10 Best Full-Sun Shrubs to Liven Up Your Yard

By Amanda Lutz Updated February 15, 2024

Are you struggling to fill a sunny spot in your garden? Sunny spots can create harsh growing conditions for more sensitive plants, making it tough for gardeners to find something that both looks good and can thrive in these spots. Luckily, there are plenty of excellent options to brighten up your sun-drenched landscaping. Introduce vibrant, full-sun shrubs, and say goodbye to barren, dry patches. Full-sun shrubs can add color, texture, and fragrance to your outdoor space with bright blooms, stunning foliage, and plenty of low-maintenance beauty. Plus, shrubs can create natural shelters that bring more biodiversity to your backyard, and many are great for pollinators.

In this guide, we’ve gathered 10 of our favorite sun-loving shrubs and will share advice on choosing the best one for your backyard. We’ve also included tips and tricks to keep your new plants looking their best. Get ready to transform your sunniest spaces with these 10 hardy, sun-loving shrubs.


What Are Full-Sun Shrubs?

Full-sun shrubs thrive in areas with at least six hours of unfiltered sunlight per day. Most full-sun shrubs are drought-tolerant, meaning they can thrive in dry conditions with only occasional watering. This makes many full-sun plants low-maintenance additions to your backyard.

To determine how much sun your garden receives, consider creating a sun map of your garden. You can do this by quickly sketching your garden and noting the location of any trees, shrubs, flower beds, and hardscaping. Then, observe the space every 30 minutes for about a week, documenting when each area starts and stops receiving full sunlight. It’s best to create your sun map in late spring or early summer, when your trees have all their leaves, as this can obscure much of the direct sunlight your shrubs might enjoy.

The areas of your garden that get direct sunlight most of the day are ideal spots for full-sun shrubs. Many full-sun plants come from tropical and Mediterranean climates, and you may notice that many full-sun plants have spiky, furry, or waxy leaves. These leaves are specially adapted to enduring the sun’s heat.

Benefits of Full-Sun Shrubs

In addition to being low-maintenance and well-suited to sunny spots, full-sun shrubs offer many other benefits, making them a terrific addition to your garden.


Top 10 Full-Sun Shrubs

Are you ready to find the perfect full-sun shrub for your backyard? Here are 10 options you’ll want to explore:

Abelia

Abelias are staples in southern gardens, creating pretty and fragrant hedgerows that grow up to six feet tall. The dense foliage will bloom throughout summer and early autumn with delicate pink, yellow, purple, or white flowers. While the abelia is happy to tolerate full-sun conditions, it does need frequent watering, so it’s best for yards that get a bit of moisture to go along with all that sunshine. Give this deer-resistant shrub an occasional prune in late winter to help it keep its shape. Abelias are best for USDA hardiness zones 4 to 11.

Boxwood

The boxwood is a densely growing evergreen shrub ideal for borders and hedging, and it can grow up to 20 feet tall. While somewhat similar in appearance to the arborvitae, the boxwood lives longer and is better in sunnier, drier spots. You can cultivate your boxwood’s evergreen foliage into a desired shape or let the plant spread to create a privacy screen. There are many varieties, with the Japanese and American boxwood being the most popular for gardens. The boxwood is happiest in well-drained soil, and while it tolerates full sun well, it will look its best if you keep it out of harsh afternoon rays. Boxwood is best for USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9.

Butterfly Bush

Also known as Buddleja or the summer lilac, butterfly bushes are perennials that bloom from early summer through early fall. Their long, spiked clusters of deep purple flowers attract butterflies—giving these pretty full-sun shrubs their name—and hummingbirds. Be careful about where you plant them, though. They can become invasive and crowd out other plants, especially in warmer climates. To keep them contained, routinely deadhead the blooms. Butterfly bushes are best for USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8.

Forsythia

Forsythias are low-maintenance shrubs that bloom in early spring. The bright yellow blooms cover the deciduous plant, making it a welcome sight after the long, gray winter. Some newer varieties have brightly colored foliage and stems, making them a showpiece throughout the year. Plant forsythias in well-drained soil and water them regularly, pruning dead branches after flowering to get the best blooms next year. Forsythias are best for USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9.

Hydrangea

Hydrangeas are a great full-sun option to bring a burst of color to your garden. Hydrangea blooms come in many colors, with pink and white flowers being the most common. Hydrangeas prefer spots with plenty of morning sun and some afternoon shade. While they like frequent moisture, they don’t do well with wet roots, so ensure they are in a spot that drains well. The oakleaf hydrangea is a popular shrub for backyard gardens, bringing conical clusters of white flowers that are also great for cut color arrangements. Hydrangeas are best for USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9.

Lilacs

Lilacs are flowering shrubs known for their dark purple fragrant flowers that appear in early spring and summer. These hardy perennials can grow up to 10 feet tall, making them an excellent option for those looking to add privacy to their sunny spots. Lilacs prefer well-drained soil, and while they can tolerate part-shade, they will produce the best blooms in full sun. Lilacs are best for USDA hardiness zones 2 to 7.

Rose of Sharon

The rose of Sharon is known as the hardier hibiscus. It’s a great full-sun shrub for those struggling to get anything else to grow in their sunniest spots because it can tolerate various growing conditions. The rose of Sharon can handle poor soil, heat, and dry conditions, producing big, frilly white, red, pink, or even blue flowers. Water it thoroughly but infrequently to get the roots to grow deeply, and you’ll have an excellent full-sun, virtually maintenance-free shrub. It’s a great full-sun shrub option for beginning gardeners. The rose of Sharon is best for USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9.

Spirea

Spireas are compact shrubs offering a variety of color combinations, with lacy flowers that range from white to pink to deep red. These hardy plants are also deer-resistant and great for attracting pollinators. Plant them in full sun to enjoy blooms throughout the growing season. Some varieties have brightly-colored foliage that can bring color to your autumn landscaping. Spireas are best for USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9.

Viburnum

Viburnum can thrive under many conditions, from full sun to partial shade. In return for a bit of care, your viburnum shrub will deliver beautiful clusters of pink or white flowers that smell amazing. Viburnum is also pest- and disease-resistant and only needs watering once weekly if your area has a dry spell. Its bright green foliage and height make it a great hedging option for your garden. Viburnum is best for USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8.

Weigela

If you need an ornamental option for your sunny spots, consider weigela. These deciduous shrubs offer clusters of vibrant, trumpet-shaped pink flowers in spring, reblooming more sparsely in late summer. Opt for weigela varieties with gold or bright green leaves for full-sun spots, as these are more tolerant of sunlight. Prune dead branches in early spring before blooms start to form. Weigela is best for USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8.


Care and Maintenance Needs

Most full-sun shrubs are low-maintenance additions to your landscape. With a little care, a healthy shrub should bring color and texture to your garden for years. Here are a few tips to help you keep your shrubs looking their best:

Different varieties of full-sun shrubs have different care requirements. If you aren’t sure how to care for your shrubbery, talk to your local nursery or ask a landscaper for advice. They can help you create a care plan for your shrubbery to ensure you get the best results for your sunny garden areas.


Our Recommendation

A sunny spot in your garden is an excellent opportunity to liven up your landscaping. Choose a few options from this guide, and visit your local nursery to explore the possibilities. Plant your new shrubs according to their care guide, and water them more frequently in the first few years to help them establish a root system. After that, your full-sun shrubs will require little care and reward you with bright green foliage and brilliant blossoms.


Full-Sun Shrubs FAQ

What is the easiest full-sun shrub to maintain?

The rose of Sharon may be the easiest full-sun shrub to maintain. It tolerates heat and drought conditions well, requires little pruning, and is disease- and pest-resistant.

Which full-sun shrubs are best for small gardens?

Butterfly bushes, abelias, and weigelas are all excellent full-sun shrub options for small gardens. You can prune these shrubs to the desired size and produce beautiful flowers.

How often should full-sun shrubs be watered?

You should water full-sun shrubs every week or two while the plant establishes its root system, then taper back on the watering cycle after a few years. Avoid watering them during the rainy season to prevent root rot.

Can full-sun shrubs survive in shade?

Many full-sun shrub types can survive in the shade. Abelia and boxwood shrubs tolerate the shade, and the rose of Sharon is especially well-suited to various growing conditions.

What is the most durable full-sun shrub?

Once established, the boxwood is the most durable full-sun shrub. Boxwoods can live for 30 or more years thanks to their durability in various climates and growing conditions.