How To Choose Shrubs For Full Sun
Some shrubs are fans of the Beatles song, "Here Comes the Sun." Well, it seems so anyway. They will gladly lift their leaves and soak up all the rays they can. Others are less happy about it, and some prefer to exist in the shade.
Choosing the right plants can be the difference between lush, comfortable, rapidly growing shrubs or sun-scalded, burnt, and even dead plants. We’ll cast a little light on the subject.
What Does Full Sun Mean?
Plant folks generally call six or more hours per day 'full sun'. It could be further refined to say that a plant that enjoys full sun will usually tolerate afternoon sun as well, when the sun is at its most potent and temperatures are typically the hottest.
‘Partial sun’ is usually defined as somewhere between 4-6 hours of sunlight. There is no actual definition. Four hours of afternoon sun might be classified as partial sun, and so might six hours of morning sun.
Plants listed as liking partial sun will generally want a couple hours of protection from the full power of the afternoon rays. Plants that prefer partial shade will benefit from the morning sun but will not enjoy exposure to the post-lunch solar power.
Keep these sun-related needs in mind when choosing shrubs for your property.
Why Are Some Shrubs for Full Sun and Partial Sun?
Often, plants are listed as suitable for full or partial sun. What does that mean? Sun tolerance or need is not an absolute. A plant that thrives in full sun may still do fine in partial sun, especially if exposure is in the afternoon. Growth may be a bit slower or flowering a touch less vigorous, but it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Those who have traveled the country know that the power of the southern sun seems far greater than the weaker rays that reach the ground in the north. Gardeners in the northern part of a given plant's range can and should choose locations with more sun, and those in the south should choose sites with a bit of afternoon relief, all else being equal.
A shrub that is listed as ‘full or partial sun’ might enjoy full sun in Massachusetts but partial sun in Georgia.
Best Full Sun Plants
Take a few moments throughout the weekend and look, at different times of the day, at the locations where you plant to plant. Jot down some notes. When does the site receive sunshine, and when is it in the shade from trees, buildings, or other obstructions?
Think about the time of year as well. The sun is 'lower' in the sky in fall, spring, and winter. Locations that are full or partial sun in June may be partial or full shade in April, September, or December.
Once you have confirmed your planting location's sun status, check out a few of our recommendations below.
Best Full Sun Evergreen Shrubs
Evergreen shrubs are excellent landscaping plants. They continue to provide interest and habitat year-round. Check out our flowering 'Shishi Gashira' camellia for an evergreen, full sun shrub with loads of bright, pink spring flowers.
If you are looking for a larger evergreen shrub, 'Blue Point' juniper is the ticket. A sun-lover, it grows 12 feet tall with a pyramidal shape and all-season bluish green foliage. Truly a winner.
Deciduous Shrubs for Full Sun
'Black Knight' is a beautiful butterfly bush that thrives in full sun. Drought tolerant, it draws butterflies and other pollinators every summer with its radiant deep purple blooms. A mid-sized shrub, it typically reaches 6-8 feet high.
Look to our hydrangea selection for big, showy blooms and gorgeous foliage. Many are full sun to partial sun-loving plants, especially for northern gardeners.
Hardy Ground Cover Plants for Full Sun
'Grey Owl' juniper is an excellent evergreen shrub for creating taller, more wild-looking, or natural groundcover. It will grow in full or partial sun and is outstanding habitat for songbirds.
Full Sun Privacy Plants
New yards and established homes alike can benefit from some privacy screening. 'Sky Pencil' holly is a full sun holly that can be used to create a hedge without taking up a lot of space. It reaches 8-10 feet tall but is only 2-3 feet wide. A row of 'Sky Pencil' hollies is perfect for dividing the front and back yard, screening an unsightly view, or marking a property boundary.
If you love the classic look and neat appearance of boxwoods, our Japanese Boxwood shrub is an excellent full sun choice for an evergreen privacy hedge. They can be kept trimmed and develop into a dense, thick screen.