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In the Garden Zone
Knowing what kind of plants work well in your region of the Carolinas

by Bain Cannon
The Carolinas are a wonderful place for all kinds of gardening. The mountains (Zone 6), the Piedmont (Zone 7) and the coastal regions (Zone 8) all offer their own unique challenges and rewards. For those not familiar with the zone system, the zones are divided by areas of plant hardiness. Plants that thrive in North Carolina’s mountainous Zone 6 may not be well suited for life in South Carolina’s coastal Zone 8 and vice versa. Soil conditions, temperature and rainfall basically determine boundaries of the different zones. Choosing permanent plants for your particular landscape should rely heavily on which zone you live in. You can visit gardentimeonline.com for more information on what plants may be best suited for your zone.

My partner and I live in Charlotte, which is in Zone 7. In our gardens, we have an array of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and native plants.

Some plants are less demanding of soil conditions and can still pack a super punch for color and texture in your yard. Flox is an attractive upright

Snapdragons are hardy plants that will grow in practically any part of a sunny yard.
flowering perennial that blooms from late spring to late fall in our garden. Lantana is a shrub-like blooming perennial that can reach as tall as 6 feet and blooms from early summer to late fall. It is considered a weed in some parts of the country, but in any of the Carolinian zones, it is not invasive at all — and lovely!

There are many varieties of Sedum available at almost any home and garden center, but my favorite is Autumn Joy. It produces a rich, dark pink flower in late summer, which turns a rust color in the fall. It looks almost like a ground cover if planted abundantly enough and comes back like a trooper every spring with no effort.

Some plants considered annuals here might not necessarily perform like annuals all the time. Once again it depends a lot on your specific zone. Cleome or Spider Plant is an old-fashioned, tried and true standard. It self sows in our specific conditions and creates a delicate spindly flower from mid-summer to mid-fall. Surprisingly, Snapdragons (technically an annual here) that our neighbor planted over two years ago lasted and bloomed until just a couple of months ago. These beauties are worth trying in any part of a mostly sunny yard.

Flox is an attractive upright flowering perennial that blooms from late spring to late fall.
As far as trees and shrubs go, there are a few favorites of mine that should do well in all three of our zones. Crape Myrtles are something no yard should be without. Azaleas and Rhododendrons are great bordering shrubs as well as Gardenias and Camellias. The particular Gardenia we have in our front yard is the August Beauty. It blooms twice a year — once in the spring and once in the fall and fills the entire block with an incredible fragrance. Nandina and Juniper seem to work well together for contrast and planting bulbs like Tulips, Hyacinth and Lilies throughout adds great spring color.

Some other fun accents we have tried include Sunflowers, Morning Glories, Shasta Daisies, Elephant Ear and Red Banana Trees. All of these have responded only as annuals to our specific area but they are certainly worth the effort to replant each year. For more information on planting selections for your garden, try virtual.clemson.edu or gardens.uncc.edu. You’ll find that many universities in our region are an invaluable resource when it comes to gardening information.

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