7 Native Perennials for Tennessee

Written by Emily Vogler

April 13, 2023

Let‘s embrace the beauty of nature and make a conscious effort to maintain the balance of our ecosystems! Planting native species in our landscaping is a great way to do just that. Not only do they require less maintenance, they are also adapted to our local climate and conditions, making them hardy and resilient. With fewer pesticides and fertilizers needed, we can reduce our ecological footprint and help preserve the biodiversity of our environment. Choose the right plants for the right site, and try to replicate the natural habitats of native species. As we cultivate and nurture these plants, we are creating a natural masterpiece. So let‘s take the time to make sure our landscaping efforts benefit both us and the wildlife around us! Remember, landscaping with natives is art imitating nature.

Native vs. Exotic

Native plants have been part of the landscape of North America since time immemorial, adapting to the changing climatic conditions and evershifting land formations. This distinct flora, however, has been changed drastically since the arrival of Europeans, who have brought with them a host of exotic plants. Such exotics may be harmless, but many can be detrimental to the local environment by crowding out native species or serving as vectors for disease. To protect and preserve the unique beauty of our regional flora, it is important to embrace native plants and put an end to the monotony of the same exotics used repeatedly in landscapes.

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1. Wild columbine

Native Columbine is a beautiful plant that can tolerate many soil types, from full sun to full shade and a medium to dry moisture level, with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH. This hardy perennial stands at an average of two feet tall, with a bloom of delicate red flowers in the spring. It will readily reseed in a favorable location, making it a great choice for a garden that needs a bit of color and life. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it also attracts hummingbirds and bees, making it a beneficial addition to the environment.

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2. Joe-Pye weed

Native Joe Pye Weed is a beautiful plant that can be seen blooming from summer to fall in most parts of the United States. It has pink and purple flowers and has a pleasing vanilla scent when crushed. This plant thrives in full sun to shade and prefers moderately wet to moderately dry moisture levels and can tolerate clay soils. It grows between 3-6 ft tall and will naturalize by re-seeding. It is also an excellent plant for attracting butterflies and bees to your garden. Native Joe Pye Weed is an easy to grow and fragrant plant that is sure to be a beautiful addition to any garden.

Iris Cristata Wiki

3. Dwarf crested iris

The Dwarf Crested Iris is a small and delicate perennial that is native to Tennessee. Its preferred growing conditions are best suited for morning sun and afternoon shade, with a medium to moderately dry moisture level, as well as a slightly acidic to neutral pH. This lowgrowing beauty produces blooms in the springtime with pale lavender/blue flowers that measure 36 inches in height. Its a relatively easycare plant, and it spreads by rhizomes and can take up to two to three years to flower from seed. Its an ideal groundcover to add showy flowers to your garden, and with the correct growing conditions it can form dense colonies. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, it also attracts hummingbirds and bees.

2015 01 Phlox Divaricata By Will Stuart

4. Wild blue phlox

Native Wild Blue Phlox is a beautiful, lowgrowing wildflower that is native to the United States. It prefers part to full shade, with moderately wet to moderately dry moisture levels, and can adapt to a wide range of soils including clay, but prefers rich organic soil. It is also moderately acid to neutral in pH. It typically grows to 1218 inches in height, and blooms in spring with beautiful blue flowers. Wild Blue Phlox spreads slowly by rhizomes and by selfseeding, and can form colonies over time. It is an extremely popular flower and is loved by both hummingbirds and butterflies. Planting Wild Blue Phlox in your garden is sure to add a touch of beauty and fragrant showiness.

Virginia Bluebells By Reeves

5. Virginia bluebells

The striking bluebell-shaped flowers, which give these plants their common name, are pale to deep pink in color and dangle in clusters of 8-10 flowers. The flowers are followed by the production of round, four-sided, and beaked seed pods. Native to the eastern half of North America, Virginia bluebells are quite versatile in terms of growing conditions. They are easily grown in average-to-good garden soil in shade to full sun, and can be found in moist, rich, shady woodlands and river flood plains as well as sunny locations in good soil. Hardy in zones 3–9, these beautiful flowers will bring a unique and stunning addition to any garden.

Coreopsis Leavenworthii

6. Coreopsis

Native Coreopsis is a beautiful and hardy perennial flower that grows best in part sun, with medium to moderately dry moisture levels, and in sandy or rocky soil with a slightly acidic pH. Growing up to 12 feet, it blooms in the summer with bright yellow flowers that are sure to add life to any garden. It can spread both by underground rhizomes and through selfseeding, making it a great choice for a lowmaintenance garden. It can also be grown in Tennessee, its native region, and is relatively easy to care for and resistant to powdery mildew.

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7. Swamp milkweed

Native swamp milkweed is a great addition to any landscape. It is also known as red or rose milkweed and has a native range mostly in Middle and East Tennessee. It is an easily grown plant that can tolerate a wide range of soils and prefers moist soil. Its root system is fibrous, which makes it easy to divide and grow from seed. Swamp milkweed can get up to 4 feet tall and has clear pink flowers that appear in early July on the Cumberland Plateau (USDA Zone 6b). It may bloom earlier in warmer zones. Although it is tolerant of drier soils, swamp milkweed appreciates extra water during extremely dry periods.


Warner Park Nature Center
7311 Highway 100
Nashville TN 37221

Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation
Division of Natural Heritage
401 Church Street, 8th Floor
Nashville TN 37243-0447

Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council (TN EPPC)
P.O. Box 40692
Nashville TN 37204

Tennessee Native Plant Society
Department of Botany
University of Tennessee
Knoxville TN 37996-100

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