Native Flowers of the Southeast
That Attract Birds and Other Wildlife.

Flowers of the Southeast can vary from one region to the next, but many live throughout much of the region and beyond.

The southeast region covers and area North to Tennessee and Virginia, South to Florida and to eastern Texas.

There can be many temperature extremes in the winter months and heat and humidity for the rest of the year.

You are fortunate, however to have a large group of native trees and shrubs to choose from to create a cool, shady garden and even a woodland habitat that attracts birds, butterflies and mammals.

Not just for wildlife, but for you as well.

There are many native flowers of the southeast region you can choose from. Much depends on your landscape and of course what you want and your personal taste.

Personal taste?

Yes, after all it is your yard and you want something eye pleasing for you, not some cookie cutter design.

If you want a woodland garden, you will want to have levels of plantings. Large trees for birds to fly around in and create shade.

Shrubs and small trees like dogwood to plant in the understory and of course, all sorts of native flowers that attract the birds, hummingbirds, butterflies and other critters your may desire.


I can give you only a sample of what to look for in native plants of the southeast, but check out other regions like flowers of the Northeast and Prairies as many of these cross regions and it would become boring to read if every region mentioned the same plants.

Many wildflowers like Jack-in-the-pulpit, Trillium and Lobelia do indeed cover the northeast and the southeast regions and are wonderful for the woodland and shade gardens.

The keys to growing perennials is to see how zone hardy they are and to understand what
growing zone you are in.

The southeast region covers zones 6A (The ground can freeze) to a sub-tropical zone 10B and zone 11 in the Florida Keys.

You will also want to consider the plants needs. Are they sun loving or do they require shade?

Is the plant you are looking for require dry soil or moist conditions?

What about soil pH and the plants needs?

Consider all of these things and more before you go out and buy out a garden canter and plant them where ever you want them.

Plan and plant with your trees, shrubs and blooming needs in mind.

Okay, let's take a look at some natives you may enjoy in your southeast gardens.

Lyreleaf sage, cancerweed (Salvia lyrata)

This perennial wildflower forms a basal rosette of elongated leaves that broaden toward the tips. The stalked leaves have irregular margins that usually appear pinnately lobed or cut.

They may be solid green or blotched with a dark wine-purple along the midrib.

A 1-2 ft. hairy square stem emerges from this rosette to bear uneven whorls of two-lipped lavender to blue flowers. The shorter upper lip of the tubular 1 in bloom has three lobes; the lower longer lip has two.

Heaviest blooming is typically during a several-week period between April and June, but the plants may produce a few blossoms at almost any time of year, especially if mowing or cutting disrupts the usual bloom period.

Lyreleaf sage,  cancerweed (Salvia lyrata)


Lyreleaf sage is an excellent choice for planting along roads, trails, driveways and in low-maintenance multi-species lawns.

A great catch for pollinators and offers small seeds later on for birds.

The young leaves have a mild minty flavor and may be used in salads or cooked as a potherb.

A one time, the plant was believed to be a "cure for cancer".

This is a seldom-used, easy-to-grow American native plant that shows great potential.

Lyreleaf sage is native to the eastern United States. It grows as far north as Connecticut and as far west as Oklahoma.

Light: Lyreleaf sage will grow in full sun to light shade, but the foliage color is stronger in brighter light.

Moisture: Although this plant tolerates both flooding and drought very well, it grows best in moist soil.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 10.

Perennial sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus)

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in part shade. Tolerant of wide range of soil conditions.

Spreads over time by creeping rhizomes to form colonies. Divide every 3-4 years to control invasiveness and maintain vigor.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

This sunflower species is a native plant that occurs in open rocky woodlands and thickets.

Features 2" wide sunflowers with bright yellow rays and slightly darker yellow center disks atop rigid stems typically growing 2-6' tall.

Smooth stems and sessile or short-stalked leaves (to 6") are the distinguishing characteristics of this species.

Blooms from mid summer to fall. Good fresh cut flower.

There are several species and cultivars of Helianthus as well as Heliopsis for your wildlife gardens.

No serious insect or disease problems. Taller plants may need staking.


Sun to partially shaded border, wild or native plant garden, or naturalized planting.

Attracts birds and butterflies.

Perennial sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus)

Common Name: sunflower

Zone: 3 to 8

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Native Range: Eastern United States, Oklahoma, Canada

Height: 2 to 6 feet

Spread: 1 to 3 feet

Bloom Time: July - September Bloom Data

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Low

Obedient plant,(Physostegia virginiana)

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun.

May need staking, especially if grown in soils with high fertility.

Prune back in early spring to reduce height and minimize tendency toward floppiness (optional).

This plant spreads and should be divided every 2-3 years to control growth.

An erect, clump-forming but rhizomatous native perennial which occurs most often in moist soils on prairies, stream banks, gravel bars and thickets throughout the southeast and beyond.

It typically grows 2-4' tall on stiff, square stems and features dense spikes of pinkish or white tubular, two-lipped, snapdragon-like flowers which bloom throughout the summer.

Obedient plant blooms from bottom to top on each spike. Narrow, lance-shaped, sharp-toothed leaves (to 4" long).

Genus members are commonly called obedient plants because each individual bloom will, upon being pushed in any one direction, temporarily remain in the new position as if it were hinged.

Sometimes also commonly called false dragonhead because they are suggestive of those of dragonhead (Dracocephalum).

No serious disease or insect problems. Rust is an occasional problem.

Can be invasive and tends to flop (see General Culture section above).


An excellent plant for naturalizing in a wildflower garden, native plant garden, prairie or meadow.

Provides color and contrast to the perennial border, but invasive spread must be watched. Valued for its late season bloom.

Bees and butterflies enjoy these blossoms. Thick patches offer protection for birds and small mammals.

Common Name: obedient plant

Zone: 3 to 9

Native Range: Central and southern United States and northeastern Mexico

Height: 3 to 4 feet

Spread: 2 to 3 feet

Bloom Time: June - September Bloom Data

Bloom Color: Pink, white

Sun: Full sun

Maintenance: Medium

Black-eyed-susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)

An easily grown plant in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun.

Tolerates hot and humid summers as well as some light shade. Deadhead to prolong bloom. Divide when clumps become overcrowded.

This species of coneflower is native which occurs in both dry and moist soils in open woods, glades and thickets.

An upright, rhizomatous, clump-forming, free-blooming coneflower which typically grows to 3' tall, often forming colonies in the wild.

Features daisy-like flowers (to 2.5" across) with yellow rays and brownish-purple center disks.

Prolific bloom production over a long mid-summer to fall bloom period.

Oblong to lanceolate, medium green foliage.

Good for cutting. This species is infrequently sold by nurseries because of the excellent varieties and cultivars available.

However, new cultivars do not offer the high amounts of pollen and nectar bees and butterflies require.


Mass in bold drifts in the perennial border, cottage garden, meadow, native plant garden or naturalized area. Provides excellent bloom and color for the late summer.

Attracts butterflies and seed heads offer food for several species of birds.

Common Name: Black-eyed Susan

Zone: 3 to 9

Native Range: Southeastern United States

Height: 2 to 3 feet

Spread: 2 to 2.5 feet

Bloom Time: June - October Bloom Data

Bloom Color: Orange / yellow

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Low

Fire pink (Silene virginica)

These natives will grow in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.

Prefers part shade and moist, sandy or clay soils. Requires excellent drainage.

Fire pink is a native wildflower which occurs on rocky wooded slopes, open woods and thickets.

Fire pink (Silene virginica)

A clump-forming perennial which grows 12-20" tall.

Small clusters of scarlet red blossoms (2" across) with five notched petals appear in spring atop long, slender stems. Narrow, lance-shaped leaves (to 4" long).

Silene is in the same family as Lychnis and Dianthus.

No serious insect or disease problems.


Best in part shade areas of rock gardens, wildflower gardens, native plant gardens, cottage gardens or woodland gardens.

Attracts hummingbirds.

Common Name: Fire pink

Zone: 4 to 8

Native Range: Eastern North America

Height: 1 to 1.5 feet

Spread: 0.75 to 1.5 feet

Bloom Time: April - June

Bloom Color: Red

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Medium

Goat's beard (Aruncus dioicus)

Easily grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.

Prefers part shade, particularly in the southern part of its growing range (Zones 5-8), and moist, fertile soils.

This species of goat's beard is a native plant which occurs in moist woodlands and along bluffs.

A tall, erect, bushy, clump-forming plant typically growing 4-6' high which features pinnately compound, dark green foliage and showy, plume-like spikes of tiny, cream colored florettes which rise well above the foliage in early to mid summer, creating a bold effect.

Goat's beard (Aruncus dioicus)

This rose family member is somewhat similar in appearance to astilbe.

Dioecious (separate male and female plants) as the species name suggests.

Plants with male blooms (numerous stamens per blossom) produce a showier bloom than plants with female blooms (three pistils per flower).


Excellent background plant for shady, moist spots in the border or in a woodland, wild or native plant garden.

Plant as a specimen or in groups along streams or water gardens.

Attracts butterflies and other pollinators. Seeds for birds later on.

Common Name: goat's beard

Zone: 4 to 8

Height: 4 to 6 feet

Spread: 2 to 4 feet

Bloom Time: April - May, later further North.

Bloom Color: Cream

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium to wet

Maintenance: Low

Greater tickseed (Coreopsis major)

Easily grown in dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun.

Thrives in poor, sandy or rocky soils with good drainage. Tolerant of heat, humidity and drought.

Prompt deadheading of spent flower stalks encourages additional bloom and prevents any unwanted self-seeding.

Spreads by stolons and self-seeding and will naturalize over time, but is not considered to be invasive.

Plants may be cut back hard in summer if foliage sprawls or becomes unkempt. If grown in borders, division may be needed every 2-3 years to maintain robustness.

This species of coreopsis features large, daisy-like flowers (2" diameter) with bright yellow rays and yellow (infrequently with a reddish tinge) center disks.

Untoothed ray blossoms are pointed at the tips. Flowers appear in loose clusters from late spring to late summer on erect, branching-at-the-top stems typically rising 2-3' (less frequently to 4') tall.

Greater tickseed (Coreopsis major)

Opposite, tripartite, sessile lower a mid-stem leaves are paired along the stems giving the appearance of being in whorls of 6 leaves.

Smaller upper leaves are entire. This plan is commonly called greater tickseed or greater coreopsis in recognition of its large (for coreopsis) flowers and tall stems.

A somewhat common native to fields, open woodlands, thickets and roadsides in the mid-eastern to southeastern U. S.

Best naturalized in native gardens, meadows or prairies.

Good plant for areas with poor, dry soils. Effective in borders, but self-seeding tendencies must be kept in check.

There are several species of Coreopsis that would look attractive in your southeast gardens. Be sure to check them out.

Common Name: greater tickseed

Zone: 5 to 9

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Height: 2 to 3 feet

Spread: 1 to 2 feet

Bloom Time: June - until it gets to cold to grow

Bloom Color: Yellow

Sun: Best in full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Low

There are so many flowers of the southeast, I can only scratch the surface, but you get the idea by now.

You have sub-tropical Cannas, native bleeding heart, lupines and much, much more to choose from.

Remember, when building your wildlife gardens, think of the local wildlife and what will attract it.

Some birds and butterflies prefer open spaces, others enjoy woods edge and others still, enjoy wooded areas or a combination.

If you want to attract mammals or toads, look at what they require.

Be sure to add some yard art, bird feeders and water to your little corner of the world.

Remember this, it is your yard, do it your way. You have to look at it everyday.

For more tips and ideas for your gardens, check the links below.

Create a Bird Garden

Trees of the Southeast

Shrubs of the Southeast

Native Grasses of the Southeast

Native Vines of the Southeast

Return to Native Flowers Main Page

Hummingbird Magnets

Help and Tips for Feeding Hummingbirds

A Butterfly Friendly Yard

Butterfly Plants

Offer Fresh Water for Your Wildlife

Feed the Birds


Gardens, Birds, Butterflies, and much more.

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