9 Best Perennials for Tennessee That Thrive All Year

Best perennials for Tennessee

Choosing the best perennials for your Tennessee garden can greatly enhance your outdoor space’s beauty, resilience, and sustainability. Tennessee experiences a diverse climate. Selecting perennials that thrive in these specific conditions ensures healthier plants and reduces maintenance needs.

Perennials, once established, return year after year, providing long-term garden enjoyment and cost savings over annual replanting. With careful selection, you can create a garden that offers visual interest across all seasons—from spring blooms to autumn foliage and winter textures.

Native Tennessee perennials can attract and support local wildlife, including pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds, enhancing the ecological health of your garden. Choosing drought-tolerant perennials can be particularly beneficial given varying rainfall patterns, ensuring your garden remains vibrant even during dry spells.

By choosing the right perennials, you can achieve a stunning, low-maintenance garden that aligns with Tennessee’s unique environmental conditions and supports local ecosystems.

Best Perennials for Tennessee

1. Aster

best perennials for middle tennessee

Our first Tennessee star is the white ‘Rockcastle aster’ that is native only to Tennessee and Kentucky. Asters are daisy-like perennials with starry-shaped flower heads that range in color from white to blue to purple. They bring delightful beauty to the garden in late summer and autumn, when many of our summer blooms may be fading.

Asters grow and flower best in full sun. Some varieties will tolerate part shade but will have fewer flowers. Asters grow best on well-drained, loamy soil. Asters have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine for treating of pain, fevers, diarrhea and weak skin.

Flowers and leaves can be eaten fresh or dried. Native Americans harvested wild aster for the roots of the plant, which they used in soups.

2. Ageratum

best perennials for east tennessee

It is a genus of 40 to 60 tropical and warm temperate flowering annuals and perennials from the family Asteraceae. If planted in a zone farther south, they would likely be rated truly perennial to that zone.

Perennials can be planted year round if they are considered to be very hardy to your region. If they are marginally hardy, it is best to plant in spring to ensure the root is established before the onset of winter. Full sun to partial shade. Ageratum plants will flower best in full sun; too much shade can result in fewer blooms and leggy plants.

In hotter regions, plants benefit from afternoon shade. Ageratum conyzoides is a medicinal plant widely used by many traditional cultures against dysentery and diarrhea. It is also an insecticide and nematicide.

3. Columbine

summer flowers tennessee

This perennial herb reaches 1-4′ tall. This is one of the first plants to flower in March, enjoying the cooler mornings spring has to offer. Wild columbine forms patches thanks to its highly viable and abundant seed production.

In these patches, tall, wiry stems arise with nodding red and yellow flowers. Columbines grow best in full sun to partial shade, depending on the specific species and local climate. In hotter regions, provide some afternoon shade to protect the plants from excessive heat. They prefer well-draining soil and can tolerate various soil types, such as clay, loam, and sandy soils.

It grows above the ground are used to make medicine. People take columbine for gallbladder disorders and general stomach and intestinal problems. They also take it to treat a vitamin C-deficiency disease (scurvy) and yellowed skin (jaundice).

4. Coral Bells

flowers that grow in tennessee

Coral bells (Heuchera spp) or alumroot are Tennessee natives. They represent an almost limitless choice of foliage colors, sizes, and forms. Coral bell plants prefer partial shade but can take more sun in cold climates.

Give them well-drained, moist, rich soil that’s neutral to slightly acidic. Most often, coral bells are planted in landscapes where they make a colorful border along a pathway or provide a pop of color in a shady space.

5. Bearded Iris

perennial flowers tennessee

Irises are perennial and will return year after year, making them excellent value for money. Bearded Iris loves sun, sun, sun! They need at least six hours of direct sunlight in most climates. Be sure to choose a full-sun location when planting your Bearded Iris rhizomes.

If your Irises are not thriving in their current location, they can easily be transplanted to a new garden bed with full sun. They are good in borders or beds around yards and patios, and along pathways. With the huge selection of colors, and combinations iris are beautiful when viewed from up close – many have the added attraction of fragrance.

6. Lenton Rose

tennessee evergreen plants

Lenten rose, Helleborus xhybridus, is a group of evergreen, late-winter or early-spring flowering perennials in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) with the common names of hellebore, oriental hellebores, or Lenten rose (the name Christmas rose refers to H. niger).

Lenten rose can reseed itself and spread to fill in an area, their attractive foliage makes them a gorgeous ground cover. Lenten rose does best in partial to full sun and well-drained, humus-rich and fertile garden soil.

In the Midwest they will grow well in sun, but in more southern locations require some shade. They can be the stars of the early spring garden as specimen plants, in masses as a foil for other spring bulbs, and even used as a tall ground cover. 

7. Garden Phlox

best flowers to grow in tennessee

Tall garden phlox have long-blooming, colorful flowers that pop in any garden. Tall garden phlox are hardy and vigorous when grown in the right conditions. These perennial flowers are often used as background plants in narrow borders or in groups between taller and shorter plants in a wide border.  

Most border phlox grow best in full sun, but as they are native to woodland edges, they will also do well in partial shade. Cultivars of creeping phlox or alpine phlox, such as Phlox subulata, are low-growing and flower in early summer.

They thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. The tea made from dried Phlox leaves is thought to purify blood and treat skin conditions such as boils or eczema. After steeping the roots in boiling water, the cooled water is sometimes used as an eyewash or even to treat venereal diseases.

8. Bee Balm

perennials for Tennessee

Perennial favorite native to North America, bee balm (also called wild bergamot or monarda) is beloved in flower beds for its beautiful blooms of red, pink, purple or white—not to mention the fragrant foliage. Bee balm is a great addition to a pollinator garden.

This plant, with showy summer-blooming white flowers, is often used as a honey plant, medicinal plant, and garden ornamental. Bee balm does best in full sun. Though it will grow in part shade, it tends to stretch and become leggy over time.

Bee balm does best in evenly moist soil rich in organic matter. It can tolerate lighter soil, but richer soil will encourage taller, stronger specimens. Bee balm has many beneficial attributes, including antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-nausea properties used to naturally support those with eczema, sore throats, cold sores, achy muscles, and congestion. As a diaphoretic, it is used to naturally aid in relieving fevers.

9. Blanket Flower

best plants to grow in tennessee

The common name blanket flower may have come from the resemblance of the flowers to brightly patterned Native American blankets in similar colors. These plants thrive best in full sun. The blanket flower can handle some partial shade, particularly in hot climates, but they will get a bit floppy and will not flower as profusely.

The Indian blanket flower has been used medicinally for breastfeeding mothers. It is made into tea, and the children bathe in it to soothe sore nipples. It is used on sore eyes in a similar way.

Three Sisters Gardening Method

Three Sisters Gardening Method


Choosing the best perennial plants for Tennessee gardens ensures enduring beauty and resilience against the region’s climate. By selecting perennials well-suited to Tennessee’s soil and weather conditions, gardeners can enjoy low-maintenance landscapes that thrive year after year, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of their outdoor spaces while supporting local biodiversity.

Tennessee gardens benefit greatly from native perennials that not only display beautiful flowers but also thrive in the local climate. Butterfly weed and autumn sage, with their bright yellow and pink flowers, are not only heat tolerant but also fairly drought tolerant, making them ideal for Tennessee’s varied conditions.

Plants like Russian sage offer lovely plants that require only light shade and are deer resistant, enhancing garden durability and aesthetics. Moreover, flowering plants such as these attract hummingbirds and monarch butterflies, enriching the biodiversity of your garden. Integrating these perennials with other plants ensures a vibrant, resilient garden that stands out with minimal upkeep.

Johan Perez
Johan Perez is an experienced agriculturalist with over twenty years in the field. He holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences and has contributed extensively to research on sustainable farming practices. Johan has also written for numerous agricultural periodicals, offering expert advice on farming technologies and methods. In his free time, he enjoys outdoor adventures, which often inform his professional insights into ecological agriculture.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up For Newsletter!