An Introduction to Native Plants for SC Landscapes

Native plants have evolved in place over time; therefore, these plants tend to be hardy and well-adapted in the residential or commercial landscape. In many cases, established native plants can grow with little to no fertilizer and pesticides, and may require little to no irrigation. In this way, native plants generally help protect water resources, allowing gardeners to reduce fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation practices which otherwise can contribute to stormwater runoff pollution and degradation of downstream water quality.

As always, selecting the right plant for the right place is important. Choosing a plant that is appropriate for the local climate, precipitation, soil, and sun exposure will increase the likelihood of plant survival. Learn more about soil preparation and selecting the right plant for the right place by visiting the Clemson Extension Carolina Yards resource page.

South Carolina is home to diverse geographical regions including the Blue Ridge, Piedmont, Sandhills and Coastal Plain. Each region is home to a unique landscape. Knowing which region, including temperature ranges, soil types and rainfall patterns, helps people to select plants that will grow and prosper.

Native, Naturalized & Invasive Species

  • Native: A species that was growing in the region before European settlement; this plant may have been introduced by forces of nature, animals or even humans but is capable of living and reproducing on its own (Mellichamp, 2014).
  • Naturalized: Plants that are thoroughly established, yet not native, and have not caused extensive damage or spread. In South Carolina, examples include crape myrtle and camellia species (Porcher and Rayner, 2001).
  • Invasive: Plants that have been introduced to an area and have established a breeding population, which spreads to the extent that agriculture or native plant communities are damaged. Examples include kudzu, Chinese privet, Chinese tallow, Japanese honeysuckle and multiflora rose (Bodner, 2009).

The environmental benefits of using and protecting native plants in landscapes are significant and include:

  • Water Conservation – once established, if a native plant is the right plant for the right place, then little to no irrigation will be required.
  • Water Quality – reduced pollution in stormwater runoff as often times little to no fertilizers and pesticides are needed once native plants are established.
  • Biodiversity – increasing native pollinator and songbird habitat and wildlife value (Tallamy, 2012).
  • Sense of Place – Native plants are regional plants that reflect the natural landscape & heritage of an area; thus landscaping with native plants helps to identify a “place” (Mellichamp, 2014).

Highlights of South Carolina Native Plants

The following native plants can be found throughout South Carolina and will thrive in appropriate growing conditions, as recommended below.

Outcompeting Native Plants: Common Invasive Species in South Carolina

Additional Resources

Need help selecting the right plant for you? The Clemson Extension Carolina Yards Program can help! Visit the Carolina Yards plant database to select plants based on region, soil, sun, stormwater best management practice and more.

The South Carolina Native Plant Society is a statewide organization with active chapters that meet throughout the state. Find out about a plant sale, field trip or other native plant events near you! Learn more at

Originally published 04/15

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at or 1-888-656-9988.

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