Best Shrubs for Full Sun

Bushes With Colorful Fall Foliage, Nice Form, Berries, Etc.

Diablo ninebark's leaves in fall.
David Beaulieu

Some of the best shrubs for full sun are grown largely for their flowering displays. But the shrubs on this list offer something in addition to flowers (even if their blooms are nothing to sneeze at, either).

There are examples of all of the following in the sun-loving shrubs listed here:

  • Interesting foliage across three seasons (spring, summer, and autumn)
  • Outstanding fall foliage or spring foliage
  • Reliable evergreen leaves
  • Bright berries
  • Colorful or peeling bark
  • Unusual branching patterns
  • Springtime catkins
  • 01 of 13

    Gold Mound Spirea

    Goldmound spirea flowers (picture) are a nice addition to the leaves.
    David Beaulieu

    The Spiraea genus is known for its flowering displays, and the blooms of the Gold Mound cultivar do not disappoint. But this sun-loving shrub makes the list because of its leaves, not its blooms. Goldflame is similar but is not quite as brilliant as Gold Mound. From gold-colored foliage in spring, to chartreuse in summer, to yellow and a bit of red in the fall, this bush's foliage will hold your interest across three seasons of the year. By contrast, a type of spirea such as Neon Flash furnishes little visual interest when not in bloom.

  • 02 of 13

    Flamingo Japanese Willow

    Flamingo Japanese willow is grown for its foliage.
    David Beaulieu

    Salix integra can be gorgeous in spring if it receives the proper care and is growing under the right conditions. The cultivar is called 'Flamingo' because of the reddish-pink coloration in its stems and on the new leaves in spring. The spring foliage display contains three colors: Not only this reddish-pink, but also green and white. By the way, if you want an even better pink-green-white color display in spring and do not mind using a vine (instead of a shrub), ornamental kiwi vines (Actinidia kolomikta Arctic Beauty) are highly recommended.

    Like two of the other examples here, Japanese willow bears catkins, but on this plant they are not a standout feature.

  • 03 of 13

    Diablo Ninebark

    Diablo ninebark's leaves in autumn.
    Diablo ninebark's leaves turn reddish in autumn. David Beaulieu

    Diablo ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius Monlo) is, like Gold Mound spirea, a sun-loving bush whose foliage is interesting in spring, summer, and fall. During spring and summer it is one of the plants with dark foliage that you can locate next to brightly-colored plants to create a contrast. A great design idea is to place Diablo ninebark next to a type of Weigela florida bush that has golden leaves in spring.

    While Diablo ninebark has dark leaves for most of the growing season, its fall foliage becomes much brighter.

  • 04 of 13

    Fothergilla Bush

    Fothergilla bush's fall color is enhanced by sunlight.
    David Beaulieu

    These next three examples, beginning with Fothergilla gardenii Mount Airy (sometimes commonly called "bottlebrush") can be exceptional fall-foliage plants if grown in an area where they will absorb sufficient sunlight. That is one reason why they are listed here as shrubs for sun: Even though they will survive in a location where there is not full sun, it is a shame to deprive them of the sunshine they need to shine most brightly in your fall landscaping.

    Continue to 5 of 13 below.
  • 05 of 13

    Oakleaf Hydrangeas

    Oakleaf hydrangea is one of the better shrubs for fall foliage
    David Beaulieu

    Both bottlebrush and oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) furnish you with reasonably attractive flowers, as well, in addition to the autumn displays that their leaves put on. Bottlebrush's blossoms resemble just that (thus the common name). Oakleaf hydrangea, meanwhile, bears flowers similar to those produced by other types of hydrangeas. Add their flower heads and interesting leaves to the visual interest they afford in winter with their peeling bark, and it is hard to beat oakleaf hydrangea's contribution to your landscaping over the course of the year.

  • 06 of 13

    Sumac Shrubs

    Sumac plants turning red
    David Beaulieu

    Most know sumac primarily as a wild plant in places like New England (United States), where it is the first bush to put on its fall colors, often doing so in late summer. But there is a nice cultivar sold called Tiger Eyes (Rhus typhina Bailtiger) if you are not interested in growing the wild plant. The seed tufts of sumac can also have ornamental value. Do not mistake these harmless bushes with the infamous poison sumac (Rhus vernix).

  • 07 of 13

    Rock Cotoneaster Plants

    Cotoneaster bushes have bright red berries.
    David Beaulieu

    Cotoneaster horizontalis is the only shrub featured here that would also work as a ground cover. That is because its habit is low and spreading: It does not put its energies into reaching for the sky. This is another shrub with colorful fall foliage (red), but its chief ornamental feature is its bright red berries: The plant is simply loaded with them.

  • 08 of 13

    Beautyberry Shrubs

    Berries of beautyberry bush.
    David Beaulieu

    With all due respect to Cotoneaster, there are plenty of other bushes with red berries. Purple beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is one of the few shrubs that can boast of purple berries. True, it is essentially a one-trick pony, offering little in the way of floral or foliar interest. But every landscape can stand to have an unusual specimen, something that provides a conversation piece when your non-gardening friends come over to see how the other half lives.

    Continue to 9 of 13 below.
  • 09 of 13

    The Catkins' Meow: Pussy Willow

    Pussy willow catkins are symbolic of spring.
    David Beaulieu

    Many people would have no idea what a "catkin" is if you stopped them in the street and asked them. But if you explained, "You know, those fuzzy things on pussy willow bushes," they would immediately realize what you meant. Such is the name recognition that pussy willow enjoys, even though few grow them in the landscape. Pussy willows (Salix discolor) are nothing less than a symbol of the transition from late winter to early spring.

  • 10 of 13

    Contorted Filbert

    Contorted filbert with ice on its curlicue branching structure.
    Patricia Toth McCormick/Getty Images

    But the delightful pussy willows are not the only shrubs that bear catkins. Flamingo Japanese willow is an additional example, and another shrub for full sun that sports catkins is contorted filbert, also called "Harry Lauder's walking stick" (Corylus avellana). The latter is more commonly grown, though, for the twists and turns that its branches take. Indeed, other common names for it are contorted hazelnut and corkscrew filbert, names that reflect its form. Its screwball branching pattern will intrigue you, especially in winter, when the branches are bare.

  • 11 of 13

    Tatarian Dogwood Shrubs

    Redtwig dogwood bushes
    David Beaulieu

    The tatarian dogwood grown in many yards (namely, Cornus alba Elegantissima) is a multi-dimensional shrub. Its resume includes variegated leaves, flat-top flower clusters, and berries. But its main claim to fame is its colorful red bark, which is especially appreciated in winter and in early spring. Yellow twig dogwood (Cornus servicea Flamiramea) functions in a similar way in the yard, but its bark is golden.

  • 12 of 13

    Adam's Needle

    Mass of Adam's needle plant
    David Beaulieu

    Adam's needle (Yucca filamentosa) is a type evergreen shrub. Some people think of it as more of a perennial, since they do not associate its blade-shaped leaves with a "shrub." People also associate it with the American Southwest, even though this hardy shrub has no trouble making it through winters in cold regions such as New England.

    Continue to 13 of 13 below.
  • 13 of 13

    Gold Mops False Cypress

    Closeup of foliage of Gold Mops cypress.

    robcocquyt/Getty Images 

    If you are seeking a more conventional evergreen shrub than Adam's needle, the golden false cypress bushes (Chamaecyparis pisifera) —such as Gold Mops and King's Gold—can be an excellent choice. These evergreens sport a foliage with a so-called "thread-leaf" look: Narrow strands branching out every which way. They need full sun to achieve their best color.