10 Perennials That Thrive in Full Sun

Snow-in-summer (image) grows well in the Thuja Garden, Bar Harbor, Maine. It's a groundcover.
Picture: full-sun plant, snow-in-summer growing in the Thuja Garden near Bar Harbor, Maine. David Beaulieu

If you have dry, sunny areas on your property and wish to grow plants there, you need to select full-sun plants that are known for their drought-tolerance. Following is a list of perennials that qualify. Many of these perennials are popular in rock gardens. Also see my companion piece, 10 Best Perennials for Sun.

Note that a location in your landscape is considered to be in "full sun" if it receives 6 hours or more of direct sunlight daily (on sunny days).

Examples of Low-Growing, Flowering, Full-Sun Plants

1. Yellow Alyssum Flowers

My first two choices for full-sun plants are both low-growing, mat-forming plants effective as ground covers and popular in rock gardens. The first is yellow alyssum, a perennial not to be confused with annual or "sweet" alyssum

2. Snow-in-Summer Plants

Second on my list of full-sun plants is a rock garden favorite, snow-in-summer. That picturesque name derives from its appearance in bloom, but snow-in-summer is grown just as much for its silvery foliage as for its mass of snow-white flowers. 

Full-Sun Plant for Tactile Delights

3. Lamb's Ear Plants

Another full-sun plant with silvery foliage is lamb's ear. This low-maintenance perennial is not only drought-resistant but also deer-resistant. And you will not be able to resist reaching out and stroking its velvety leaves.

Examples of Succulents

4. Hens and Chicks Plants

We continue with the "barnyard" theme with the present entry, hens, and chicks. Like the following entry, it is a hardy succulent, providing Northern gardeners with an instant "Southwestern" look.

5. Stonecrop Plants

The specific stonecrop variety I look at, "Autumn Joy," derives its name from its late blooming period.

Those striving for four-season interest in their yards will appreciate the flowers this succulent provides in September. 

Interlude: Choices for Shrubs and Ground Covers

Before continuing with perennial selections, consider the examples I provide of full-sun plants that fall into the shrub and ground cover categories:

But now let's get to the five remaining perennial entries in my list of 10 full-sun plants. In comparison with the somewhat unusual entries dealt with above, these plants for dry, sunny areas are well-known even to non-plant lovers.

Old-Time Perennial Plants for Dry, Sunny Areas

6. Yarrow Plants

For those of you who are buffs of classic cartoon trivia, yarrow and similar plants (for example, Queen Anne's lace) may remind you of the villain, "Flat Top," in the Dick Tracy cartoons. Not that there is anything villainous about yarrow flowers; in fact, they are associated with a great hero from ancient Greek mythology, as I relate in my article. But the flowers do grow in clusters that give this perennial its trademark flat-top look. 

7. Shasta Daisies

The shasta daisy flower "looks the part" of a plant for dry, sunny areas: with ray-like petals radiating from a bright golden disk, each flower is a sun unto itself.

But shasta daisies not only look the part, they also play the part of plants for dry, sunny areas. This is one tough flower.

8. Coreopsis Plants

In comparing annual and perennial flowers, we find a trade-off. Annuals offer a longer blooming period for one year, while the more ephemeral blooms of perennials offer the consolation of returning in future years. Those dissatisfied with this trade-off are always keeping an eye out for types of perennials that bloom longer. If you fall into this category, you will love coreopsis flowers.

Herb Plants for Dry, Sunny Areas

9. Lavender Flowers

I just love a "two-for-one" deal. In landscaping, that means having a plant serve two purposes (sometimes they even serve more than two). Lavender flower is just such a plant. Enjoy lavender in your landscape design (for example, in rock gardens) during the summer, then harvest this aromatic herb and enjoy its fragrance inside during the winter.

10. Catnip Plants

Do you have pets? Those of you who share a yard with our canine friends are painfully aware of the challenges posed by landscaping with dogs. But do not make Puss jealous by letting all your landscaping attention go to the dogs. Treat your cats to the delights of catnip, the mighty cat herb! Catnip (not to be confused with ornamental catmint plants) is an excellent choice for cat owners seeking tough plants for dry, sunny areas.