The Finest Landscaping Plants for Middle Tennessee Gardens

Tennessee’s heartland is a tapestry of verdant hills, fertile valleys, and a climate that beckons a diverse array of flora. Middle Tennessee, with its four distinct seasons, offers a unique canvas for gardeners and landscapers alike to create vibrant and enduring plant displays. Here, the fusion of moderate winters and long, warm summers invites a wide selection of plants to thrive. From the blazing glory of autumnal trees to the fresh blooms of spring, the best landscaping plants for Middle Tennessee are those that celebrate the region’s natural beauty while withstanding its weather whims.

Native Picks: Trees and Shrubs

Trees play a pivotal role in the Middle Tennessee landscape, providing shade, structure, and seasonal interest. When selecting trees, considering those that are native or well-adapted to the region’s soil and climate conditions can result in a more sustainable and low-maintenance landscape.

  • Dogwood (Cornus florida): A quintessential Southern beauty, the Dogwood offers year-round interest with springtime blooms, summer shade, fall color, and wintery branch patterns. It’s not only one of the best landscaping plants for Middle Tennessee, but also a regional icon;
  • Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora): With its large, fragrant white flowers and glossy green leaves, the Southern Magnolia is a statement tree that brings a stately presence to any landscape;
  • Red Maple (Acer rubrum): A versatile and fast-growing tree, the Red Maple provides stunning fall color and can adapt to a variety of soil types.

Shrubs add depth and texture to the landscape, creating layers beneath the taller trees or serving as standalone specimens. When considering shrubs, the following make excellent choices for Middle Tennessee:

  • Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.): Hydrangeas are beloved for their large, showy flower heads that can range in color from blue to pink, depending on the soil pH. They’re perfect for adding a splash of color in summer;
  • Azalea (Rhododendron spp.): With their springtime fireworks of color, Azaleas are a favorite in Southern landscapes. They thrive in the acidic soils commonly found in Middle Tennessee;
  • Boxwood (Buxus spp.): For those seeking structure and evergreen presence, Boxwoods are a classic choice. They can be trimmed into formal shapes or allowed to grow more naturally.

Perennials and Annuals: Splashes of Color

Middle Tennessee’s gardening season is long and hospitable to a variety of perennials and annuals that can bring continuous color and texture to gardens.


Perennials are plants that return year after year, making them a foundational element in any garden. They provide consistent color and texture and are often low-maintenance. Here are some noteworthy perennials for Middle Tennessee gardens:

Plant NameBotanical NameDescription
ConeflowerEchinacea spp.A native wildflower that attracts pollinators and adds resilience and beauty to your garden.
Black-Eyed SusanRudbeckia hirtaThis cheerful yellow bloom thrives in full sun and tolerates drought, ensuring reliability.
DaylilyHemerocallis spp.Known for their variety of colors and adaptability, Daylilies are a low-maintenance staple.


Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle within one growing season. They are excellent for providing bursts of color and variety in your garden. Here are some recommended annuals for Middle Tennessee gardens:

Plant NameBotanical NameDescription
PansyViola × wittrockianaPansies offer vibrant winter-to-spring color when other plants are dormant, adding cheerfulness.
MarigoldTagetes spp.Easy-to-grow Marigolds are pest-resistant and provide bright blooms throughout summer and fall.
PetuniaPetunia spp.Petunias come in a wide range of colors and patterns, making them versatile for various garden settings.

Groundcovers and Grasses

Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

To fill in the gaps and add diversity, groundcovers and ornamental grasses are invaluable, particularly in creating full, lush landscapes.


Groundcovers are low-growing plants that are excellent for covering bare soil, preventing erosion, and adding beauty to your landscape. Here are two popular groundcovers:

  • Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata): Creeping Phlox is a resilient perennial groundcover that bursts into a stunning display of colors in early spring. Its small, five-petaled flowers cover the ground like a vibrant carpet. It typically reaches a height of 4-6 inches and should be spaced 12-18 inches apart. Creeping Phlox is perfect for erosion control on slopes, as ground cover in sunny areas, in rock gardens, or as border edging;
  • Vinca Minor (Vinca minor): Also known as periwinkle or myrtle, Vinca Minor is an evergreen groundcover that produces charming lavender-blue flowers. It maintains its green foliage throughout the year and grows to a height of 4-6 inches, with a recommended spacing of 12-18 inches. Vinca Minor thrives in shady areas under trees or shrubs and is an excellent choice for erosion control in woodland gardens or difficult-to-mow spots.

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses add texture, movement, and interest to your landscaping. They can be used for creating privacy screens, as backdrops for flowering plants, or simply as focal points in your garden. Here are two popular ornamental grasses:

  • Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides): Fountain Grass is known for its fluffy plumes and graceful arching foliage. It provides a sense of movement and visual interest in your landscape. This grass typically grows to varying heights, and its appearance can be quite dynamic depending on the variety chosen. Fountain Grass is an excellent choice for adding a touch of elegance to your garden;
  • Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis): Maiden Grass is a tall grass variety known for its silvery plumes and striking foliage. It can reach significant heights, making it ideal for creating privacy screens or serving as a backdrop for flowering plants. Its elegant appearance adds a sense of drama and sophistication to your outdoor space.

Edible Landscaping

Hanging apples on a tree branch

Why not mix beauty with utility? Edible plants can be some of the best landscaping plants for Middle Tennessee. Fruit trees and berry bushes, in particular, are both productive and attractive.

Apple Trees (Malus domestica)

Apple trees are a wonderful addition to Middle Tennessee landscapes. Varieties like ‘Honeycrisp’ and ‘Fuji’ thrive in this region, offering the perfect blend of ornamental value and productivity. Here’s a closer look:

  • Description: Apple trees are deciduous, meaning they shed their leaves in the fall, creating a striking seasonal display. In spring, they produce beautiful blossoms, filling your garden with delicate and fragrant flowers. As the seasons progress, the trees yield a bountiful harvest of crisp, delicious apples;
  • Best Uses: Apple trees are versatile and can be used as focal points in your landscape or integrated into existing garden beds. Placing them strategically can provide shade, privacy, and visual interest while also allowing you to enjoy homegrown fruit.

Blueberry Bushes (Vaccinium spp.)

Blueberry bushes are not only productive but also boast lovely foliage and delicate flowers, making them a charming addition to Middle Tennessee landscapes. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Description: Blueberry bushes are deciduous shrubs that display beautiful green foliage during the growing season. In spring, they produce small, bell-shaped, white or pink flowers that attract pollinators to your garden. As summer approaches, these bushes yield clusters of sweet and nutritious blueberries;
  • Best Uses: Blueberry bushes can be integrated into your landscape as part of a mixed planting or used as hedges for added privacy and visual appeal. Their attractive appearance, edible fruit, and versatility make them an excellent choice for edible landscaping.

Sustainable Practices

Landscaping in Middle Tennessee can be a rewarding endeavor, but it’s essential to incorporate sustainable practices to ensure the long-term health of your garden. Here are some key sustainable practices to consider:

  • Choosing the Right Plants: Selecting native or drought-resistant plants that thrive in Middle Tennessee’s climate can reduce the need for excessive watering and chemical inputs;
  • Mulching: Mulch helps conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil health. Use organic mulch materials like wood chips or straw;
  • Proper Irrigation: Efficient watering techniques, such as drip irrigation or soaker hoses, can minimize water waste and keep plants adequately hydrated;
  • Soil Health: Conduct soil tests to understand its composition and pH levels. Amend soil with organic matter like compost to improve fertility and drainage;
  • Rain Barrels: Installing rain barrels to collect rainwater can provide a free and sustainable water source for your garden;
  • Composting: Creating a compost pile from kitchen scraps and yard waste can enrich your soil with nutrients and reduce waste sent to landfills.


In the world of gardening, the phrase “right plant, right place” is a guiding principle, especially true in Middle Tennessee’s varied terrain and climate. Selecting the best landscaping plants for Middle Tennessee not only enhances the beauty of your outdoor


What are the best landscaping plants for Middle Tennessee that offer year-round interest?

For year-round interest, consider evergreens like Southern Magnolia or Boxwood, along with perennials such as Coneflowers and Black-Eyed Susans, which have long-lasting blooms and attractive seed heads in winter.

How can I ensure my landscaping plants survive Middle Tennessee’s hot summers?

Choose drought-tolerant plants, such as Daylilies and Marigolds, and implement mulching to retain soil moisture. Additionally, consider setting up a drip irrigation system for efficient watering.

Can I use tropical plants in my Middle Tennessee garden?

Tropical plants can be used in Middle Tennessee landscapes, but they may need to be treated as annuals or moved indoors during the winter months.

Are there any invasive plants I should avoid in my Middle Tennessee landscape?

Yes, it’s crucial to avoid invasive species that can harm local ecosystems. Plants like Chinese Privet and English Ivy should be avoided. Always check with local extension services for a list of invasive species.

What native plants are recommended for Middle Tennessee landscapes?

Native plants such as Dogwood trees, Black-Eyed Susans, and Coneflowers are excellent choices for Middle Tennessee landscapes as they are well-adapted to the local environment and support native wildlife.

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