While dry areas of your yard pounded with full sun day after day may not be conducive to growing grass, sun-loving perennials thrive in these conditions. Many low-growing plants, flowering herbs, and succulents provide creative additions to any full-sun flower bed.
But before you plant your bed, make sure the area receives six hours or more of direct sunlight daily. Then, visit your nursery or garden center and pick drought-tolerant varieties that will look and grow great alongside each other. Research your plants carefully to find out when they bloom so that you can manage sequence of bloom and have great color in your yard throughout the growing season.
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Yellow Alyssum Flowers
Low-growing yellow alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis) tops the list for mat-forming ground covers. Grow it in areas where you would prefer it to spread and cover unsightly bare patches. This flower—not to be confused with "sweet" alyssum (Lobularia maritima)—bears yellow flowers and makes a good focal point for the front of your garden. Grow it in zones 3 to 7.
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A rock garden favorite, snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) gets its picturesque name from its appearance in bloom—white flowers against a background of silver foliage. This low-growing perennial for zones 3 to 7 loves to spread over sunny areas, and it pairs nicely with colorful blooms like roses (Rosa spp.) and coneflowers (Echinacea).
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Another full-sun plant with silvery foliage is lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina). This low-maintenance perennial for zones 4 to 7 not only thrives in dry soil conditions, but it is also deer-resistant. Its velvety leaves are soft enough to snuggle up with and, come summer, the lavender blooms add one more element to your flower ensemble.
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Hens and Chicks
The hens and chicks plant (Sempervivum tectorum) is a succulent sedum that consists of "parent" rosettes and tiny offspring (giving the plant its fun name). It may look dainty, but this is a hardy perennial for zones 3 to 11—one that provides Northern gardeners with an instant Southwestern look.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Greek mythology buffs may remember yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in a tale about the birth of Achilles—when his mother dipped his body in yarrow tea. Apparently, the only body part not soaked by the tea was Achilles' heel, resulting in an injury that killed him (hence the term, "Achilles heel"). Yarrow's beautiful flat-top flowers come in many subtle colors and grow in clusters. Make sure to give this plant for zones 3 to 9 some room to spread and be prepared to pull it up when it exceeds its bounds.
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Similar to yarrow, Becky Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum 'Becky') can overcome an outdoor garden bed in a few seasons. However, this traditional daisy—with ray-like petals radiating from a bright golden disk—is one that should be included in every bed. Shasta daisies (zones 5 to 10) are beyond hardy and thrive in dry, sunny areas. The flowers of this tough plant can even weather a cold snap.
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Daisy-like and yet not a daisy, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is another plant that will spread and form a great mass. Even if you have sufficient space, this spreading can be a problem, since air circulation is reduced when this North American native forms too great a mass, a condition that fosters powdery mildew disease. Divide your plants as needed to prevent this from happening. Black-eyed Susan is suited to zones 4 to 9.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Sure, annuals provide bountiful blooms all season long. That is why many gardeners plant them in beds year after year. But, for a wallet-friendly alternative, tickseed (Coreopsis spp.) also offers season-long blooms. And Coreopsis (zones 3 to 9), unlike an annual, comes back every year. If you are on a budget and favor perennials with long blooming periods, this flower (in shades of yellow and pink) is the perfect garden addition.
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The lavender plant (Lavandula spp.) serves more than one purpose in your garden. Its wispy green leaves and purple blooms look beautiful, while its soothing fragrance keeps pests away. Work lavender (zones 5 to 8) into your landscape design in areas that have dry, well-drained soil. And when the season is done, cut this aromatic herb and enjoy its smell inside.
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Those who share a yard with cats are well aware of catnip's spell (not to be confused with ornamental catmint, however). Nepeta cataria (zones 3 to 9) is an edible perennial containing a volatile oil that may turn your cats into blissful creatures. Not all cats are susceptible to catnip's charms, but, if your cats are among the lucky ones, you may well find them frequenting your catnip patch whenever they go outside. You can also cut and dry catnip to make a calming tea for yourself, similar to chamomile.
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Salvia is one of the most popular perennials for full sun. People new to gardening may know only of the red annual, Salvia splendens. But the perennial types of Salvia are largely in the blue-to-purple color range, although there are a few pink cultivars from which to choose. Some of the hardier blue or purple types are:
Because 'Victoria Blue' is hardy only up to zone 7, it is often used as an annual North of that.