Gardening in Georgia can be both rewarding and frustrating. The long growing season affords many opportunities to have flowers, foliage and fruits throughout the year, but extended periods of drought and extreme heat present challenges for both plants and gardeners alike.

Hiring a professional garden designer to help you develop a plan is a great start, but educate yourself, too. Do a little research. Look around your community and take note of plants that thrive in situations that are similar to your own.

Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii)
Courtesy Gibbs Gardens

No matter what size garden you have, success begins with selecting the right plants for the right place. Start by grouping plants with similar needs in the same area and remember that sometimes the simplest solution for a problem is to work with existing conditions rather than trying to change the environment. This is especially true if you have soils that are saturated, periodically flooded or very dry.

When choosing plants for your garden, think about what individual plants offer, both aesthetically and practically. Combine trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and bulbs for the best effect.

Avoid or remove invasive exotic plants, including English ivy, kudzu and Autumn olive, Eleagnus umbellata. All of these are rampant growers that crowd out other species that need light to grow.

As you replace plants in your landscape, consider choosing native selections suited to tolerate particular conditions in your garden. Your landscape will be not only beautiful, but sustainable. By using native plants, your garden will provide critical food and habitats for birds, bees and other critters.

There are plenty of native plants that do well in sun and shade. By incorporating some of these plants into your landscape, you’ll be well on your way to creating an oasis for people, plants and animals that will reward you throughout the year.

Plants for sunny areas

Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii)

Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana)

Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)

Fringe Tree (Chioanthus virginicus)

Georgia Aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum)

Native oaks (Quercus species)

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)

Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)

Fringe Tree (Chioanthus virginicus)
Courtesy Gibbs Gardens

Plants for shady areas

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Florida Leucothoe (Agarista populifolia)

Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Maple Leaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)

Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

Royal fern (Osmunda regalis)

Small Anise tree (Illicium parviflorum)

Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus)

Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima)

Foam flowers (Tiarella cordifolia) and Trilliums
Courtesy Gibbs Gardens

Plants for areas with damp soils or periodic flooding

Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) is a large deciduous conifer that thrives in wet or dry soils. The fern-like foliage turns from green to russet in the autumn. Once it sheds its leaves, the orange-red bark stands out, especially in the winter landscape.

Henry’s Garnet’ Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) grows in sun or part shade. The green leaves turn garnet in autumn.

Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is a large shrub or small tree with lemon scented flowers. Mostly evergreen, the silver undersides of the leaves shimmer in the breeze.

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous shrub that produces masses of red or orange fruits in winter.