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Saturday - April 18, 2009

From: Birmingham, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Native plants for southwest side of house in Birmingham, AL
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I would like to know what I can plant on the southwest side of my house where there is a brick foundation and is really hot in the summer. I've tried irises and day lilies-not good. Suggestions?


There are several members of the Iris genus that are native to Alabama, including Iris brevicaulis (zigzag iris), Iris cristata (dwarf crested iris) and Iris fulva (copper iris). However, it's more likely you have bearded iris, or Iris germanica in your garden. Extensively hybridized over the years, they originated in central and southern Europe, but have been grown in North American gardens extensively. The daylily, genus Hemerocallis, is native to Asia and, like the Iris, has been cross-bred and hybridized until they are very unlike their forbears. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are committed to the care, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. Since your plants are probably so changed from their origins, there is no way of knowing whether their failure to thrive has anything to do with where they originally came from. What we do know is that plants native to your area and selected for sun and probably dry soil will be more likely to survive the extreme conditions you describe. 

We are assuming that you want herbaceous blooming plants, perennials, so that is what we are going to look for in our Recommended Species for Alabama. These plants are all commercially available, and if you have difficulty finding them, you can go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type in your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box; you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and landscape and environment consultants in your general area. Follow each plant link to the page on that individual plant and find out what size they are, when and what color they bloom, and how much water they normally need. Since they are natives, you will find they need less water, fertilizer and maintenance. 

Herbaceous blooming perennials for Alabama

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Hibiscus coccineus (scarlet rosemallow)

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower)

Oenothera speciosa (pinkladies)

Penstemon digitalis (talus slope penstemon)

Achillea millefolium

Asclepias tuberosa

Conoclinium coelestinum

Echinacea purpurea

Hibiscus coccineus

Lobelia cardinalis

Oenothera speciosa

Penstemon digitalis




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