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3 Native Plants that Look Great in Nashville Gardens

July 31, 2014 by

There’s no question about it: Everyone wants a great looking landscape. While there are many factors that can help to create the perfect landscape, selecting the correct plants is critical. Living plantings create the character of the garden and can determine its purpose, how much maintenance is necessary, as well as its ecological value.

Choosing native plants is a very good way to create a lower maintenance garden with high ecological value. Native plants are better adapted than non­natives to our area. When correctly sited, natives can handle the temperature fluctuations, a range of soil types, and drought issues much better than exotic plants.


Echinacea purpurea is the common purple coneflower you see in most gardens, but it has been hybridized with the other members of the genus (E. angustifolia, echinaceaE. pallida, and E. tennesseensis) to create many colors, sizes, and forms of coneflowers.

Echinacea forms beautiful flowers that not only feed local pollinators but can also feed the birds if it is allowed to form seed in the fall. It likes full-sun locations and can adapt to dry conditions very well.

E. tennesseensis is a native Tennessee coneflower that grows in the cedar glades near Nashville and is well adapted to poor organic soils with high amounts of clay.

Dead head echinacea for the first couple months of flowering to encourage repeat blooms then let it go as fall approaches to create a natural food source for the birds. Echinacea will self sow and is excellent in wildflower gardens, butterfly gardens, or in mixed perennials gardens.


Panicum or switchgrass is a native grass that is very useful as an ornamental landscape plant. There has been some talk about it also being good for bio­fuels but most people won’t be planting it for that!native-plant-Switchgrass-Northwind-Panicum-virgatum

There are many unique varieties of switchgrasses that grow well in Tennessee:

  • Shenandoah has green foliage that adds red coloration to the leaves as the season progresses.
  • Northwind is a tall upright variety with deep green foliage.
  • Cloud Nine will grow as high as 6­7 feet in the right conditions.

Switchgrass is a beneficial food source for birds who enjoy the seeds that are produced in fall.

In the landscape, switchgrass can be used as a screen, a mixed planting with perennials, or even as a potted specimen.


Heucheras are great choices for gardens and landscapes with shady areas. Heucheras (coral bells) are very drought tolerant
plants grown for a variety of interesting leaf features. Their leaf colors can add an impact to a shady sidewalk garden or those hard to plant locations under the trees where there is dry shade.

heuchera-coral-bellsThe foliage can be purple, green, amber, brown, red, or a combination of several different colors. Heuchera need to be divided every few years to maintain their vigor.

This American native perennial is very rabbit resistant and tends to be deer tolerant too although the grazing deer may take a sample first before moving on to more tasty treats. It makes a good substitute for hostas which are enthusiastically devoured by deer.

When planting heuchera – be sure to keep the crown of the plant slightly above the soil to prevent damage from excessive moisture.

All three of these selections are native plants that grow very well in Middle Tennessee. They are tough plants once they are established that survive and thrive when neglected and make for very low maintenance gardens!

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