Here are our Top 9 picks for full sun plants for Southern gardens:
- Best Plants for Full-Sun Southern Gardens
- 1. Bulbine (Zones 8-11)
- 2. Coneflower (Zones 3-9)
- 3. Cosmos (Zone 3-10)
- 4. Lantana (Zones 3-11)
- 5. Pavonia (Zones 8-11)
- 6. Salvia (Zones 3-11)
- 7. Trumpet Vine (Zones 4-9)
- 8. Verbena (Zones 7-11)
- 9. Yarrow (Zones 3-9)
- Tough Beauties
- Drought Tolerant Perennials
- Drought Tolerant Plants
- Yarrow (Achillea) Zones 3-8
- Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) Zones 3-8
- Russian Sage (Perovskia) Zones 4-9
- Ornamental Grass
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) Zones 5-9
- Coreopsis (Verticillata) Zones 3-9
- Beardtongue (Penstemon) Zones 5-9
- Stonecrop (Sedum) Zones 4-9
- Wormwood (Artemisia) Zones 4-9
- Wand Flower (Gaura) Zones 5-9
- Growing Wildflowers In Zone 10 – What Are The Best Hot Weather Wildflowers
- Annual Wildflowers for Zone 10
- Perennial Hot Weather Wildflowers
- Tips on Growing Wildflowers
Best Plants for Full-Sun Southern Gardens
- Trumpet Vine
1. Bulbine (Zones 8-11)
Photo by Gretchen Heber.
Be still my heart. How I love you, bulbine — your tall, slender, onion-like leaves, your succulent-ish self with your long, elegant, and intricate yellow or orange flower spikes!
Bulbine frutescens is a perennial, but it has trouble withstanding anything more than a light frost. While my love is endearing, I am occasionally heartbroken when the odd deep freeze in my zone 8b Austin steals my dear bulbine away.
Bulbine Live Plants, available on Amazon
But so lovely is it that, come springtime, I happily the trek to the nursery for new loves to replace the old.
Like the other plants on our list, bulbine is heat and drought tolerant, basking in the sun for hours with nary a complaint. Its clumping form gets about 18 inches tall and can spread to about 3 feet.
Whether you get rain only every few weeks or enjoy a daily afternoon sprinkle, bulbine will still perform beautifully. It will even tolerate a little shade, though bloom production may be reduced.
2. Coneflower (Zones 3-9)
This is another one we’ve delved into thoroughly, in this article.
But let’s have another quick look at coneflower (Echinacea), to refresh our heat-addled memories:
Purple Coneflower Seeds, available on Amazon
Native to the North American plains, many varieties of plant have found a beloved home in America’s more southern climes, where they withstand sun and heat with aplomb.
Purple coneflower, in particular, stands up to Southern sun the way a duck feather withstands water. And speaking of water, puh-lease. Southern coneflowers are the camels of the garden, able to go long spells without a drink.
Masses of large, daisy-like flowers top tall stems that typically reach about 18 inches.
Questions? Lean more about growing coneflower and Echinacea.
3. Cosmos (Zone 3-10)
Another hardy summer performer, cosmos delight with masses of colorful flowers in a wide range of hues well into fall.
Hot, dry conditions are best for this beauty, and they can be grown as perennials in zones 9 and 10. Don’t try to spoil them with special soil — it’s not their thing, and they often thrive on neglect. Avoid overwatering them as well.
‘Gloria’ Cosmos Seeds, available on Amazon
They look best in mass plantings, and they’re usually started from seeds, though you may find starts at a nursery.
Dwarf varieties do nicely in containers, and keep in mind that cosmos of all types reseed generously.
Cosmos makes a nice cut flower for arrangements, too.
Learn more about growing cosmos here.
4. Lantana (Zones 3-11)
Photo by Gretchen Heber.
Considered an invasive pest by some, lantana is nonetheless a go-to space filler for Southern gardeners looking for something that can withstand punishing heat.
Sprawling, shrubby plants, they are characterized by their attractive clusters of flowers in a variety of colors, including, yellow, purple, pink, white, and red. In fact, with more than 150 cultivars to choose from, it’s easy to find one that will fit your palette.
‘Bandana Cherry’ Lantana, available from Nature Hills
In Austin, my lantanas go to the ground over winter and come roaring back in mid-spring. Further south, they will remain evergreen. Annual plants in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8, they can be grown as perennials in zones 9-11.
These durable plants thrive in the sun, and are drought tolerant. They can go weeks without supplemental watering, continuing to display their cheerful blooms the whole time.
5. Pavonia (Zones 8-11)
Photo by Gretchen Heber.
Commonly called pavonia or rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala is happy to produce masses of sweet and simple bright pink flowers all summer long.
Each flower lasts just a day, but there are always plenty more on deck, ready to take over. Similar in appearance to hibiscus, it comes from the same plant family but is native to North America.
This perennial shrub is woody at its base and herbaceous up top, growing to 2 to 4 feet tall and about as wide.
Photo by Gretchen Heber.
Tough as a hungry hyena, rock rose withstands intense sun, drought, and general neglect. Ours get no supplemental water and no fertilizer, and yet they reward copiously with lovely little flowers.
Keep pavonia compact and leafy with frequent prunings; its naturally loose, open-branched form can get leggy and punctuated by deadwood without some occasional snips here and there.
While a plant may live only three to six years, it happily reseeds itself quite liberally, so once established, there’s no need to fear a shortage of rock rose.
6. Salvia (Zones 3-11)
We gave you a full report on this heat-tolerant beauty in this article, but here’s a quick reminder of why this plant should be in every Southern garden:
Let’s start with the fact that it’s just beautiful. With flowers in a multitude of colors, and blooms that just don’t quit from spring to fall, salvia is a reliable, months-long performer. And the blooms are excellent for attracting pollinators, like butterflies and hummingbirds.
S. farinacea ‘Evolution,’ available from Nature Hills Nursery
Now, it’s important that you select the right cultivar for your area and growing conditions. In a testament to its versatility, salvia includes some types that prefer shade, and others that are happy in a full-sun blast furnace.
Some can take the drought conditions of Texas while others appreciate the daily sprinklings common to other areas of the South.
And there are also varieties will remain evergreen over winter, while others will die back and flourish again come springtime.
7. Trumpet Vine (Zones 4-9)
If you’re looking for a full sun, heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant, flowering vine, consider trumpet vine, also known as trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans).
Often confused with honeysuckle by non-gardeners, trumpet creepers are native to the southeastern United States, it can grow to a total height of 25-40 feet, with a spread of 5-10 feet for each vine.
This plant isn’t picky about soil types, doesn’t need to be fertilized, and while it does fine with little water, it’s happy in areas that are soggier, too. The trumpet-shaped blossoms are excellent for attracting hummingbirds.
After its bloom period, it goes into overdrive growth mode, covering fences and trellises quickly. Since these vines can grow to be so big and spread so eagerly, be sure to provide them with a sturdy structure to grow on.
Bare Root Trumpet Creeper Plants, available from Nature Hills
Flowers blooms on new growth. Incidentally, this plant will do okay in partial shade, though it won’t produce as many flowers as it will in full sun.
Prune at will if it gets carried away with its rather aggressive growth habit.
8. Verbena (Zones 7-11)
In the same family as lantana, this flowering groundcover is equally tough, refusing to cave in even the most brutal summer conditions. In fact, verbena really must have eight to 10 hours of full sun each day to do well.
This plant is happy in ordinary soil, as long as it is well-draining. The plant does appreciate a monthly application of a slow-release, complete fertilizer such as 19-5-9.
Verbena ‘Superbena Dark Blue,’ available from Nature Hills
Like its cousin, verbena blooms seemingly endlessly in a rainbow of colors, especially if given a haircut two or three times each season, including a fall cut back.
Sprawling to 4 feet but only getting 8 to 10 inches tall, verbena also makes an attractive container plant.
Find out more about verbena now!
9. Yarrow (Zones 3-9)
I remember being tickled a few years back when I was helping my Aunt Karen make floral arrangements for my cousin’s wedding. One of the flowers she had purchased at a flower market in downtown Denver was yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
“I grow these in my garden at home in Austin!” I joyously exclaimed, happy to recognize one of the blooms among the many unfamiliar blossoms more typical of flower arrangements.
Yarrow ‘Moonshine,’ available from Nature Hills
A perennial, yarrow begins its long bloom period in late spring, after reaching heights of 2 to 4 feet. Its tiny yellow, pink, red, or white flowers form attractive clusters atop stalks with feathery leaves.
Yarrow ‘Paprika,’ available from Nature Hills
And while yarrow will take all the heat and sun Southern gardens must withstand, keep in mind that this plant can take two years to become fully established and start blooming. Don’t expect much from it in its first year, but revel in its beauty once it’s firmly a part of your landscape.
Still have questions? Read our detailed guide to growing yarrow.
Southerners, is your spade itching? If you don’t have every one of these beauties in your landscape, get them ordered and start planning where you’ll plant them.
Photo by Gretchen Heber.
No wimpy, melting, water-hogging pansies for us, thank you. We need plants that face the sun, heat, and drought with an emphatic, “Bring it on!”
Looking for more perennial flower suggestions? Try these:
- 17 Temperate Flowering Perennials That Will Grow Almost Anywhere
- Perennials for Butterfly Gardens
- Choosing the Perfect Flowering Perennials: 5 for Your Shade Garden
- 15 Flowering Ground Covers to Meet Landscaping Challenges
Do you agree with our list? It’s a bit Texas-heavy, of course, so if you’re a Southerner, please share other favorites in the comments section below.
No matter where you live, being water wise is the smart way to garden. And if you live in drought stricken or prone areas, it’s a must. While I love a gorgeous hydrangea, and roses are amazing, there are plenty of flowering drought resistant plants that don’t suck down our water resources. These ten no fail drought tolerant perennials for low water gardens fit the bill, are gorgeous as stand alone plants, and come back every year! (Remember, perennials may die back to their roots in a cold winter, but they come back in the spring).
Drought Tolerant Perennials
Here at TGG, we have a high desert garden, so we have either grown most of these drought tolerant perennials ourselves, or have had direct experience with them. So watch for our tips throughout this article to help them look their best, and grow to their potential! These plants can be grown in most areas of the U.S. Here is some inspiration to get you started, the our top plant picks! Photo below shows red Penstemon, Russian Sage and ornamental grasses. By ‘Creative Landscapes‘.
This photo by ‘BHG‘ shows yellow Yarrow and purple Coneflower in the foreground, with blue Russian Sage in the back.
Drought Tolerant Plants
Yarrow (Achillea) Zones 3-8
Yarrow has long been one of our fav drought tolerant plants because of its strong architectural feel, long bloom time, low water needs and attractive, feathery foliage. There are many varieties, including ones in pink, red, coral and white, but our favorite is still the bold yellow “Coronation Gold’. Grows to 3 feet, is a great cut and dried flower, and brightens up any garden. Blooms all summer, full sun. Very easy to grow.
Photo by ‘BHG‘.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) Zones 3-8
Purple Coneflower has gone from being a wildflower grown in natural gardens, to one of the most popular perennials around thanks to some amazing new hybrids. Minis from one foot all the way up to four foot tall varieties exist, in every color from purple to white to green, and every sunset color in between. They generally bloom from mid summer through fall, though some start as early as June. Full sun. Butterflies and birds love them! Great cut flower. There are too many varieties to choose a favorite, so we will do our best by first recommending a dwarf variety from ‘Burpee’, “Pow Wow White“. This variety is smaller at 18 inches, can be used in garden bed or containers, and has the most incredible pure white color, perfect for the vase!
We also love this large, free flowering variety called “Sombrero Baja Burgundy“. This variety grows to 2 feet, flowers all summer and makes one of the best cut flowers. Extremely heat resistant! This is a butterfly magnet too! You can find other coneflower varieties at ‘Burpee‘ too.
TGG Tip: Cut back old flowers a couple times a week, and you will be rewarded with many more blooms and a neater plant.
Russian Sage (Perovskia) Zones 4-9
We love Russian Sage and grow it quite prolifically in our gardens, and it is a tough, beautiful blue plant that should be a backbone of any drought tolerant landscaping. However, take note of the word “prolific”. The species can get quite large, quite fast, and you might find yourself cutting it back more often than you would like. (Which should be done in later fall, to within 1 foot of the ground). However, this dwarf variety “Peek-a Blue” lets you have all the advantages of this plant, with a little less of the only downside. Looks amazing next to Black Eyed Susan or with yellow Yarrow. Full sun, to mostly sunny. Blooms mid summer through fall.
TGG Tip: If you do get your hands on the larger version, and find that it it too big by mid summer, we found that if you cut it back by two thirds, it will quickly rebound and give you another bloom flush by late summer.
Ornamental grasses vary a lot, from thirsty sedges to drought tolerant fountain grass. Our pick for today is a fountain grass (Pennisetum) “Hameln”. Well behaved and neatly mounded with fine strappy foliage, this grass grows to 2 feet and sends up stalks of white plumes in early-mid summer. This drought tolerant perennial grass is an easy grower in full sun, and loves a hot, dry spot. This variety does not reseed. Zones 5-9. What’s not to love!
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) Zones 5-9
Ok, a lot of you are going to write us and tell us how this plant is a devil plant, sent to clog the streams and invade the ecosystem. First of all, if any plant is invasive to the point of being a danger to your community, obviously, don’t plant it. But for many areas, especially more arid ones in the west, butterfly bush is an amazing landscape plant that can offer substantial size and bloom in just one season. The butterflies and hummingbirds love it, and it’s GORG in bloom. And it is an important source of nectar. Check out this rant on the controversy from, well, ‘Garden Rant‘! So step one, check with your local nursery to find out if its a pest in your area. Then, make sure you plant a cultivar, not the species. You can even cut back the flowers before they go to seed to prevent spreading. Our choice? We love “Miss Molly” for its almost red blooms.
TGG Tip: These grow to 6 feet, but in late winter, they need to be cut back to 1-2 feet from the ground, Trust me, by June, you will never know, and it will repay you with a healthier plant with better blooms.
Coreopsis (Verticillata) Zones 3-9
Coreopsis is a happy and sunny daisy like flower for the garden, fine with hot, dry spots and blooming from spring through fall. Though several cultivars exist, including a pink one, we love “Early Sunrise” for it’s bright yellow, double blooms. Full sun to part sun, 18 inches tall. Deer resistant too! This one has a special place in my heart! It was the very first perennial I ever grew, and the amount of flowers you get is amazing.
TGG Tip: Instead of having to deadhead the old blooms one at a time, coreopsis will take a shearing back of one third of the plant with garden shears, then will quickly rebloom.
Beardtongue (Penstemon) Zones 5-9
Penstemon is a native wildflower, available in many cultivars in red, blues and pinks. A tubular flower over semi evergreen foliage makes this a winner in the drouth resistant garden, and has won its share of coveted awards as well. Full to part sun, it likes well drained soil, and blooms all summer long. 18 inches to 2 1/2 feet high depending on variety, you will find hummingbirds can’t resist this beauty! Our favorite is “Carillo Red“. We’re guessing you didn’t realize there were so many gorgeous perennials for low water landscaping, right?
Stonecrop (Sedum) Zones 4-9
Sedum is a drought tolerant perennial with fleshy leaves that tolerates low water landscaping well, and their flowers are star shaped beauties that cover the plants late summer through fall. There are two basic types, creeping sedums that make amazing ground covers, and upright sedums that are perfect garden plants to bring some freshness to the late summer garden. Upright varieties can remain well into early winter for four season interest, and the birds love them! Full sun to part sun. Our favorite creeping variety is “Angelina”, which is a fresh green to yellow green, and has pretty yellowish flowers mid summer. Four inches high, this stuff spreads, but in a good way. Easy to pull out if is plants itself in unwanted areas, this delicate looking but tough as nails plant quickly makes a garden look established or covers bare ground. Our upright choice is the old favorite “Autumn Joy”with a flat pink flowerhead, it grows to 2 feet. The flowers slowly turn to rust as the season progresses, and this looks amazing with ornamental grasses in the fall.
Wormwood (Artemisia) Zones 4-9
Wormwood is one of those near perfect drought resistant plants, though its grown mainly for its foliage. Its tolerant of low water, poor soil and high humidity. Wormwood’s ferny, grayish green leaves are the perfect backdrop for any flowering plant. Once established, needs very little additional water, and very pest resistant. Full sun to part shade, we love “Powis Castle” that grows into a mound to 3 feet high and wide. Aromatic.
TGG Tip: Flower stalks are insignificant, cut off any that appear. Photo from ‘Knibb Design‘.
Wand Flower (Gaura) Zones 5-9
Gaura is one of our new favorite drought tolerant perennials, being used in our high desert area in high end gardens as elegant yet modern pops of color. Wand flower is aptly named, as these butterfly shaped flowers are held up to 3 feet high on long wand like stems all summer. Needs good winter drainage. Puts down a tap root, so make sure you are happy with their placement before they get established. “Whirling Butterflies” is a mostly white variety with a touch of red on the sepal, but we love “Siskiyou Pink” and “RosyJane” as well! Full sun to mostly sunny, the hummingbirds and butterflies love these drought resistant plants!
Can’t find a way to make a garden gorgeous with these drought tolerant perennials for low water gardens? Then we can’t help you! Do you have a favorite low water garden plant you want to share? Comment! And then check out our posts on How to Grow Lavender Like the French or How to Grow a Wildflower Garden.
Image Credits: Bluestone, Creative Landscapes, BHG, BHG, Bluestone, Wayside, White Flower Farm, Knibb Design, Bluestone
Growing Wildflowers In Zone 10 – What Are The Best Hot Weather Wildflowers
Flower lovers who live in USDA zone 10 are extremely lucky because most plants need warmth and sun to produce copious blooms. While the number of species possible in the region are extensive, some flowering plants, especially perennials, prefer cooler temperatures and exposure to sustained winter cooling to promote blooming. When choosing zone 10 wildflowers, opt for those that are native to the region if possible. These indigenous plants will be well adapted to the local conditions and most likely to perform beautifully without much intervention. We will walk you through some of the most popular and gorgeous selections of wildflowers in zone 10.
Annual Wildflowers for Zone 10
Few things are as spectacular as a field or bed or hot weather wildflowers. If you are an urban gardener and don’t have the opportunity to see a native pasture or hillside taken over by these colorful beauties, you can still select species that will fit into your landscape and provide the eye-popping color of a wildflower oasis.
Annuals often start beautifully from
seed and can be found already blooming in the season in which they should be planted. Often some of the earliest flowering plants, annuals can help attract pollinating insects to the garden. As busy bees and beautiful butterflies feed off the flower’s nectar, they also pollinate, enhancing flower, fruit and vegetable production in the landscape.
Some wonderful annual zone 10 wildflowers to try might be:
- African daisy
- Baby’s breath
- California poppy
- Indian blanket
- Rocky Mountain bee plant
- Baby blue eyes
- Farewell to spring
Perennial Hot Weather Wildflowers
Zone 10 gardeners are in for a treat when they start selecting wildflowers. The ample sun and warm temperatures of these regions are perfect for flowering plants. You may want ground hugging plants like pussytoes or statuesque beauties like goldenrod. There is a wide variety of sizes and colors from which to choose in zone 10.
These plants will also attract pollinators and beneficial insects, and most bloom from late spring until the end of summer and beyond, while some will bloom almost year round. Some selections for perennial wildflowers in zone 10 include:
- Siberian wallflower
- Ox-eye daisy
- Purple coneflower
- Mexican hat
- Blue flax
- Gloriosa daisy
- Slender cinquefoil
- Common yarrow
Tips on Growing Wildflowers
Selection of flowering plants begins with evaluation of the site. Full sun locations are usually best, but some plants prefer at least some shade during the day. Most wildflowers need well-draining soil with average fertility. Enhance drainage and nutrient density by mixing compost into the garden bed.
For plants that are directly sown in the garden, choosing the right time is also important. In warmer regions like zone 10, plants can be sown in fall and, in some cases, spring. Use seeds sourced from reputable dealers and starts from knowledgeable nurseries.
As with any plant, give your wildflowers a good start and prevent weed and insect pests, and they will provide easy-care beauty and seasons of interest.