Easy Plants For East Tennessee

Written By: Lisa Grugin of Meadow View Green Houses & Garden Center

Congratulations! You are lucky to live in an area with a long growing period where you can enjoy flowers for much of the year. With that said, there are still some challenges to gardening in this area. Temperatures can go up and down like a rollercoaster, and the heat and humidity make this a breeding ground for disease and insects. Over the years, I have learned what some of the “tough” guys of the annual flower garden are, so let’s talk about them. I’ll talk about the sun lovers first.

Hands down, the toughest plant that we sell is Lantana. This beauty takes heat and drought like a champ, and rabbits and deer don’t like it. It is available in several colors and in an upright or sprawling form. 

Flowering vinca is number two on the tough scale. It is a prolific bloomer available in shades from white to red. The only downside to this plant is that it should not be planted in the same bed repeatedly. It harbors a fungus in the roots that will build up after about 3 years. Try alternating it yearly with another flower.

If you are absentminded about watering, Portulaca is your friend. It has a succulent leaf and takes the summer sun and heat very well. The flowers do close in the middle of the day, but that is the time that most of us are least likely to see it anyway!

Verbena is another tough little sprawler and is available in several colors. It also comes in a perennial form if you love it so much you want to keep it!

Angelonia is a terrific plant that will add a little height to your landscape or containers. Some people call this the summer snapdragon because of the similarity in blooms. It is heat and drought tolerant once established.

Zinnias are an old-fashioned plant that has stood the test of time. The larger blooming ones make great cut flowers, and the smaller Profusion varieties are great in the landscape.

Petunias, and their mini-me friends the calibrachoa, are great plants that can fill up an area quickly. They do prefer weekly fertilizing and may need the occasional haircut. I had a Cali survive in a pot all winter!

Now let’s talk about the shady guys:

Impatiens are the probably the most popular shade lover, which is why the impatien downy mildew problem a couple of years ago hit so hard. As a reminder, there were no greenhouses in the state with this disease. That is another reason to always buy from a local grower. Impatiens can take some fairly deep shade and will let you know if they are dry. Give them a drink and they will perk right back up!

Green leaf begonias are a close second for shade gardens. They are available in white, pink and red. Their larger cousins the big leaf and dragon wing begonias are also wonderful if you are looking for something a little bigger for containers or beds. Tuberous begonias have stunning colors, and there are also some new varieties in the Angel wing family.

I love caladiums and have them in most of my pots. Those big, heart-shaped leaves make a dramatic statement in containers as a background for smaller plants.

Coleuses have beautiful foliage and are another great backdrop for smaller plants, or do fine as a standalone. The Kong series is my favorite.

Have you seen the Torenia? It is also called Wishbone flower and is available in blue, which is unusual. I like it because it is pretty and because it is very attractive to bees. We need to help our pollinators!

My last shade loving recommendation is the good ole fern. Boston ferns look great hanging, and Kimberly Queen ferns are an upright that can take some sun. Both are heavy feeders that will love to be fertilized every other week or so.

These are, or course, just a few of the plants that we have in stock. We also have a great selection of perennials, and we will be happy to help you make good choices for your yard! 

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