Looking for low maintenance plants with beautiful flowers that will grow well in full sun (even in the South!)? These full sun perennials are perfect!
However, if you live further south like I do (in South Carolina), it seems like almost anything will grow in part shade, the troublesome areas are actually in full sun. It is just so hot in the summer that many plants don’t do well, even if they are normally deemed to be full sun perennials.
When I started gardening in Canada, it never even crossed my mind that full sun gardening was an issue…until I moved somewhere that it was.
I have had to learn what will (and won’t grow) in the sun in the south. So I thought I would share the perennials I have found that are low maintenance, can take full sun and still look good in the middle of the summer. Keep reading to see what they are.
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
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Zones: 3 – 9
First on my list of full sun perennials is Creeping Phlox or Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata). It is a low-growing ground cover that is easy to grow and looks beautiful at the front of your sunny border. They bloom in the spring and look great with spring bulbs, especially daffodils.
Once it gets going, it will cover the area with pretty white, blue or pink flowers, and looks beautiful with daffodils or tulips growing through it.
Zones: 3 – 9
Catmint (Nepeta) is a compact plant (about 12″ high) with silvery leaves and purple-blue flowers.
It blooms in the mid to late spring and looks beautiful in combination with other flowers (such as the native azalea and Phlox subulata in this picture).
Nepeta faassenii ‘Walkers Low’* via amazon.com
The only word of caution? True to its name, cats do love to roll in it…so the plant may get squished if your neighbourhood kitty stops by (it doesn’t seem to hurt the plant).
Zones: 5 – 9
I love most kinds of roses, however there is only one variety I have grown that I would put in the low maintenance category (and that’s the one that makes my full sun perennials list).
Polyantha roses are an heirloom variety that grows as a thick bush or climbing plant with many 1″ flowers on every stem.
They are disease resistant and easy to maintain (for a rose). Just cut out dead branches to thin out the plant. As a bonus, mine bloom all summer long!
Zones: 5 – 8
Lavender forms dense clumps of blue-green foliage. It is drought tolerant and blooms in early to mid summer with lovely blue/purple, fragrant flower spikes.
Lavender phenomenal* via amazon.com
Lavender can take a year or two to get going. But once it has, it really doesn’t take any work at all. Shear off the flowers when it is finished blooming to keep the plant tidy. It doesn’t even like to be cut back in the spring (doing so can kill it!)
Zones: 4 – 9
Daylilies (Hemerocallis) really are a “plant and forget” flower which is why they are one of favorite full sun perennials.
They generally bloom in late spring and summer, but it can vary depending on the variety.
As the name suggests, each bloom only lasts a day. But as you can see, one plant can grow a lot of buds. Some of the newer varieties also re-bloom.
Zones: 3 – 9
Coneflower (Echinacea) is another easy to grow perennial that blooms pretty much all summer.
There are so many different colors and flower forms that you are sure to find one (or more) that you like.
One note: Echinacea do tend to self seed, so you may need to pull out a few plants if you find them growing where you don’t want them.
Rose Of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
Zones: 5 – 9
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is actually a bush rather than a perennial (but it has such pretty flowers that I had to include it).
It is also easy to care for. Just provide some water if it is dry.
Other than that, it only requires pruning if you want to keep it small or change its shape.
Although there are many varieties of Rose of Sharon available (I have at least 5 of them in my garden!), the Hibiscus ‘Sugar Tip’* is my favorite. It has variegated leaves and really pretty pink flowers.
Zones: 6 – 8
Heather (Erica carnea) is a really easy plant to grow that starts blooming in the winter and continues well into spring.
It creates a dense clump that is about 2 feet high and wide, and adds color to your sun garden at a time when it is really needed!
Zones: 5 – 11
Salvia is another plant that loves the sun…it seems like the more the better for this plant! Plus, they bloom all summer. Especially if you trim them back a little when the blooms start to fade.
Salvia comes in different colors like this fuchsia pink.
Or ‘Black and Blue’ which has deep blue flowers on black stems (and is really easy to grow from seed).
Make sure to read the tags when you are buying Salvias since they have a wide range of growing zones, and some may be considered annuals in your area.
Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia)
Zones: 5 – 9
Ornamental grasses in general do really well in full sun. But my favorite species is this Pink Muhly grass.
Pink Muhly grass* from Amazon
In late summer, it develops airy pink plumes that almost seem to glow in the sun. It’s also not as big or as invasive as some of the other ornamental grasses, which makes it a great border plant.
That’s my list of easy to maintain full sun perennials that will thrive even in the south. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.