South Carolina has a humid, subtropical climate, meaning most of the state enjoys hot summers and mild winters. However, cold winter snaps can catch gardeners out in the northwestern areas, so understanding growing zones minimizes lost plants (and expense!) Let’s take a look at the best perennial flowers to plant in South Carolina, including their growing zones and top care tips.
South Carolina Perennial Flowers: Growing Zones
Before we jump into the list, what are South Carolina’s growing zones?
South Carolina’s growing zones sit between 7a and 9a. They comprise the hotter end of the scale, which is great for full-throttle blooming lovely flowers but tricky for moisture-loving plants. Mildew may raise its ugly head.
In case you’re wondering, perennial means the plant should re-grow the following year. Whether it does or not is usually down a suitable growing zone and how it’s cared for.
With that in mind, here are 11 of the best perennials to plant in South Carolina.
1. Carolina Rose
Some folks consider native Carolina rose a weed, and it’s true it can get out of hand if it’s not dealt with regularly. That said, this rose is a stunner and tough as they come in South Carolina. Pollinators flock to its pretty pink three-inch blooms all summer long, and its fragrance is a knockout.
It’s a prairie rose, often spotted growing wild by train lines, on slopes or banks, and in roadside thickets. These tough-to-grow-in positions just underline its bomb-proof nature. South Carolina’s gardeners could use this rose on a bare fence in full sun that’s too hot for more delicate plants.
Control its unruly behavior with a hard prune in late winter. Its flowers appear on new growth, so last year’s growth just remains as a tangle of thorny branches, which aren’t great for gardens. Pull up suckers that make a bid for freedom too.
Carolina rose grows in zones 3-9, and it’ll survive those cold northwestern winters we talked about.
2. Blanket Flower
Beautiful pollinator-attracting blanket flowers thrive in all South Carolina growing zones; in fact, they’re tough enough to survive zones 3-10 despite the delicate appearing flowers. This native perennial copes with a cold winter snap plus drought and heat waves. Expect pollinator-friendly blooms from late spring into fall if they’re planted out in well-drained soil with full sun or partial shade.
Blanket flowers bloom bright yellow, orange, or red flowers from late spring until late fall. They prefer full sun or partial shade in most types of well-drained soil. If you’re planting out for the first time, water them well and space them out to avoid mold from humidity. Each plant reaches one to two feet tall, so space them two feet apart.
3. Cast Iron Plant
Northern states enjoy cast iron plants in the house, but southern states can fill a shady garden with this large leafed foliage plant from southeast Asia.
Its botanical name is Aspidistra elatior, but it’s called the cast iron plant because it’s a toughie. It copes with minimal light and some drought, so it’s perfect if you’re gardening in deep shade.
Cast iron plant creates a deep green leafy backdrop in moist, well-drained soil. It’ll reach two feet tall and wide, so be sure to space it out to avoid humidity and mold issues.
Aspidistra elatior thrives in zones 7-11. Plant out newbies in shady spots during spring and keep them well-watered.
4. Black Eyed Susan
Southern stunner black-eyed Susan is a popular perennial flower in South Carolina.
Low maintenance and versatile, this Rudbeckia species loves full sun and well-drained soil. Its vibrant yellow blooms with a black center eye resemble mini sunflowers, attract pollinators, and fill the yard with first-class color.
She’ll reach three feet tall by two feet wide, so proper spacing is important to avoid humidity mold.
Expect to enjoy a blaze of yellow through mid-summer to late fall with this zone 4-9 southern belle.
5. Yellow Flag Iris
South Carolina’s pond and marsh gardeners shouldn’t be without yellow flag iris. This vigorous perennial loves water and full sun to part shade. When it gets both, its stunning yellow blooms with characteristic drooped margins last from late spring to fall.
Although it’s the flowers that grab your attention, its foliage is dramatic too. Long mid-green lance-shaped leaves protect its flower’s stems, and they’re the last bit to die back for winter. In early spring, they’ll emerge like swords from damp soil.
Grow yellow flag iris in South Carolina up to zone 8. Zone 9 is a little too hot for them, but Zone 9 gardeners can try planting them in the shade and ensuring lots of moisture around the base.
Tropical perennial cannas are a classic in South Carolina yards. They top out at seven feet tall and two feet wide with massive white, yellow, orange, pink, or red flowerheads.
Cannas grow in zones 8 to 11, and they really like tropical temperatures, so they may not make it through a western zone 7a winter. Cool area gardeners like to bring the rhizomes indoors for winter and place them outside again in late spring. Alternatively, grow compact cannas in containers that are more mobile for winter storage. Compact cannas reach around three feet tall.
Plant canna rhizomes in full sun to partial shade in rich, organic matter, and don’t let them dry out. For the biggest and best blooms, plant out in full sun, water regularly, and fertilize every week. Growing such dramatically large flowers requires plenty of food.
7. Japanese Sedge Grass
Perennial ornamental grass is excellent in South Carolina’s gardens up to zone 9. If you have a shady border and want to keep it low maintenance, it’s the perfect pick.
Japanese sedge grass is a tough, low-growing perennial that forms clumps of grass-resembling evergreen foliage. Variegated cultivars bring more interest in dull, shady spots.
Plant this interesting evergreen out in spring. Find a shady to part shady spot and keep it well-watered. The following spring, fresh new foliage joins the established evergreen stems. The whole plant reaches around one to two feet tall and may get congested, so cut back some of the previous year’s foliage in early spring to make room.
8. Lafter Rose
Lafter rose is a glorious antique shrub rose that loves South Carolina’s climate.
Popular for its four-inch yellow, orange, and pink double roses, this black spot-resistant rose bush reaches four to five feet tall. Its mid-green foliage is lush and trouble-free, and stunning blooms produce a fruity scent that lasts when they’re cut for a vase.
It’s a prolific bloomer in full sun, as it really does love the sunshine. Plant yours in organically rich soil because hungry roses use all the nutrients they can find. Water it well until established and during drought periods.
Foliage falls in winter to reveal a strong branch framework. Prune it back in late winter so that strong new stems have room to grow. Good air circulation banishes mold and mildew problems.
Butterfly and bee favorite herbaceous perennial phlox (often spelled flocks) is a low-maintenance native plant for South Carolina’s sunny flower borders. Its pink and lavender blooms appear in early summer right through to fall, but perhaps phlox’s best attribute is its colorful flowers’ entrancing scent. Phlox perfume is so fragrant it fills the yard on summer evenings.
Phlox prefers full sun or part shade and well-drained but moist soil. Given these conditions, phlox blooms all summer long and grows bigger and better the following spring. Deadhead it to keep blooms vibrant, water well, and apply good-quality fertilizer to the roots.
Phlox reaches three feet by two feet in zones 3-8, so they’re perfect for mid-border sunny spots.
10. Ajuga reptans
Low-growing Ajuga reptans creeps across South Carolina’s flower borders, spreading beautiful green and purple shades as it goes.
This short six-inch tall mat-forming perennial creates ground cover in a shady to partially shady spot. Over two to three years, ajuga can creep three feet wide! The beauty of this plant is that its mat-forming foliage is punctuated by six-inch tall purple flower spikes in late spring and again in early fall.
Grow this versatile bee-attracting perennial in zones 3-10. In cool zones, it can cope with more sun, but in zones 8 and above, it needs shade. If you’re planting out for the first time, wait until mid-spring when the soil is warm. Ajuga’s shallow roots take more readily to warm soil.
Who doesn’t love coneflowers? There are so many species you can always find one you like!
Their big blooms with a daisy-like center spot sit atop long, slender stems with thin green to burgundy foliage that soaks up the sun. In South Carolina, coneflowers reach up to three feet tall and two feet wide.
Single bloom species are more pollinator-friendly, but double blooms look incredible. Choose from yellow, orange, red, and pink, or maybe all of them, because they’re easy to grow!
Coneflowers worship sunshine, so pick a spot that soaks up the rays and plant them out in mid-spring. In terms of soil, coneflowers are not fussy, but well-drained, moist soil produces more flower heads. This tough native perennial suits zones 3-9, and in South Carolina’s warm summer climate, you can expect flowers from spring until fall.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Brookgardener/Shutterstock.com
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