10 Best Perennials for Sun

'Batik German' iris with its bicolored purple and white flower.
David Beaulieu

The list of 10 best perennials for the sun is based on four criteria. The selected plants:

  • Perform well when grown in a sunny spot
  • Are cold-hardy to at least zone 5
  • Exhibit nice color
  • Are in bloom (collectively) from one end of the growing season to another

Note carefully that the present list is meant to be distinct from drought-tolerant perennials. Some of the plants below will hold up well under dry conditions—but not all of them. Performing well in the sunshine with sufficient water is quite a different matter from a perennial's tolerating dry soil. Beginners sometimes conflate these two characteristics.

  • 01 of 10

    Perennial Salvia

    Caradonna salvia spiked flowers against gold grass.
    David Beaulieu

    There are many types of salvia. Some are perennials; by contrast, the widely grown red salvia plants are annuals. The perennial type in the photo is 'Caradonna.' It has dark flowers like those of 'May Night,' but the spikes are narrower, giving them a more delicate appearance. Both differ in color from 'Blue Hill,' whose flowers are lighter and, true to its name, more of a blue.

  • 02 of 10

    Montauk Daisy

    Montauk daisy flower in bloom.
    David Beaulieu

    Use Montauk daisies for late-season floral color. By cutting them back during the summer, you not only keep the foliage more compact but also delay blooming—until fall. If white isn't your thing for a flower but you like daisy-style blossoms, another option that's a perennial for the sun is Black-eyed Susans.

  • 03 of 10


    'Summer Skies' delphinium in bloom near a wooden fence.
    David Beaulieu

    Delphiniums are one of the more striking plants on this list. Not only do they come in some eye-catching colors, but they also stand out because of their height. 'Summer Skies' is the cultivar in the image, but there's a darker type you can grow called 'Black' Knight. Other perennials for the sun that are tall—and therefore well-suited for display along a fence line or in the back row of a layered flower border—are hollyhocks (although they are only short-lived perennials, at best) and Italian bugloss (another short-lived plant).

  • 04 of 10

    Perennial Bachelor Buttons

    'Amethyst Dream' is a purple cultivar of Centaurea montana, commonly known as perennial bachelor buttons.
    David Beaulieu

    Centaurea montana is a perennial type of bachelor buttons. One of the cultivars is 'Amethyst Dream.' These plants should not be confused with the annual bachelor buttons, which is classified as Centaurea cyanus. One of the features of Centaurea montana is the delicate structure of its flowers (their color would be a close second; this perennial for the sun also comes in blue). Juxtapose them with a coarser-textured flower such as Stella de Oro daylily, and you create a wonderful contrast.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10


    'Firebird,' which is an orange-flowered coneflower, is in bloom
    David Beaulieu

    You may be most familiar with the traditional purple coneflower, but other colors are available. However, take caution because bugs love to chew the petals up. But goldfinches love the seeds—this is a trade-off many find to be particularly worth it.

  • 06 of 10

    Stella De Oro Daylily

    Stella de Oro daylily in bloom.
    David Beaulieu

    The Stella de Oro daylily blooms so long and requires so little care. This perennial for the sun is a workhorse, plain and simple. Of course, if you're not partial to workhorses, you might find an objection to this daylily in its very popularity (some find it "overused"). But if you don't mind growing the same plant that someone else down the block may be growing, give this workhorse free rein and it will keep on plowing—with little supervision from you.

  • 07 of 10

    Red Hot Poker

    'Mango Popsicle,' which is a cultivar from the red hot poker plants, in bloom.

    David Beaulieu

    Red hot poker is one of the common names for Kniphofia. This plant owns other monikers since not all types are red. One red cultivar is called 'Redhot Popsicle,' which is part of the Popsicle series. These South African natives, which are hardy to zone 5, give quite a different look in the garden, with their oddly-shaped flower spikes.

  • 08 of 10

    Bearded Iris

    'Batik German' iris with its bicolored purple and white flower.
    David Beaulieu

    When mention is made of old-time favorites, the bearded iris is often part of the conversation. Partly what has made them so well-loved for so long is that they are very fragrant flowers (well, at least some kinds). Add to this trait that they're such visually appealing flowers and it's no wonder that they've been admired for generations. The 'Batik' cultivar is one of the prettier types, bearing bicolored flowers.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Chocolate Drop Sedum

    'Chocolate Drop' sedum growing near green foliage.
    David Beaulieu

    While not all of the perennials for sun on this list tolerate drought well, 'Chocolate Drop' sedum does. That's hardly surprising since this plant is one of the succulents. Many members of this group like a sunny spot and relatively dry soil. Another example is the prickly pear cactus.

  • 10 of 10

    Creeping Phlox

    Purple creeping phlox growing near a stone wall.
    David Beaulieu

    In contrast to the succulents, this plant needs to be in moist soil to thrive. A patch of creeping phlox flowing down a slope and/or tumbling over a stone wall is one of the wonders of spring (the season in which this ground cover blooms). Joe-Pye weed blooms closer to the opposite end of the growing season. In between, let the hummingbird magnet, bee balm grace some sunny spot in your landscaping.