Add spring-blooming native plants to home landscapes

Published 8:48 am Monday, May 6, 2024

By Eddie Smith
MSU Extension Service

I recently had the pleasure of visiting my friend Sarah Young’s gardens in Tupelo, and I enjoyed her stunning collection of plants that are perfect for Southern gardens.

During my visit, I was amazed by her spring-blooming native plants, especially the native azaleas which were in full bloom. Their white, pink, yellow and orange flowers were absolutely breathtaking.

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Unlike their more common evergreen counterparts, native azaleas shed their leaves in the winter and burst into a riot of color as spring arrives. Their large, showy flowers often measure up to 1.5 inches across and come in a range of striking colors, from soft pinks to vibrant yellows, fiery oranges and deep reds.

Their petals are often ruffled, adding an extra layer of charm to their appearance. Each flower sits proudly atop the branches, creating a stunning display.

In their natural habitat, native azaleas are often found in moist woodlands and along stream banks, thriving in well-drained, acidic soils. When cultivated in gardens, they appreciate similar conditions. Planting them in a location with dappled shade or morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal for their health and flower production.

Sarah also had patches of blue phlox throughout her gardens, and these were a sight to behold.

Phlox has clusters of small, star-shaped flowers that sit atop slender, erect stems. The blooms may range from shades of blue to lavender and even soft pink, creating a gentle gradient of colors.

Each flower consists of five petals that form a dainty wheel. When the clusters are in full bloom, they create a beautiful tapestry of color.

Blue phlox is relatively low-maintenance, making it a popular choice for gardeners seeking beautiful yet easy-to-grow plants. It thrives in well-drained soil with moderate moisture levels, and it prefers partial shade to full shade.

Planting phlox in woodland gardens or along the edges of shaded pathways allows it to flourish in its natural habitat.

Another blue-blooming beauty that caught my eye was Blue Star Amsonia. Its star-shaped, powder-blue flowers bloom in clusters atop slender stems. Each flower has five petals that radiate outwards.

As the flowers open, they attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, which adds movement and life to the garden.

One of the appeals of Blue Star Amsonia is its low-maintenance nature. It thrives in well-drained soil and tolerates a range of conditions, including both sun and partial shade. Once established, it is drought-tolerant and requires minimal watering.

Coreopsis, also known as tickseed, has bright yellow blooms and is a favorite of mine.

This plant is Mississippi’s state wildflower, and it brings cheer to the garden space with its sunny color. It is a tough plant that attracts pollinators, making it a favorite for gardens.

Sarah’s garden fence was adorned with a Carolina jessamine vine that had fragrant yellow flowers, which added a burst of color to her garden. Complementing these vibrant blooms is the vine’s foliage, which remains lush and verdant year-round.

Another native plant Sarah grew is Carolina jessamine. This selection is relatively easy to grow, thriving in well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. It is drought-tolerant once established, though regular watering during dry spells promotes healthier growth and blooming.

You can prune Carolina jessamine after flowering to shape the vine and control its size.

Ask your local nursery or garden center for any of these spring-blooming Mississippi native plants for your landscape.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Eddie Smith is a gardening specialist and Pearl River County coordinator with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. He is also host of the popular Southern Gardening television program. Locate Southern Gardening products online at]