21 Popular Perennials For North Carolina Gardens

Are you looking for some perennial plants to grow in your North Carolina Garden this season? With North Carolina's moderate climate, you have plenty of options to choose from! In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen walks through her favorite perennial plants for every North Carolina garden!

North Carolina perennial flower garden in full sun

North Carolina is a great place for gardening. With 4 distinct seasons, a moderate climate, and regular rainfall, there are a great many plants that will thrive here. Many plants on this list are well-suited not only for North Carolina gardeners but throughout the southeastern United States and beyond.

North Carolina encompasses USDA hardiness zones 6a through 8b, with a few mountaintop areas that fall into zone 5b. If you want to grow perennials in your home garden, the first thing you should determine is which plant hardiness zone you’re in. This will help you identify which plants are most likely to overwinter successfully.

You should also consider how much sun your location has; is it full sun, part shade, or full shade? Also, determine what type of soil you have. Is it sand or clay? Does it hold water and stay wet, or is it well-drained? Does it seem to be rich in organic matter or poor quality, dry, or rocky?

If you’re ready to learn more about some of the more popular perennials for North Carolina gardeners, North Carolina resident and expert gardener Liessa Bowen will take you on a little tour of some of her favorite plants!

Asiatic Lily

Close up view of Asiatic lily with 6 pink petals, 6 white stamens and 1 pistil with pinkish colour at the top. There are many long, green leaves and one green bud at the left side of the image. Above the bud there is a lily with its petals closed. At the top of the image there are two more pink flowers that cannot be viewed clearly and one more pink flower at the right side of the image, with its petals closed. The background at the right side of the image is blurry and brown.
Asiatic lilies are available in various color combinations.
botanical-name botanical name Lilium var.
plant-type plant type herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 8

The Asiatic lily is a herbaceous perennial grown from a bulb. It produces large, showy flowers each year, from late spring into early summer.

There are a number of beautiful cultivars available, with flower colors ranging from orange and yellow to pink and bicolor. Each tall, leafy stalk produces several long-lasting flowers.

Asiatic lilies do well in North Carolina. They withstand both heat and frost, but are a favorite snack food for browsing deer, so if you live with deer, you will need to grow your lilies in a fenced area. Bulbs should be planted in the fall or very early spring. Set them 4 to 6 inches deep in a spot with moist, well-drained soil and full sun.

Bearded Iris

Two Bearded Iris flowers in blurry background. The flowers have purple-pink-salmon, curly petals and orange beards. The flower at the left side has agreen-brownish spathe and green stem. Green leaves and more flowers are depicted in the blurry background
Bearded Iris blooms in a variety of different colors.
botanical-name botanical name Iris germanica
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1.5 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 10

The spring-blooming Bearded Iris is sold as rhizomes during the spring and fall. Bagged and pre-packaged rhizomes are found at most nurseries and garden centers.

Flowers are large, showy, and fragrant and come in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, purple, pink, and bicolor. They bloom each spring reliably while the long dagger-like leaves persist throughout the growing season.

While these flowers may look fancy, Irises are actually quite easy to grow. They need full sun to do their best. They will grow in partial shade but won’t bloom as well, if at all. Soil should be rich and well-drained with medium moisture.

Over time, iris will spread by growing additional rhizomes. If the plants become too crowded, simply divide the rhizomes and transplant the extras to another location or give them away to neighbors.

Bee Balm

Close-up of a bee balm flower with green leaves in blurry background. The petals are red-colored, tube-shaped and thin with protruding, similar-colored stamens and a dark-colored calyx.
Bee Balm is a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies
botanical-name botanical name Monarda didyma
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 2 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 9

Bee balm is a great native plant for a pollinator garden or wildlife garden. It’s related to mint and has fragrant leaves, though not with a characteristic minty smell. Bee balm produces clusters of small pink to red tubular flowers. The flowers are a favorite of both hummingbirds and butterflies.

You may attract plenty of birds and butterflies with this plant, but deer and rabbits won’t bother it. Plant your bee balm in a spot with plenty of sun or it will grow long and leggy.

Soil should be rich and moist. If given plenty of space, plants will eventually spread outwards and larger clumps can be divided to prevent overcrowding and unwanted sprawl.

Black-Eyed Susan

Close-up view of Black-eyed Susan flower with 14 bright-yellow petals and a dark center with 8 yellow spots in it. The background is blurry with various green leaves and there is one ywllow leaf at the top left side of the image and 2 yellow leaves at the bottom, right side.
Rudbeckia is well known to attract butterflies and birds.
botanical-name botanical name Rudbeckia hirta
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
bloom-colors bloom colors Yellow
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1.5 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 7

Black-eyed Susan is a short-lived perennial. You probably won’t realize they are short-lived, however, because they will keep themselves going by self-seeding. The black-eyed Susan is an excellent plant for a wildflower garden or butterfly garden.

The flowers are showy and yellow. A cluster of black-eyed Susan plants produces an eye-catching display of brightly cheerful flowers. The flowers attract butterflies while blooming, and the following seed heads attract seed-eating birds, such as the American Goldfinch.

Blanket Flower

A Blanket flower with at least 10 petals, in blurry green background. Its center looks brownish with yellow spots and the petals are dark orange that becomes yellow on their edges.
The Blanket flower has stunning orange and yellow blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Gaillardia x grandiflora
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 10

The blanket flower, or Gaillardia, is a popular plant with bright, colorful flowers. The flowers are dark orange at the center, with petals blending from orange to yellow.

The blanket flower has some cultivars that may be very compact or a bit taller and sprawling. They are all short-lived perennials that may self-seed if the hungry birds don’t eat all their seeds first. Flowers also attract butterflies and other pollinators.

The blanket flower grows best in full sun. Soil should be rich, moist, and well-drained, but they will tolerate a range of soil conditions.

If plants start looking messy by mid-season, you can remove the dead flower heads and trim any sprawling growth. This will not only make the plants look neater but also may extend the blooming period.

Blazing Star

A gray, blurry background and a close-up of a purple-pink Blazing star flower at the left side of the image. At the right side there is a bee approaching the flower; the bee's feathers are rised. The top of the flower looks very bright while the lower part looks a bit darker. At the bottom there are purple buds; middle-upper part of the flower has long, purple, thin petals that look like tangled hair.
Purple Blazing Stars are excellent plants for pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Liatris spicata
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
bloom-colors bloom colors Purple
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

Blazing star is a native wildflower found growing naturally in prairies and grassy meadows of the eastern United States. It’s an excellent plant for a wildflower garden or butterfly garden. Flowers attract butterflies, followed by seed-eating birds that graze on the seed heads.

Blazing star has thin feathery leaves that are attractive by themselves. In mid-summer, a tall spike of ‘blazing’ purple flowers appears atop each stem, blooming from the top down.

Blazing star prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight. These plants can be grown from seed but may be a bit slow to mature.

Bugleweed

Blue-purple Bugleweed flower close-up view at the middle of the image. The backroung is blurry showing one flower at the right side and another one at the left side. Under each flower there is one brownish leaf with little, white hair around it. The flower has yellow stigmas.
Bugleweed is a low-maintenance perennial with blue blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Ajuga reptans
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
bloom-colors bloom colors Purple-Blue
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6” to 9”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 10

If you are looking for an effective ground cover that won’t get entirely out of hand, try planting bugleweed. This low-growing plant develops a series of leafy rosettes and spreads by above-ground stolons or runners.

In late spring through early summer, the flowers emerge. The spikes of purple-blue blooms are pretty showy, especially when grown in large clusters.

Ajuga is tolerant of deer, rabbits, and even some occasional foot traffic. It does well in either full sun or light shade. It’s also not too picky about soil conditions, although it prefers medium-moisture, well-drained soil. If clusters grow too dense, bugleweed is easily divided and transplants well to a new location.

Chrysanthemum

One close-up view of deep red Chrysanthemum and two more same-colored flowers in blurry blackground. Under the close-up Chrysanthemum there are 2 small, green leaves. The flower has many layers of oval petals with deep red color and the center has red-purple petals that look furled.
Chrysanthemums thrive in a sunny environment.
botanical-name botanical name Chrysanthemum var
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 0.5 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 to 9

You have probably seen an abundance of chrysanthemums for sale each fall. They are sold as potted plants and many people simply grow them as an annual for one season and then toss them.

Chrysanthemums are perennials, however, and grow wonderfully as such in North Carolina gardens. Flowers are abundant and showy, with colors such as white, yellow, orange, red, pink, green, purple, and bronze, as well as bicolor varieties.

Chrysanthemums grow best in full sun. Soil should be rich, moist, and well-drained. Keep your plants neat and compact by pruning them each spring and by pinching off spent flowers. Leaves and flowers are slightly aromatic, and plants are not typically bothered by deer or rabbits.

Columbine

Close view of a white, pinkish-purple columbine in blurry, green background. As seen in the image, the flower has 5 long, purple spurs at the top of the image, pink sepals, white petals and yellow stamens/pistils.
Cultivated columbine can be purple and yellow, while the native type is red.
botanical-name botanical name Aquilegia canadensis
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

Columbine blooms each spring with unusual and showy drooping, bell-like flowers that attract hummingbirds. The native columbine flowers are red, but cultivars with yellow and purple flowers also exist.

Plants grow readily from seed and take two years to mature to bloom. Columbine foliage is also attractive and a bit unusual in appearance.

Plants form rounded mounds of foliage. Towards late summer and into fall, the foliage may start to brown and fade, but don’t worry; these plants will start to grow fresh new foliage in late winter to early spring. Columbine can be grown in full sun and also tolerate quite a bit of shade. Soil should be moist and well-drained.

Dianthus

A close view of a dianthus flower with 5 petals and green, thin leaves. The background is green and blurry. The petals are white at the edges while the middle is dark pink and towards the center the color becomes a mix of wite and dark pink. At least 4 stamens with white filaments and pink anthems can be  seen at the center of the flower.
Dianthus is also known as “Sweet William”.
botanical-name botanical name Dianthus barbatus
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 0.5 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 9

Also known as Sweet William, Dianthus is indeed a very sweet plant. It blooms in the spring and the flowers are showy and bright, attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.

Flowers may be white, brilliant shades of pink, or bicolor. This low-growing plant makes a good ground cover and also looks great planted in front of the perennial garden as a low-growing, edge plant.

Dianthus grows best in full sun with a bit of afternoon shade. Give it a location with rich to average well-drained soil. Deer don’t bother this plant. Dianthus may die back periodically, but it has a tendency to reseed itself without being aggressive, so it can remain in the garden for many years.

Hosta

A garden with Hosta plants. Gray concrete parts can be seen at the right bottom side of the image and a tree with green leaves can be seen at the bottom right side. At the right of the tree there is a thicker tree trunk and behind it a house that is unclear. There are a lot of large, green, ruffly Hosta leaves and purple Hosta flowers with long, slender green stalks.
Hostas are a shade-garden favorite for many gardeners.
botanical-name botanical name Hosta var.
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Shade to part shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

If you have a shade garden that is protected from browsing deer, hosta is an excellent choice. This large, leafy plant grows into broad, rounded clumps throughout the growing season. In mid-summer, purple trumpet-shaped flowers bloom atop tall spikes. The flowers are quite showy and attract hummingbirds.

Hostas are popular shade perennials that do amazingly well in shady garden spaces. It needs rich, moist, well-drained soil. Unfortunately, this plant is a favorite of deer, so only plant it if you have a deer-free zone.

There are many hosta cultivars available, ranging in size from relatively compact to giant, from dark green leaves to green and white variegated. Hostas remain an attractive garden addition from spring through fall.

Lantana

Close view of 2 Lantana flowers and green leaves at the background. The right side of the image is brighter. A white-brown-orange buterfly stands on the right flower. The flowers are small, half of them orange and half of them pink and look like a bouquet all together.
This heat-tolerant perennial will attract various pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Lantana camara
plant-type plant type Woody perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7 to 11

Lantana is a deciduous woody shrub when grown in North Carolina. There are some varieties of lantana that won’t survive frosty winter weather, but there are other varieties, such as ‘Miss Huff’ and ‘Ham and Eggs’, that are winter hardy up to zone 7.

If you grow a winter-hardy variety, you can expect the leaves to die back after frost. At this point, the plant can be pruned relatively low and will quickly regrow the following spring.

Lantana has the potential to grow into a substantial shrub each year. From mid-summer through frost, flowers will cover the plant and attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and a variety of other pollinators. The tiny flowers grow in multicolored clusters and are both showy and pungently fragrant. Deer and rabbits will not bother lantana.

Lavender

Photo of a field full of purple lavender flowers. The purple blossoms are and pointy and the leafstalks are long, thin and green.
One of the most popular herbaceous perennials, Lavender can brighten up any garden.
botanical-name botanical name Lavandula angustifolia
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
bloom-colors bloom colors Purple
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 to 8

Lavender is a familiar herb suitable not just for an herb garden but also grows well with other perennials or as a container planting. In the summer months, lavender blooms with small spikes of small pale purple flowers.

The leaves and flowers are quite fragrant and have an appealing and distinctive lavender scent. The flowers attract butterflies, and plants are not bothered by deer or rabbits.

Grow lavender in a place with plenty of bright sunlight. Soil should be of average quality, dry to medium moisture, and well-drained. High heat and humidity can cause these plants to look a bit scraggly later in the season. To improve appearance, remove spent flowers and any dead stems, and prune every few years in the spring to help maintain bushy growth.

Lenten Rose

Close view of a Lenten rose with white petals. There is one bud with a small green leaf above it at the left side of the image and two petals of another blossom at the bottom right side of the image. The middle blossom is bright and there are small thin yellow-greenish stamens at its center. The leaves have dark pink spots all over their white surface.
Also known as hellebore, Lenten Rose is an early-spring bloomer.
botanical-name botanical name Helleborus orientalis
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to full shade
height height 1 to 1.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 9

This is an excellent plant for the shade garden. Hellebore is low-maintenance and easy to grow, making it a popular choice for a shady landscape. It is not bothered by deer or rabbits and tolerates poor-quality soil conditions. If you need something simple and no fuss for a shady spot, Lenten rose would be a good choice.

Lenten rose leaves are evergreen, providing foliage throughout the year. In early spring, flowers emerge in shades of pink and white. Flowers are large and showy, nodding slightly downwards.

In ideal conditions, Lenten roses will slowly spread by underground runners and from self-seeding, so you can allow them to grow into a larger cluster or divide them as needed.

Muhly Grass

Photo of muhly grass at the right side of a path. Between the path and the plants there is a fence with metal rods and two horizontal arrays of ropes passing through the metal rods. There is grass on the ground and between the path's flagstones. The muhly grass is pink at the top.
Muhly grass blossoms with a beautiful pink color.
botanical-name botanical name Muhlenbergia capillaris
plant-type plant type Ornamental grass
bloom-colors bloom colors Pink
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 to 9

Ornamental grasses are an excellent addition to the garden or landscape, and the pink muhly grass is a great choice for North Carolina. This grass is a slow-growing, clump-forming ornamental grass, but not aggressive or invasive. It grows best in full sun with dry to medium-moisture well-drained soil.

Pink muhly grass spends much of the growing season as a dense clump of thin, rounded leaves. In mid to late fall, taller spikes appear and burst into bloom for a spectacular display. Flowers in full bloom will adorn the entire outer edge of the plant with a delicate pink haze that is quite beautiful.

New England Aster

Photo of New England Aster blossoms of pink-purple color with rich yellow-brownish stamens at their center. Their petals are long and slim and numerous. A few green leaves can be seen at the background. There are 5 blossoms that can be seen clearly and a few more that are half-visible in the image. At the right side of the photo the flower stamens look brownish.
New England Asters have an eye-catching pinkish-purple color.
botanical-name botanical name Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 8

This variety of Aster is a fabulously showy plant that blooms in profusion each autumn. Flowers are daisy-like and rich pinkish purple in color.

Throughout the spring and summer, the plant just looks like a leafy green mass that slowly grows larger and larger, and then as days become shorter and nights become cooler, all the flowers seem to open at once, and your once-leafy-green mass becomes a purple-petaled-profusion!

For maximum flower production, grow New England aster in a location with full sun. Soil should be well drained. This plant prefers rich, moist soils but will tolerate some dry soil once it becomes well-established. If plants grow too large and fall over, they can be tied to stakes or pruned in early summer to encourage more compact growth.

Purple Coneflower

Close view of pinkish purple cornflower with dark-brown center and orange stamens. At the blurry background 2 more blurred flowers can be seen and some green at the bottom left side of the image. The blossom has long, oval pinkish petals..
Also known as Echinacea, this popular perennial is a low-maintenance plant.
botanical-name botanical name Echinacea purpurea
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 to 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

Purple coneflower is a native wildflower of eastern grasslands and prairies. It’s an excellent plant for a butterfly garden, wildlife garden, or wildflower garden. Flowers bloom throughout the summer and are large and showy.

Flowers attract butterflies and a variety of pollinators, and the seed heads attract goldfinches and other seed-eating birds.

Echinacea purpurea is a surprisingly low-maintenance perennial plant. It does best in a location with full sun but will tolerate some light shade. Soil should be well-drained and of average quality, with dry to medium moisture levels. Plants will slowly spread in ideal conditions and can be divided and thinned if they become overcrowded.

Rosemary

A photo showing a cose-up of Rosemary plant with green, long and thin leaves all over the image and purplish blossoms and white stamens at the middle of the image. The background is bullry showing green leaves.
This herbaceous perennial has many different uses in the garden.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia rosmarinus
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7 to 10

Rosemary is a familiar culinary herb, and it happens to grow well in North Carolina. Leaves are highly aromatic and evergreen, providing attractive greenery throughout the year. In the spring, Rosemary blooms with clusters of tiny purple flowers that attract butterflies.

Rosemary grows best in a full-sun location with slightly acidic soil. Soil should be dry to medium moisture and well-drained.

Rosemary does not tolerate wet soil or heavy shade, so plan your planting accordingly. Rosemary does, however, tolerate some drought and is a good candidate for container gardening.

Stokes’ Aster

Close view of a purple Stokes' Aster flower with numerous petals and hairy-like white stamens. The background of the image is blurry and green colored, obviously there are leaves.  There is a bud at the right bottom side of the photo and one under the flower.
Stokes’ Aster blossoms in the spring.
botanical-name botanical name Stokesia laevia
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 to 9

If you are looking for a beautiful purple flower that blooms in the spring, get yourself a Stokes’ aster. These flowers are large and showy and won’t try to take over your garden. Leaves grow as basal rosettes and are evergreen in warmer climates but will die back partly or completely in colder regions.

Plants are tolerant of deer and rabbits. The Stokes’ aster prefers moist, well-drained soil. Once established, it can be pretty tolerant to occasional drought. It also tolerates areas with higher soil moisture, but the soil should still be well-drained rather than boggy.

Yarrow

Photo of many red Yarrow blossoms with yellow stamens. The flowers seem to have 5 red petals each and the petals look like circle-shaped. The background is blurry and green.
A perennial favorite, yarrow is a hardy plant that blooms in many different colors.
botanical-name botanical name Achillea millefolium ‘Pomegranate’
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1.5 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 8

Yarrow is readily available and easy to grow. There are several colors available, including white and yellow, but ‘Pomegranate’ is a deep red color and is a popular option.

Yarrow is not bothered by deer and is tolerant of average and poor-quality soils, so it’s a good choice for a low-maintenance garden.

Yarrow leaves are light green and feathery. In hot and dry summers, the leaves may die back completely but should regrow the following spring. Flowers bloom from mid to late summer and attract butterflies. Yarrow can spread to fill in an area, and because it’s low-growing, it makes a good ground cover.

Yucca

Photo of white Yucca flowers hanging off green stalks. The background shows a blurry tall tree with green and yellow leaves and grassy ground at the left side of the photo while at the right side there are more trees and light blue sky.
A popular evergreen, yucca blooms in the summertime.
botanical-name botanical name Yucca filamentosa
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 4 to 8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 to 10

The Adam’s needle yucca also called Spanish bayonet or simply ‘yucca’, is a North Carolina native plant that grows well throughout North Carolina. It’s a slow-growing plant that reaches its full height when flowering. The flowers are creamy white, large, and very showy. It blooms mid-summer and the flowers attract butterflies.

Yucca is not bothered by deer or rabbits. It grows well in average to poor soil with medium to dry moisture. This plant is quite tough and would do well in any sunny location with well-drained soil. Yucca is evergreen, so you can enjoy some desert-looking greenery throughout the year.

Final Thoughts

North Carolina is a wonderful state for gardening. There is a rich variety of plants that are readily available, grow well, and are easy to maintain.

Whether you are looking for just a few new plants for a garden or planning an entire landscape, choose the plants that will grow best in your local conditions. For an entire season of blooms, look for plants that bloom at different times, so you can enjoy your garden all year!

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