Why Using Native Plants Is Important in the Southeast

Written by Julie Coburn
Updated September 10, 2015
red maple tree
Red maple trees are popular options for those living in the Southeast. (Photo courtesy of Duke University)

Learn why it's important to use only native plants in your Southeast garden. You also can read about what plants you can use and where to get them.

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Southeast gardening

If you're trying to create a garden that will be a star in your neighborhood in the Southeast, it’s good to know why native plants are so important.

Environmental effect

You may think that planting an exotic orchid or other non-native flower is just what your garden needs. But introducing an "alien" like this will affect the surrounding environment.

It takes hundreds of years for nature to find its delicate balance, and native plants play a huge part. They support wildlife, such as bees and butterflies. When you introduce a non-native plant, it won’t support the natural balance of wildlife and could do a good deal of general damage to the local ecosystem.

RELATED: How to attract birds to your yard in the Southeast.


While biodiversity can be healthy, there are devastating examples that prove biodiversity is something to think about, even if you only want to transform a small yard.

One example was the introduction of the Japanese chestnut tree to the United States. This tree brought a fungus that killed almost all the native American chestnuts from more than 180 million acres — and caused 10 butterfly and moth species to become extinct because they depended on the American chestnut.

Biodiversity ranks only second to human destruction as a threat to natural habitat around the planet. In fact, the combined threat from disease, harvest and pollution isn’t as big as biodiversity’s.

Native planting

If you're a novice gardener, the best place to go is your local garden nursery. You can find native plants that will add a splash of color or lush green to your yard. Because you’ll also find many non-native plants, it's important you choose well.

That’s why local nurseries also are great sources of information. Their professionals are passionate about nature, and they can help you learn what's best to plant.

You can, if you want, turn to the Internet. There’s lots of information, and it's also a good way of doing homework before you decide which plants to buy.

RELATED: Water conservation in the garden.

Native plants of the Southeast

The climate means there are a number of Southeast plants to choose from. Here are some examples.

Berries for birds: You can add certain types of palms, which produce berries that attract birds and other wildlife.

Climate, partly shady and moist: Spiderwort will do well.

Climate, sunny and dry: You can have various perennials that will add color to your outdoor space. Try Salvia coccinea, including scarlet and Texas sage. They also attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Fall color: Try planting red maple trees, which put on a beautiful display.

Shrub: For a bit of green and color, try adding azaleas, one of the Southeast’s most popular shrubs. They come in varied shapes and sizes.

Vines: Honeysuckle and wisteria make fantastic additions to fences and walls. They also produce stunning blossom throughout the spring.

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