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CoastLine: Spring Planting Along the Southeastern Coast

This broadcast of CoastLine originally aired on April 1, 2015. 

Will lilacs or peonies grow in the Cape Fear region?  Is Pampas Grass a good landscaping idea?  

Spring is here as we observe greenish-yellow pollen on cars, roadways, and around the edges of local retention ponds. 

April 1st is also the first official day of Ozone Season.  That's when state and local governments begin daily air quality forecasts in metropolitan areas across North Carolina.

And it's our first edition of CoastLine with a focus on coastal gardening.  To help answer those gardening head-scratchers that confound you every year, we asked two exceptional local gardeners for help. 

In-studio guests:

Barbara Sullivan is the author of Garden Perennials for the Coastal South.  She's also a prolific writer and lecturer on gardening in southeastern North Carolina. 

Tom Ericson is co-owner of The Transplanted Garden – a garden shop in Wilmington that sells plants and garden paraphernalia while offering expert advice.  He regularly lectures on landscaping and gardening. 

Listen to Segment 1 here.
Listen to Segment 2 here.
Listen to Segment 3 here.

Below is a list of Tom Ericson's favorite native plants of the southeast.   

Favorite Southeast Native Plants


Live OakIf we don’t stop cutting down the trees that are only 200 years old, we will never have 500 year old oaks!  Customer sent me a photo of the one removed on Market St.  Still can’t bring myself to pass the area!

Dogwood:State tree but increasingly more difficult with Anthracnose and Mildew problems 

Redbud: A true herald of spring.  Heart-shaped leaves follow the bright magenta flowers clustered tight to the stems.

Red Flowered Horse Chestnut: Aesculus pavia Hummingbirds love it!  Moist soils

White Bottlebrush: Horse Chestnut- A. parviflora Butterfly plant

Fringe tree or Granddaddy Greybeard: Good for wet or dry areas

Loblolly Bay: Camellia relative, Evergreen, difficult to grow in pots as it does not like extremes in water levels and does not transplant easily.  If you have on in your garden, consider yourself lucky!

Magnolia:  Probably the most popular variety is the ‘Little Gem’.  My Favorite is ‘Teddy Bear’ because of the beautiful felted back sides of the leaves and the fuller more typical size of the leaf over all.  It is a compact, not dwarf plant.

American Holly:  Berries are great for wildlife, but very thorny leaves!

Chickasaw plum: A new purple leaf variety, Purple Pride, fruits and has attractive foliage.


Clethra or Pepperbush: Sweet Cinnamon-like scent in mid-Summer.  Good in wet areas.

Calycanthus or Sweet shrub:  Red Flowers smell like crushed Pineapple

Blueberries:very important crop commercially and one of the easiest for the homeowner

Annabelle Hydrangea :  A selection of the native smooth Hydrangea.  It has been a staple in gardens for generations.

Deciduous Azaleas:  Pink and White in old neighborhood bulldozed.  This is a very good plant for attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies.

Cyrilla:not in the trade, but a great wetland plant!  White clusters of drooping, thread-like flowers on shrubs that grow very much like Wax Myrtle.

Virginia Sweetspire: Good wetland plant, beautiful flowers and Fall foliage

Waxmyrtle good screening and great way to attract Cedar Waxwings to the yard!

Inkberry:Holly family, wetland plant, black berries attract birds.  Looks a little like boxwood when well grown.

Yaupon:Weeping, Upright, Dwarf- Bordeaux and Schillings


Maypop or Passionvine:  Food for the Fritillary Butterfly

Cross vine:  Early blooming orange flowered vine, which can be a bit aggressive good Hummingbird plant!

Coral Honeysuckle:  Attracts Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Muscadines:Native Grapes


Spigelia:red and yellow blooms late Spring/early Summer. Grows to about 15-18” tall.  Grow this clumping plant in, semi-shaded location.

Venus Fly Traps:THE only area in which they grow in the entire world! Officials are replanting stolen plants in Holly Shelter Game Land that were poached last year. It is now, finally, a State offense to poach them!

Pitcher Plants:There are a number of varieties of these unique Carnivorous plants that do have a larger range than the Fly Traps.  Their flowers are absolutely other-worldly!

Horsemint: This is a native cousin to the Bee balm, that many people grow to attract Hummingbirds.  This is a very good plant to feed the Honeybees.  They need all the help that we can give them.

Gaillardia:  Shades of bright reds, oranges and yellows adorn these daisy-like flowers all summer.  They thrive in heat and desperately sandy soils.  Just remember to water lightly until they are established.

Lobelia: Cardinal flower.  Good perennial for damp areas.  Bright red flower spikes attract Hummingbirds.

Swamp Hibiscus:As the name implies, these will grow in very wet areas.  There are many new hybrids with flowers ranging from white to pink to red and plum. There are also red foliaged forms as well.  These plants can grow from 2 -8’ in height depending on variety. They attract a multitude of wild life including deer.  Usually grown to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

To learn more about North Carolina and other Southeast Natives visit the NC State Website.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.