Perennials that Grow in Sunny Spots
Perennials that are considered to need full sun require an average of five to six hours of sun a day, although most will settle for less sunlight without making too much of a fuss. Here’s a list of common perennials for your sunny garden spaces:
Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium): The flowerheads are large, flat clusters of tiny daisies on long, straight stems. No winter protection is necessary. It enjoys hot daytime temperatures but prefers cool nights.
Blue star flower (Amsonia tabernaemontana): In the spring, each stem bears a cluster of steely blue, star-shaped flowers, and blue star turns a glowing yellow around the same time the pumpkins are ripening.
Butterfly flower (Asclepias tuberosa): This flower adapts anywhere without complaint. Although unfashionably orange, butterfly flower is quite pretty.
Frikart’s aster (Aster frikartii): This aster produces masses of blue daisies from midsummer until frost. Individual plants are long-lived and carefree.
Tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora): Tickseed blooms regularly deadheaded. Each petal is ragged-edged and arranged around a golden center.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): This plant produces large, purplish daisies with bristly orange centers that butterflies find irresistible. It blooms from early summer to frost.
Queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra): This plant produces masses of pink, cotton-candy plumes in its second season after transplanting.
Blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata): Blanket flowers bloom from spring to fall. Blanket flowers grow anywhere — on sand dunes in Florida to almost the Canadian tundra.
Daylily (Hemerocallis hybrids): Daylilies send up new flowers every day for two to three weeks. Daylilies face the sun, so always place them where you can see their faces.
Gayfeather (Liatris spicata): When in bloom, this attention-grabber looks like a bouquet of rosy purple exclamation points. Cut spikes to the ground when they’re finished flowering to promote additional blooming.
Sea lavender (Limonium latifolium): A delicate haze of tiny lavender flowers dry on their stems and hold up almost indefinitely. It’s equally happy with regular water or very little.
Lupine (Lupinus hybrids): Reliable and easy in cool climates, lupine is finicky elsewhere. This perennial comes in a wide array of colors and two-tones. It blooms for eight to ten weeks if you cut the spent flower stalks back to the basal rosette.
Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica): Maltese cross has brilliant scarlet flowerheads. It’s easy to grow but is usually short-lived. Deadhead routinely to promote continuous blooming and divide clumps every two to three years.
Ozark sundrop (Oenothera macrocarpa): The huge-but-delicate, clear yellow, four-petalled blossoms of Ozark sundrop appear to be twisted from tissue paper. The four-winged papery seedpods are also interesting and are so huge that they don’t appear to come from the same plant. Cut it back to the ground annually in winter, and this plant asks for nothing more.
African daisy (Osteospermum barberae): The flowers (lavender with pink and blue shadings and dark blue centers) on these rugged plants bloom fall through spring, and on and off throughout the summer in coastal or Mediterranean climates. These make good container plants outside of their hardiness range, which is to 20° F (–7° C).
Common beardtongue (Penstemon barbatus): With scarlet tubular flowers on tall, graceful spikes over basal rosettes of shiny green, lance-shaped leaves, common beardtongue is a true hummingbird magnet. All penstemons are short-lived, even in the best of circumstances
Wild sweet William (Phlox carolina): Wild sweet William phlox produces plump clusters of delicate, five-petalled blooms for many weeks. Strong, upright stems support whorls of glossy, narrow leaves. Deadhead finished flowers for reblooming.
Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana): This plant has tubular flowers that are tightly arranged in rows at sharp right angles to one another. Obedient plant can spread very quickly in rich soil, so you may need to divide it annually to control its expansion. The blooms persist for several weeks and are an outstanding cut flower. The seedheads are attractive in winter.
Strawberry cinquefoil (Potentilla nepalensis ‘Miss Willmott’): Cheerful pink flowers with dark centers are borne in loose clusters at the ends of arching stems for most of the summer. Strawberry cinquefoil likes cool nights and dislikes heat combined with humidity. It’s intolerant of wet soil in winter and may be short-lived. In really hot climates, provide afternoon shade.
European pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris): This plant often appears well before tulips and daffodils are up. Large, chalice-shaped purple blossoms open while the foliage is still furry little tufts. The leaves are soft, silky, and finely divided. Pasque flower may cause skin irritation and blistering, so use gloves when handling it.
Orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii): Easy, cheerful, uncomplaining, and long-blooming from midsummer through the first frost, coneflowers grow happily almost anywhere. Deadhead the spent blooms until late in the season and leave the last wave of flowers to dry on the stalks for winter interest.
Violet sage (Salvia nemorosa): Violet sage is a very long-blooming hybrid with spikes of deep purple flowers and wrinkled, grayish green foliage. Sages like any well-drained soil. They aren’t a good choice for hot, humid regions. Very drought tolerant, they require only an infrequent deep soaking to perform well.
Pincushion flower (Scabiosa caucasica): With pincushion flowers, a fluffy center tuft is surrounded by a lacy, ruffled row of petals. The flowers come in many shades of blue, lavender, pink, and white. The leaves are long, narrow, and pointed. The plants bloom for months if you regularly deadhead them. They prefer climates with cool summer nights.
Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’): The individual flowers are small, but they form graceful plumes. In spite of the rumors you may have heard, goldenrod does not cause hay fever.
Rose verbena (Verbena canadensis): Rose verbena forms relaxed, spreading clumps that are attractive to butterflies. Its stems root wherever they touch the ground. Plant it in any well-drained soil; rose verbena rots if it’s kept too wet, but it’s quite drought tolerant.
Spiked speedwell (Veronica spicata): Speedwell comes into its own when most of the perennial garden is having a heat-induced snooze. To keep the plants compact, don’t over-fertilize. Remove the spent flowers for continued blossoming.