9 Best Native Plants for Your Birmingham Garden

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2 butterflies on a violet-colored stokes aster flowers

Birmingham has mild winters and hot summers, so any plant that thrives in “The Magic City” has to be a good match for the region. The best plants are native plants — those species that evolved naturally in the Birmingham area over the course of thousands of years.

Advantages of Alabama’s native plants:

  • Drought-tolerant: Native plants are used to Alabama’s rain patterns.
  • Pest-tolerant: These plants have evolved alongside the local pests that target them and have become resistant.
  • Long-lasting: Because these plants are native to Birmingham, they have adapted to survive in Alabama’s natural conditions.

How to choose native plants for your Birmingham yard:

When researching native plants, look for species that thrive in Birmingham’s U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 7a. These plants can withstand temperatures from 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Here are nine of the best native plants for Birmingham:

1. Green and gold (chrysogonum virginianum)

bright yellow flowers of green and gold ground cover
peganum | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

As the name suggests, this ground cover plant has a lovely color scheme of green leaves with gold-speckled flowers. The yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom in spring and summer attract butterflies. Green and gold is excellent for edging woodland paths or for border fronts in rock gardens. As long as you can provide it with some well-shaded real estate and moist soils, green and gold will be happy to get along with you. 

  • Plant type: Ground cover
  • Hardiness zones: 5A-9A
  • Sun: Deep shade, partial shade
  • Water needs: Moderate
  • Soil: Acidic, moist, well-drained, organically rich
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 1-2 inches

2. Pussytoes (antennaria plantaginifolia)

fluffy whiter flowers on a ground cover called pussytoes
xulescu_g | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

This particular plant goes by several names throughout the Southeast, but Alabama residents are most familiar with pussytoes. It gets its name because the white flowers that bloom in April and May look like tiny cat’s feet. The flowers can reach up to a foot tall, but the silvery-green fuzzy foliage grows at ground level, making it an ideal ground cover. This plant grows easily as long as you can maintain consistent soil quality.

  • Plant type: Ground cover
  • Hardiness zones: 3A-8B
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Dry, rocky
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 4-6 inches

3. Yellowroot (xanthorhiza simplicissima)

small, purple flowers on a yellowroot shrub
Plant Image Library | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Yellowroot can be found in the wild along forested stream banks and moist woodlands, but you will have a hard time finding it commercially. It blooms purple flowers in April and May and has bright green, lacy leaves during the warmer months. In fall is when the shrub is the showiest, with its leaves turning a yellow, then bright red, then tan. Yellowroot produces seeds that are attractive to a variety of wildlife.

The shrub does well with sandy soil, which can help it reach its ideal height of 1 to 3 feet.

  • Plant type: Ground cover, shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 3A-9A
  • Sun: Dappled sunlight, partial shade
  • Water needs: Moderate (it grows near streams)
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy, mosoit, acidic, well-drained
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 1-3 feet

4. Lance-leaved coreopsis (coreopsis lanceolata)

bright yellow flowers from lanceleaf coreopsis
Andrey Zharkikh | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The lance-leaved coreopsis will capture your heart with its sun-kissed, daisy-like yellow flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer. In the wild, you will find it in prairies, fields, and along roadsides. It is often called tickseed because the seeds in the plant resemble ticks. Lance-leaved coreopsis is a great source of food for wildlife, providing nectar and seeds to honeybees, butterflies, and birds. The flower does have a natural resilience to deer.

  • Plant type: Wildflower
  • Hardiness zones: 4A-9A
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy, moist
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 1-3 feet

5. Stokes’ aster (stokesia laevis)

close-up of a light purple stokes aster flower
Sharon Sullivan | Lawn Love

Stokes’ aster will catch your eye immediately with its bluish-purple color. There are different varieties that bloom with colors ranging from white to pink to yellow flowers in summer and fall. The wildflower provides beauty in both its flowers and its attractive, evergreen foliage. The nectar from the flowers attracts butterflies and bees, so they would be perfect for a wildflower or butterfly garden. They also make great fresh-cut flowers for an arrangement.

  • Plant type: Wildflower
  • Hardiness zones: 5A-9A
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Moderate
  • Soil: Acidic, moist, fertile, well-drained
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 1-2 feet

6. Ironweed (vernonia fasciculata)

Ironweed sports a vibrant violet crown at the top of a long, tough stem. In fact, ironweed is named for its tough stem. These low-maintenance purple flowers are very attractive to butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds when they bloom from July through October. In the wild, it can be found in prairies, fields, savannas, and along roadsides.

  • Plant type: Wildflower
  • Hardiness zones: 4A-9A
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Water needs: Moderate
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy, moist, rich, acidic
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 4-8 feet

7. Coral honeysuckle (lonicera sempervirens)

Close-up of coral honeysuckle blooms
Paul VanDerWerf | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Coral honeysuckle (also known as trumpet honeysuckle, if music is more of your thing) is a twining vine that grows clusters of bright coral flowers. The flowers are particularly attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. It has a year-round interest because it retains its evergreen color throughout the cold winter. In the fall coral honeysuckle produces small red berries birds love. Coral honeysuckle is a great addition to your yard along fences, trellises, and entryways. 

  • Plant type: Vine
  • Hardiness zones: 4A-9A
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Moderate
  • Soil: Clay
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 8-15 feet

8. Passion flower (passiflora incarnata)

purple and white passionflower, with a pale yellow center
baka_san | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The passion flower is an exotic-looking plant with bright purple flowers on the tip of tendril-bearing vines. Although this plant is resilient to deer, feel free to nibble on its flowers and fruits, both of which are perfectly edible. Passion flower is another great vine to hang along fences, trellises, or other vertical structures.

You may have to pinch the vines back after their first growing season to help keep the roots cool and maintain their natural shape.

  • Plant type: Vine
  • Hardiness zones: 5A-9A
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Clay, loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial, woody
  • Mature height: 12-24 feet

9. Climbing hydrangea (hydrangea barbara)

Do you like traditional hydrangeas but have a fence, wall, arbor, tree, or other vertical structure you want to add a bit of interest to in your yard? Climbing hydrangea might be just what you were looking for. What makes this plant so interesting is not just the fragrant white flowers it produces every summer but the eye-catching vine that can climb to 60 feet under ideal growing conditions. As a semi-evergreen plant, climbing hydrangea retains its green hue throughout most of the year.

  • Plant type: Vine
  • Hardiness zones: 6A-8A
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 12-60 feet

How native plants make gardening easier

There are a lot of native plants that look amazing and thrive in your Birmingham landscape. These plants do not need extra watering, fertilizer, or maintenance. Think of all the time you’ll have to spend enjoying the natural beauty of Birmingham, not just in the city, but right outside your back door!

If you’re interested in learning more about native plants, the scholars at Auburn University have already done the research for you. Check out their virtual arboretum today!

Want to add native plants to our landscape but still don’t know where to start? Contact a Birmingham lawn care professional to help you decide what will look best in your yard.

Main Photo Credit: John Winder | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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