Container plants for full sun

Container Plants For Full Sun – Choosing Full Sun Plants For Containers

Container gardens allow plenty of flexibility for gardeners with little to no space, but in the hottest part of the summer, keeping potted plants alive in full sun can be a challenge. This article will give you ideas and information for successful container gardening in full sun.

Growing Container Plants in Full Sun

When you grow plants in full sun, the main threats you’ll need to protect plants from are the drying out and heating of soil and the burning of leaves. Plants in containers are more exposed to the elements than plants in the ground, so drying and heating problems are intensified.

To minimize these problems, be sure to choose a large enough pot that is still proportional to the size of the plant inside. A small pot will dry out and overheat quickly in the hot sun, and you’ll need to water very frequently to keep your plants alive.

Consider the container material as well: unglazed terra cotta pots and coir-lined hanging baskets allow water to evaporate through the porous sides. To prevent leaf burn, be sure all the plants you choose are suitable full sun plants for containers.

For non-desert plants, be sure to water containers thoroughly whenever the soil surface feels dry. This may be every day during the growing season.

Combining Container Plants for Full Sun

One way to help plants conserve water is to make a mixed container garden in a planter. To fill a large pot, combine several plants that have similar growth requirements. Including a plant with broad leaves or a groundcover-like growth habit will shade the soil and help it retain moisture.

To create a beautiful mixed container, combine plants with different sizes and textures and plants with complementary foliage or flower colors. For example, you could include a tall, grass-like plant; a short, flowering plant; and a trailing plant that cascades over the sides. This is also known as a thriller, filler, spiller.

Annual container plants for full sun

Choose heat-tolerant annuals for your full-sun container garden, such as petunias, many Salvia varieties, and annual kitchen herbs. Salvia guaranitica, a spike-shaped plant with dark blue flowers, is an attractive choice.

Once you’ve planted your tall and mid-sized flowers or herbs, add trailing plants like bacopa (Sutera species) or sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) and groundcover-type plants like sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) around the edges of the container.

Perennial potted plants for full sun

Planting a mixed perennial herb garden is a great way to use a full sun container. Many of the Mediterranean herbs do well in this environment. Tarragon, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and many others grow best in full sun and are well suited for containers.

Desert plants, like agave, and heat-tolerant perennial flowers, like lantana, are other good choices.

A spray of an ornamental grass or a grass-like plant makes an attractive addition to a mixed container. Miscanthus species, tall grasses often used as ornamentals, thrive in containers and in full sun. They add a textural contrast to flowers or groundcovers planted at their base. New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), with its tall, spiky foliage in green, red, and copper, is another good choice for containers.

These Water-Wise Container Plants Make It Look Easy (and Make It Look Good)

There are plenty of plants to choose from for water-wise containers — and it’s not just succulents

Kimberly Gomes and Heather Arndt Anderson – April 6, 2015 | Updated December 18, 2019

Going for a water-wise container garden has never been easier — and there’s way more to choose from than just cacti. Herbs, native plants, and wildflowers all make interesting additions to containers, and match well with succulents and other drought-tolerant plants. Since containers and pots tend to dry out quickly in warmer weather, it’s a good idea to give even unthirsty plants a weekly drink, but otherwise, enjoy these low-maintenance lovelies.

Hens and chicks

(Sempervivum spp.)

Easy-going sempervivums look especially beautiful in vertical, pallet planters or tucked tightly in small containers. Fitting for droughty conditions, these perennials grow well with very little moisture. Sprinkle just enough to avoid shriveling.

Rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue’

(Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’)

This Mediterranean culinary herb works well in large containers, needing just sparse amounts of water. Its fragrant, flower-studded branches stretch up to seven feet tall and two feet wide, so be sure to give its woody base plenty of room to grow.

Black-Spined Agave

(Agave macroacantha)

A small blue-gray agave is a welcome thing ― most are much larger. Modest 1½-foot size makes this drought-friendly species useful in containers, on patios, and in borders.

Mangave and Aeonium ‘Sunburst’

Thomas J. Story

(Mangave and Aeonium ‘Sunburst’

Perfect for long-term, drought-tolerant containers, this speckled, hybrid looks gorgeous alongside the bursting Aeonium. The low-growing Mangave grows up to 15 inches wide, while Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ tops out at four feet, leaving sufficient space for groundcover succulents.

Willow Wattle

Thomas J. Story

(Acacia iteaphylla)

Those looking for lush, drought-tolerant shrubs will enjoy willow wattle’s gray-green leaves and yellow seasonal flowers. Container-friendly, it requires little to no water and grows up to twelve feet high and 15 feet wide when untamed. Pair with a trailing wooly bush (Adenanthos drummondii), or an attractive Aeonium arboretum zwartkop.

Barrel Cactus

Thomas J. Story

(Echinocactus grusonii)

Common throughout the Southwest, this cylindrical knob boasts yellow flowers and 2-inch spines. Stretching just 2 ½ feet wide, barrel cacti can be planted liberally in water wise container gardens.

Succulent rosettes

(Echeveria and Graptopetalum)

Craft a petite, tabletop centerpiece with low-maintenance rosettes. Between their shallow roots and lengthy water retention, fleshy succulents also make exceptional balcony buds.

Torch Aloe and Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’

Thomas J. Story

(Aloe arborescens and Sedum rupestre ‘Lemon Coral’)

Both drought-tolerant, aloe and trailing sedum form a colorful, complementary pair. Torch aloe’s 10-foot base casts a tall frame above the sedum’s low-growing, fleshy stems.

Phormium ‘Maori Queen’ and Blue Chalksticks

Thomas J. Story

(Phormium ‘Maori Queen’ and Senecio mandraliscae)

The Phormium’s apricot-colored, evergreen leaves nestle well in small spaces such as water-wise containers shown here. Surround the three-foot high strands with an icy blue succulent for an eccentric, low water combination.

Scarlet Trumpet

Linda Lamb Peters

(Ipomopsis aggregata)

This California native brings a wildflower look to any container. Its vibrant, red flowers grow just over two feet high and 12 inches wide. Known for attracting hummingbirds, this long, slender plant makes a great addition to drought-tolerant designs, as it survives solely on seasonal rainfall.

Copper Spoons

Kalanchoe (left), variegated agave (center), echeveria (right)

(Kalanchoe orgyalis)

Slow to grow, the felt-like, copper succulent takes full sun and moderate water. While it can grow as high as six feet, the water wise option is often at lower heights, dwelling in drought-tolerant containers.

Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’

(Lavandula ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’)

This bird, bee, and butterfly magnet grows up to four feet wide and three feet high. For optimal growth, plant in large containers, and water moderately.

California Poppy

California golden poppy super bloom at Walker Canyon

(Eschscholzia californica)

The official flower of the Golden State, this drought-tolerant, native perennial makes a fine plant for a water-wise container. Its orange, satiny petals often inhabit California mountains, but generally grow just 12 inches high and 1 1/2 feet wide. Ornamental cultivars like ‘Sugared Almonds’ come in a variety of pastels and fire-red hues.

Sedum ‘VooDoo’

(Sedum spurium ‘VooDoo’)

Small, rounded burgundy leaves cover this quick-spreading, low water succulent from the Caucasus. Its tiny, reddish flowers bloom in summer and thrive in small spaces. For drought-tolerant containers, try mixing small, creeping plants like this with taller plants like New Zealand flax for a lush look.

Top 10 Hanging Basket Plants

Top 10 hanging basket plants

There’s nothing quite as captivating in a garden as seeing as a full, cascading hanging basket, overflowing with colour with the flowers catching the sun. Planting up a hanging basket is not as daunting as you may think, we have handy video guides and now we even have our fantastic BloomAround Hanging Basket which actually makes it very easy to create a stunning display!.

Choosing which pre-planted hanging basket plants to display is really down to personal choice of colour, variety and trailing habit, do you want long trailing stems full of blooms that can grow down 60cm or more, or would you prefer a ball of colour hanging outside your front door?

If you’re not sure, here are our top ten basket plants for you to choose from this season:

1. Begonia x tuberhybrida

Instantly recognisable with their large blowsy blooms that hang pendulously from the thick stems, begonia tuberhybrida are one of our most popular basket and bedding plants. They are incredibly easy to grow and will give you a full season of colour. Varieties such as Begonia ‘Apricot Shades Improved’ will trail down over 45cm and will keep on flowering no matter what the weather so that you will always have sunshine shades of apricot and lemon even on the cloudiest of days! Other brightly coloured varieties include Begonia ‘Non-stop Mocca’ with its colourful flowers contrasting beautifully against the dark foliage, or the impressive Begonia ‘Majestic Mixed’ with huge double blooms reaching up to 20cm across!

2. Fuchsias

Exotic looking flowers drip down through the summer from these amazing plants; fuchsias are very tough hanging basket plants that are also semi hardy, so that they can be kept in a frost free place over winter and grow again the following year! Fuchsias are a well known and very popular plant that has been developed from a hardy shrub in beds and borders to wonderful trailing varieties such as Fuchsia ‘Purple Rain’ or Fuchsia ‘White King’ that will fill a basket easily and be smothered in fantastic blooms! If you’re unsure of which particular variety to choose then there’s always our pre-selected mixes, especially the Fuchsia ‘Giant Flowered Collection’ for some really impressive floral displays!

3. Petunias

Petunias have developed hugely in recent years, still available in simple, single colours that look amazing when planted in a single basket and hang down in huge drifts of colour, there are also some fantastic new varieties that really add a huge ‘wow’ factor to your summer displays. Petunia ‘Night Sky’ has become a firm customer favourite, an amazing variety that sports random white “stars” set against a deep purple background, no two flowers are ever the same and planted en masse they create their own galaxy! Two tone petunias are also becoming very popular too, the Petunia ‘Amore’ varieties where two adjoining petals form lovely heart shapes in different colours make a wonderful display, as do the customer favourite, Petunia ‘Frills and Spills Mixed’ with a riot of frilled, picotee and two tone blooms that fill a basket with cascading colour, even in our British summers!

4. Bacopa

Often used as a “filler plant” in mixed displays, Bacopa is a valuable plant in hanging baskets, it is easy to grow and will comfortably trail down well over 45cm, smothered in small blue or white flowers. These dainty looking yet incredibly tough plants are perfect for adding to colour themed baskets Bacopa ‘Snowtopia’ with its pure white blooms or Bacopa ‘Blutopia’ for a blue coloured or mixed display.

5. Lobelia

A full season of amazing colours come from annual lobelia, it cascades over the edge of hanging baskets and patio containers as if it was made for the task! The small flowers appear in such vast numbers on each plant that it can look like a single block of colour from a distance. Single coloured varieties, such as Lobelia ‘Regatta Midnight Blue’ create a dazzling cascade of violet-blue flowers, each with a tiny gleaming white eye while one of the newer varieties, Lobelia ‘Hot Pretty Heaven’ has been bred to keep flowering all through the summer and produces beautiful bi-coloured blooms of pale blue and white even in the hottest of weather!

6. Calibrachoa

A miniature version of the petunia often referred to as ‘minitunia’, these prolific flowering basket plants are becoming more and more popular every year. The long lasting and free flowering plants are just as vigorous as their larger cousins but are absolutely covered in much smaller, dainty flowers. Calibrachoa are tolerant to summer showers and will grow really well in both sun and shade, making them ideal for growing in a duller area of the garden that needs cheering up! Varieties such as ‘Mini Rosebud Romantic Peachy’ will delight you with its delicate flowers of peach and pink, each with contrasting veining and as a bonus, they don’t even need dead-heading, they literally look after themselves! For a true kaleidoscope of colour, try Minitunia ‘Kabloom Mixed’, which as its name suggests, explodes with colour during the summer months!

7. Geraniums (Pelargoniums)

A traditional summer bedding plant that is known by all gardeners, old and new, geraniums are drought tolerant, tough plants that grow well in hanging baskets where sometimes watering is ‘overlooked’. Often seen in their bright red form in varieties such as Geranium ‘Best Red’ F1 Hybrid , these easy to grow plants are now available in a variety of colours and have also been bred to trail well over the side of a hanging basket. Geranium ‘GeRainbow Mixed’ has cascades of colour and larger blooms and look incredible as they fill a hanging basket with bright blooms. The Geranium ‘Rosebud Collection’ will also trail down at least 45cm and are so named because the blooms never fully open and so always seem to look like rosebuds waiting to flower, a wonderful sight indeed!

8. Osteospermum

Osteospermum are naturally drought tolerant which makes them ideal for baskets and pots. Normal African Daisies can also be planted in hanging baskets as their spreading habit will make them spill over the edge of the basket and form more of a ball shape, planting up a basket with the Osteospermum 3D Collection will definitely give you a display of unusual and extremely attractive flowers!

9. Nasturtiums

For a plant that’s incredibly easy to grow from seed and can grow up to 100cm long, then why not try nasturtiums in your baskets? The colour variety is phenomenal from creamy white to deep maroon and loads in between, including some that actually change colour! Whilst some Nasturtiums, such as ‘Dwarf Compact Mixed’ will stay relatively small (although still enough to fill a basket!), others, such as Nasturtium ‘Troika Spotty Dotty’ will hang down over a metre and constantly produce golden yellow blooms with striking red flashes inside. For the truly unusual, try Nasturtium ‘Chameleon’ , whose orchid like blooms change from pale yellow to a pinky-red colour over a few days, it needs to be seen to be believed!

10. Verbena

Colourful displays are guaranteed with Verbena in your hanging baskets. These totally carefree, easy to grow plants, come highly recommended and can provide a stunning mix of shades in both pots and baskets. They tend to have a more compact growing habit and so will form masses of flowers that gently spill over the edge of their container. Verbena ‘Quartz Mixed’ look absolutely fabulous planted up in hanging baskets or for a more patriotic display try our Union Jack Mixed too!

Container gardens are a great way to enjoy amazing color all year long, especially for those who don’t have a lot of gardening space. A basic recipe for building a container garden is to use a Thriller, Filler(s), and Spiller(s) for a well-rounded look. Thrillers are plants that add height and dramatic effect to the container. These are generally placed in the back or center of the container. Fillers have a more rounded form and help fill out the container. Spillers are usually placed near the edge of the container and will hang down over the side. Here are some suggestions for creating your full sun perennial container.

May Night Sage (Thriller)


Full sun, 18 inch plant height, 24 inch flower height, 18 inch spread

May Night Sage features beautiful spikes of indigo flowers rising above the foliage from late spring to early summer. It’s fragrant narrow leaves remain green in color throughout the season. The purple stems are very effective and add winter interest. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage. This is a relatively low maintenance perennial. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard and is not particularly attractive to deer.

Hot Lips Sage (Thriller)

Full to partial sun, 24 inch height, 5 foot spread

Incredible red and white two-toned blooms are borne above the fine green foliage. Hot Lips Sage features beautiful racemes of fragrant white flowers with red overtones rising above the foliage from late summer to mid fall, which are most effective when planted in groupings. The flowers are excellent for cutting.

Coral Sage (Thriller)

Full to partial sun, 30 inch height, 24 inch spread

Brilliant and airy coral flowers are borne above the rich green foliage on this summer and fall blooming perennial. It is hardier than most. Coral Sage features beautiful racemes of coral-pink flowers rising above the foliage from mid summer to mid fall, which emerge from distinctive burgundy flower buds. It’s fragrant narrow leaves remain green in color throughout the year. The burgundy stems can be quite attractive.

Coreopsis (Thriller)

Full sun, 18 inch height, 18 inch spread

Splendid fluted petals with cheery, daisy-like yellow flowers and a central gold disk; tolerant of pests and drier soils; thriving in sandy and rocky soils. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies to your yard without attracting deer. This is a relatively low maintenance perennial and can live up to 10 years.

Beebalm ‘Pardon My’ Selection (Filler)

Full to partial sun, 12 inch height, 10 inch spread

The ‘Pardon My’ selection of Beebalm produces multitudes of striking flowers in mid summer. It is mildew resistant and great for massing in the front of borders. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to your yard, and is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. The Beebalm grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 5 years.

Purrsian Blue Catmint (Filler)

Full to partial sun, 13 inch height, 30 inch spread

Purrsian Blue Catmint features beautiful spikes of lightly-scented powder blue flowers with pink calyces rising above the foliage from early summer to early fall, which are most effective when planted in groupings. It’s small fragrant pointy leaves remain bluish-green in color throughout the season. Catmint will attract butterflies without attracting deer. It is a fast grower and can be expected to last around 10 years.

Scabiosa (Filler)

Full sun, 10 inch plant height, 18 inch flower height, 18 inch spread

Scabiosa features unique flowers at the ends of the stems from late spring to early fall. The flowers are excellent for cutting. It’s deeply cut ferny leaves remain grayish green in color throughout the season. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition. This plant will also attract butterflies and bees without attracting deer. Scabiosa is drought-tolerant and not picky as to soil type or pH. It is also highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments.

Creeping Jenny (Spiller)

Full to partial sun, 4 inch height, 24 inch spread

A spectacular choice, vigorous yet not overly aggressive, with uniquely paired bright golden leaves all season and attractive yellow flowers throughout the summer; almost indestructible. Creeping Jenny can also be used as a colorful groundcover for shady sites. It’s attractive round leaves remain gold in color throughout the season. Creeping Jenny is a fast grower and can be expected to live for approximately 10 years under ideal conditions.

Creeping Thyme (Spiller)

Full sun, 2 inch plant height, 3 inch flower height, 18 inch spread

A highly desirable and popular plant that forms a dense low mat smothered in stunning flowers throughout summer. It has an attractive fine and fragrant foliage throughout the rest of the season. It is not particular to any soil type or pH and is considered to be drought-tolerant. Creeping Thyme will even thrive in inner city environments.

Creeping Phlox (Spiller)

Full sun, 4 inch height, 18 inch spread

Creeping Phlox has stunning star-shaped flowers at the ends of the stems from early to late spring. It’s tiny needle-like leaves remain in color throughout the year and it does not attract deer. Creeping Phlox is drought-tolerant and can live for up to 10 years, even in inner city environments.

Full Sun Plants – Plants And Flowers That Do Well In Direct Sun

Growing plants in full sun, especially within containers, can be challenging unless you choose varieties that are tolerant of these conditions. Many full sun plants are also tolerant of drought and arid conditions, making them ideal for potted environments too. For instance, rosemary is an attractive, heat-tolerant, sun-loving herb that can be grown in areas with full sun as well as containers.

Full Sun Border Plants

Sunny borders are popular locations for flowers that do well in direct sun. When choosing plants for areas with full sun, it’s generally better to stick with native plantings whenever possible. These plants are well suited to your particular area and climate, giving them the best chance for success. However, you can also select plants that share similar growing conditions according to your site such as soil type, light and water requirements.

Some good full sun border plants that are well suited to most areas include:

  • yarrow
  • shasta daisy
  • coreopsis
  • purple coneflower
  • blanket flower
  • Russian sage
  • butterfly weed
  • lavender
  • sedum
  • daylily
  • verbena
  • bee balm
  • aster
  • lamb’s ear

Favorite Full Sun Perennials

There are many perennials that thrive in full sun and dry, arid conditions. Many of these can be grown in containers and most perennials are low maintenance too. To get the most from your perennials, match their growing needs to that of your area, especially if growing in pots, which will require drought tolerant plants.

Some of the most common choices for full sun perennials in containers are:

  • hens and chicks (sempervivium)
  • lamb’s ear
  • miniature roses
  • artemisia
  • lavender
  • dianthus
  • hibiscus
  • coneflower
  • shasta daisy

Annual Flowers That Do Well in Direct Sun

Many annuals make great choices for sunny areas and container plants. They are also excellent for filling in gaps within sunny borders. Most full sun annuals are accustomed to drought-like conditions, which make them good candidates for these types of areas.

Suitable annuals to grow in pots or sunny borders include:

  • petunia
  • ageratum
  • salvia
  • moss rose
  • sunflower
  • zinnia
  • marigold
  • geranium
  • coleus

Full sun plants don’t have to be worrisome. As long as you choose the ones that thrive in your area and are heat and drought tolerant, you should be rewarded with beautiful flowers and foliage. For seasonal interest within your containers, try planting different types that will bloom at various times so there is always something in flower.

Full Sun Container Garden

Great gardens come in small packages. Our Container Gardening Kits are available for Full Sun, Partial Shade and Full Shade locations. These are designed for containers at least 16 inches and up to 30 inches in diameter.

This garden is designed for full sun in most climates, but can be grown in partial shade in very warm areas.

These are “build-your-own” Kits – you choose one Thriller, one Spiller and one or more Fillers to get the color and effect you are looking for, confident the combinations will work together.

Pick one Thriller, one Spiller and one Filler:

  • A Thriller plant is the central focus of the container, the “wow” plant
  • The Spiller is a plant with relaxed or trailing foliage that softens the look
  • Filler plants complement but don’t dominate their groupings

You can arrange the plants as you choose, depending on the placement of your container and from what direction it will be seen. Generally, place the Thriller in the center or rear, with the Spillers near the edge. Filler plants are used to give body to the container, and generally extend the blooming period as well.

Our Container Gardening Kits give you a discount, which makes them less expensive than plants purchased individually. Whether your outdoor growing space is spacious or as limited as a balcony, container gardens add color, fragrance, form and small wildlife habitat to your environment.

Overall, FBTS Container Gardening Kits are excellent shortcuts to planning potted gardens. They are starting points around which you may choose to add other planters to grace your surroundings.

Looking for more information?
Visit the Container Gardening section of our Everything Salvias blog for articles about growing Salvias in pots.
Note: All of our Container Gardens are designed to bloom and flourish for one season. For best results they must be refreshed and replanted for the second year and beyond.

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