planted in deep, fertile soil that retains moisture.

  • Botanical Name: Cornis florida
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil Type: Moist, organically rich
  • Soil pH: Acidic

Helpful Tips

  • Flowering dogwood, when stressed, is susceptible to a rather large number of disease problems, the most serious of which is dogwood anthracnose.
  • Benefits from a 2-4" mulch which will help keep roots cool and moist in summer.
  • Native Americans used the aromatic bark and roots as a remedy for malaria and extracted a red dye from the roots.
03 of 10


White Blossomed Hydrangeas
Van Chaplin

These shrubs and vines are a fan favorite in the South. They bloom in late spring or summer and flowers can last for months. Perhaps the most popular variety, French Hydrangea or Bigleaf Hydrangea, can be spotted in shady yards across the South. Their iconic blooms look like colorful snowballs and can be manipulated to change color. Oakleaf Hydrangea are also popular in the Southeast and are characterized by large, lobed leaves resembling those of oaks and elongated clusters of white flowers. Hydrangeas need to be watered regularly and should be planted somewhere that receives morning light and afternoon shade.

  • Botanical Name: Hydrangea
  • Sun Exposure: Partial
  • Soil Type: Fertile well-draining soil that receives plenty of moisture
  • Soil pH: Acidic, 6.0-6.2

Helpful Tips

  • Hydrangea flowers are produced from early spring to late autumn; they grow in flowerheads most often at the ends of the stems.
  • The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology list this species as an allergy-safe pollen producing plant.
  • The condition hydrangeas are most sensitive to is being exposed to a freeze after an extended warm spell. In those areas, additional protection may be required.
04 of 10


Magnolia Blooming Near Park Bench

When the sweet fragrance of magnolia fills the air, you know you're in the South. To many people, the word "magnolia" is synonymous with our native Magnolia grandiflora, the classic Southern magnolia with large, glossy leaves, and huge, fragrant white blossoms—the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana. Sweet bay (M. virginiana), a smaller tree, is easier to fit into most gardens. For any magnolia, pick planting site carefully. The best soil for magnolias is fairly rich, well drained, and neutral to slightly acid; if necessary, add generous amounts of organic matter when planting.

  • Botanical Name: Magnolia
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • Soil Type: Moist well-drained soil
  • Soil pH: Neutral to slightly alkaline

Helpful Tips

  • Though mostly deciduous in the Upper and Middle South, it's evergreen in the Lower and Coastal South and more cold hardy than M. grandiflora.
  • Southern magnolia (M. grandiflora) is good for planting at the beach, though not on dunes. Sweet bay (M. virginiana) tolerates wet soil.
  • Virtually all types of magnolia are hard to move once established and many grow quite large.
05 of 10


Camellia Tree Near House
Ralph Anderson

The South is the heart of camellia country—common camellia (Camellia japonica) is even the state flower of Alabama. This beautiful, flowering shrub has a long blooming season and loves the Southern climate. More than 3,000 names kinds of camellias exists in a wide range of colors, forms, and sizes. Young plants thrive under the shade of tall trees of when grown on the north side of a house.

  • Botanical Name: Camellia japonica
  • Sun Exposure: Shade or filtered sun
  • Soil Type: Slightly moist, well-drained, and high in organic matter
  • Soil pH: 6.0 - 6.5

Helpful Tips

  • Spring planting is better in the Upper South, where the root system needs time to get established before onset of cold weather.
  • In general, camellias grow and bloom better in partial shade, with shelter from hot afternoon sun.
  • Camellias are best planted in autumn, when the soil is still warm and the roots have plenty of time to establish before winter.
06 of 10

Bonus: Easy Flower Arranging with Rebecca Lang

Southern Living contributor and cookbook author Rebecca Lang makes floral arrangements, like this bright centerpiece, even simpler with her tips on putting together a beautiful bouquet.

Flower Arranging Tips

  • Use florist foam when the arrangement calls for flowers and stems coming out from the container's sides. Push a stem into the foam at any angle, and it remains in place. This allows a wide range of design options and styles.
  • Separate about a generous fifth of your flowers from the rest. Then, make sure to cut those around one to two inches shorter than the rest of the flowers. Put the longer flowers in the vase and, afterwards, surround the outer rim of the arrangement with the shorter flowers.
07 of 10


Man Walking Dog in Garden of Azaleas
Van Chaplin, Ralph Anderson

No plant rivals the azalea in Southern popularity, and no plant is more misused and abused. To get the best performance, buy in bloom. Most people have a particular color in mind when they buy azaleas. Buying a flowering plant will ensure you get the right color. To get the most impact, set out blocks or sweeps of the same selection. A scattering of different types across your yard will look chaotic. Like hydrangeas, azaleas like plenty of morning light and minimal (or no) afternoon sun.

  • Botanical Name: Rhododendron
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Soil Type: Moist, well-drained soil with lots of organic matter
  • Soil pH: Acidic, 5.5

Helpful Tips

  • Planted in full sun, azaleas will be more compact and floriferous. When planted in part shade, they will stretch toward the sunlight and form a more graceful habit; flowers will not be as plentiful but will last longer.
  • Prune immediately after the plants stop flowering in spring. If you wait until summer, you'll remove most of next year's flowers.
08 of 10

Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtle Tree in Park
Rob Cardillo

The South's love affair with crepe myrtles is undeniable—and for good reason. Few plants can match their combination of spectacular summer flowers, colorful autumn foliage, and handsome sculptural trunks. Planted together, they make a large deciduous hedge or screen. A single tree can create a distinctive focal point, while a pair framing a front door greets visitors with a warm Southern welcome. Plant in late fall to early spring and water well before putting it in the ground. Mulch to conserve moisture and keep down weeds.

  • Botanical Name: Lagerstroemia indica
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Type: Well-draining, typical garden soil
  • Soil pH: Neutral to slightly acidic, 5.0 to 6.5

Helpful Tips

  • Crepe myrtles range in size from dwarf selections that grow less than 3 feet tall to several that reach upwards of 30 feet.
  • With less sunlight, blooms will not be as prolific and their colors may be diminished.
  • Crape Myrtle can tolerate sandy or clay soils, making them an ideal fast-growing tree for most lawns or gardens.
09 of 10


Hibiscus Flower with Butterfly
Getty/Newport News Daily Press/Contributor

Hibiscus are among the showiest plants in Southern gardens. The many species offer an astonishing range of flower colors, and most bloom over a long season. Colors range from white through pink to red, from yellow and apricot to orange. Individual flowers usually last only a day or two, but the plant blooms continuously in spring and fall.

  • Botanical Name: Hibiscus
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Type: Well-draining soil amended with organic matter
  • Soil pH: slightly acidic between 6.5 and 6.8

Helpful Tips

  • If you live in areas with very hot summers, during the hottest part of the day, Hibiscus may need shade. Consider planting hibiscus along, or in the back of, perennial flower beds.
  • Hibiscus can suffer sunburn if moved from a shaded area to a location where it is exposed to the sun, or by moving a hibiscus that was cared for indoors outside.
  • Anything below 50°F can kill your hibiscus. Therefore watch out for cold nights below 50°F.
10 of 10


Field of Daffodils Near Barn
Art Meripol

Daffodils are arguably the finest and most valuable spring bulbs for the South. They are long lived, increasing naturally from year to year; they stand up to cold and heat; they have many garden uses; and they offer a fascinating array of flower forms, sizes, and colors. Given minimal care at planting, all thrive with virtually no further attention. Flowers usually face the sun so be sure to keep this in mind when choosing a planting spot. Use them under high-branching trees and flowering shrubs, among ground cover plantings, in woodland and rock gardens, in borders, or in containers.

  • Botanical Name: Narcissus
  • Sun Exposure: Can take partial shade, but like full sun
  • Soil Type: Loamy, fertile, and well-draining
  • Soil pH: Range of 6.0 to 6.5

Helpful Tips

  • They make fine cut flowers, though they should have a vase of their own; freshly cut stems release a substance that causes other cut flowers to wilt.
  • When selecting daffodil bulbs, choose ones that have a large, firm shape with a dry papery covering.
  • Daffodils are pretty self-sufficient, but if you have poor soil or the plants are not flowering as much as they should, top dress with bulb food when the leaves first emerge.
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