The Q&A Archives: Perennials for Southwest Virginia

Question: The back of my house faces southeast and receives strong morning-midafternoon sunlight for approximately 4-5 hours each day. We have a covered porch on the back of our house, which has a 6-7 ft trellis wall beneath it. We wish to plant perennials in front of the trellis that can survive the heat and tough droughts we often get in the summer, and will still be colorful during at least part of the summer, green (ideally) during winter, and will ultimately grow high enough to "hide" the wood trellis (at least partly). We thought about rhododendrons, or maybe a mix of several plants (grasses, etc). Any ideas?

Answer: Here are a few suggestions:

Glossy abelia (up to 6' tall, shiny leaves with small, white flowers; semi-evergreen)
Strawberry shrub (Calycanthus floridus - up to 8' tall; flowers give off spicy fragrance when crushed; leaves give off interesting camphor-like fragrance; rather coarse and open growth habit; deciduous)
Rugosa rose (5 to 6 feet tall, can be pruned to keep in bounds, deciduous)
Wintergreen barberry (Berberis julianae - grows to 6-8', evergreen, yellow flowers in spring, berries in fall)
Drooping lucothoe (L. fontanesiana - evergreen, white flowers in spring; height 4-5')
Leatherleaf viburnum (V. rhytidophyllum - 8-10', evergreen; white flowers in spring, berries in fall)

Rhododendrons might work, but I'd worry about that intense sun; they prefer a more protected site with some shade from the hot, midday sun. Mountain laurel falls into the same category.

A mix of small conifers interplanted with herbaceous perennials like daylilies might also be nice.
I hope this helps you get started.

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