Full Sun Perennials: 10 Beautiful Low Maintenance Plants That Thrive In The Sun

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!

Full Sun Perennials

Lately we’ve been doing a series on perennials that will do well in the shade and part shade.

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)

Phlox subulata 'Candy Stripe'
Phlox subulata ‘Candy Stripe’

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.

Phlox Subulata 'Emerald Blue'
Phlox Subulata ‘Emerald Blue’

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.

Catmint (Nepeta)

Catmint with Phlox subulata and native azaleas
Catmint with Phlox subulata and native azaleas

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).

Polyantha Roses

Polyantha Rose 'Gabrielle Privat'
Polyantha Rose ‘Gabrielle Privat’

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.

Polantha rose
Polantha rose

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!

Lavender

Lavender
Lavender

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'

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!)

Daylily (Hemerocallis)

Day Lilies
Day Lilies

Zones: 4 – 9

Daylilies (Hemerocallisreally 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.

Coneflower (Echinacea)

Echinacea 'Razzmatazz'
Echinacea ‘Razzmatazz’

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.

Echinacea pallida
Echinacea pallida

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)

Hibiscus "Sugar Tip"
Hibiscus “Sugar Tip”

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).

Hibiscus syriacus "Lil Kim"
Hibiscus syriacus “Lil Kim”

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.

Hibiscus ‘Sugar Tip’*

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.

Winter Heath

Full Sun Perennials: 10 Beautiful Low Maintenance Plants That Thrive In The Sun

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!

Salvia

Salvia
Salvia

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.

Salvia 'Black and Blue'
Salvia ‘Black and Blue’

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)

Pink Muhly Grass
Pink Muhly Grass

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.

Buy These Full Sun Perennials

Do you have other suggestions for full sun perennials?  Tell us in the section below.

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Full Sun Perennials: 10 Beautiful Low Maintenance Plants That Thrive In The Sun
Full Sun Perennials: 10 Beautiful Low Maintenance Plants That Thrive In The Sun
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23 Responses

    • Thanks, Sherri! I’ve had good luck with butterfly bush, too…but haven’t tried bearded irises. I’ll have to find a spot for them 🙂

  • Upright stonecrop sedum is a wonderful low maintenance plant. The bees love it and the deer leave it alone. My favorite variety is Autumn Fire. I leave the plants intact over the winter to provide winter interest. Clip the stalks at the base in the spring to make way for the new growth. That’s it!

    • Thanks, Sandy! That’s a great suggestion! I have one of those in my garden, too, and didn’t think to include it on the list 🙂

  • The wax begonias grew in full sun for me last year to record heights an fullness. Very strange considering it’s a partial shade plant. Have had difficulty growing in that area because of the full sun. So I’ll go for the for sure thing this year BEGONIAS who knew.

    • Thanks, Chas! I would not have thought to try begonias in full sun. I’ll have to plant a few this year and see how they do 🙂

    • Hi Lillian…I think Coneflower (Echinacea), Salvia and Daylilies should all do well in your dry heat…but I haven’t lived in that area of the country so I don’t have any personal experience with what grows well in Phoenix. I found this Plants List from an Arizona landscaper that has a lot more options you might want to try.

    • Hi Mary…That’s a tough one 🙂 I’m not sure what zone you are in, but here’s a few possibilities: If you’re in zones 9 or 10, Garvinea Gerbera daisies and Pentas are long-blooming and fairly low maintenance. Romeo Cleyera doesn’t bloom but it’s evergreen and has really pretty variegated leaves (Zones 7 – 10). Ornamental grasses are another option for many areas. Dwarf versions of blue spruce do pretty well in pots in cooler zones. As do Arctic Fire and Arctic Sun dogwoods…they are not evergreen but their stems are really brightly colored red or yellow so they look good even in the winter. Hopefully that helps!

  • Golden oregano is a great ground cover for a hot area. It goes green in winter but becomes a lovely warm yellow in summer.
    Californian poppies are one of my favourites too, here in Western Australia.

    I like that you mention seasons rather than months in your comments. We in the southern hemisphere have similar climate conditions but everything happens in different months.
    I wish more gardening enthusiasts in the northern hemisphere would follow your lead and remember that we also love to garden down here.
    Thanks for an interesting site.

    • Hi Marie…thanks for the plant suggestions! I’ll have to see if I can find some golden oregano…it could be useful in some parts of my yard!
      Having lived (and gardened) in both Canada and the southern U.S., I find months don’t apply very well even in the same continent. In my South Carolina garden, the daffodils come up in February…in Toronto, everything is still covered in snow at that time, so I try to use seasons. I’m happy to hear you find it helpful 🙂

  • I live in the Ozarks in a 2 bedroom apartment. I love flowers/gardening but have a small yard. I have roses (3 bushes) 2 peonies 1 hydrangea and 2 lilac bushes. I have 5 pots on plantstands and 4 hanging planters all in full sun. Will the flowers in this post grow as well in pots as they would in the ground? Also. I have 6 large round (about 36 inches diameter) pots I have tried (unsuccessfully) to start in 2 of the pots tiger lilies tulips and irises. Is there a special type of buld or soil I need to use? I am 70years old divorced and on a fixed income. I have questions too about why some of my other plants won’t bloom. But that may wait for another day. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Jeannie…Many of these flowers will do fine in pots. I have grown the Creeping Phlox, Catmint, Coneflower and Salvia in containers without any problems. I’m not sure how the roses and Rose of Sharon would do, but I think all of the others should be fine. For large pots like yours, I usually mix half potting soil and half garden soil. The potting soil helps to hold the moisture, and the garden soil helps to keep more of the nutrients in. The only other thing about pots is that I usually fertilize them more than I would plants in the ground, either with Miracle Gro fertilizer that you mix with water or Osmocote fertilizer pellets that you just sprinkle on the soil. (Neither is very expensive). Hope that helps!

  • Hi Jeannie, I’m in LA (lower Alabama)lol and one of my best ground covers is Lantana. I live out in the country so I have large flower beds that often become snacks and nests for wild animals. I don’t even know what kind of animals are nestled in at night but some are brave enough to be right at our front door. The Lantana doesn’t break easily and they don’t eat it. It covers a large area, and it comes back every year.

  • I have enjoyed Shasta Daisy in a full sun flower bed that is around a tree. Doesn’t seem to take much water other than what it gets from the sprinklers that water the grass. If I dead head it, it just keeps blooming.

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