13 Best Shrubs for Full Sun

Purple beautyberry callicarpa fruits

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Many of the best shrubs for full sun are grown for their floral displays. But that's not all you can get from a sun-loving shrub. Some of these shrubs feature beautiful foliage during just one season (often autumn) or throughout the entire growing season. And others sport evergreen foliage that gives a garden interest year-round. Moreover, you might find berries or catkins (flowering spikes) on some shrubs, which gives them extra appeal. Plus, some of these shrubs have colorful or peeling bark, as well as unusual branching patterns. Here are 13 shrubs that grow best in full sun.

Tip

A planting site is considered to have “full sun” if it gets at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. While some plants in the "full sun" category thrive under these conditions, others might need a little protection from the hot afternoon sun during the warmest months.

  • 01 of 13

    Gold Mound Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Gold Mound')

    Beautiful pink flowers of summer-flowering spiraea

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    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 is also known for its leaves. From golden in the spring to chartreuse in the summer and yellows, oranges, and reds in the fall, this shrub's foliage will hold your interest throughout the growing season. Prune the shrub in the late winter or early spring to maintain its shape and remove dead or diseased parts. Also, remove faded flowers to encourage additional blooming.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 02 of 13

    Flamingo Willow (Salix integra 'Flamingo')

    Japanese flamingo willow in a garden

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    This cultivar is called 'Flamingo' because of the reddish-pink coloration of its stems and on its new leaves in the spring. The shrub also features small yellow catkins in April to May. This plant likes full sun but will appreciate some afternoon shade in hot climates. Also, it prefers evenly moist soil but can tolerate somewhat dry conditions. Prune to maintain its shape in the late winter or early spring.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
  • 03 of 13

    Diablo Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo')

    Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo' and 'Luteus'

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    Diablo ninebark is a sun-loving shrub whose foliage is interesting in spring, summer, and fall. During the spring and early summer, it sports dark purple foliage, which contrasts well next to brighter plants. The foliage tends to get greener as the weather heats up. Prune your shrub to shape it immediately after its blooming period, which typically is from May to June. You also may cut the shrub close to the ground in the winter for rejuvenation.  

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Light pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, slightly acidic, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 04 of 13

    Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla 'Mount Airy')

    Dwarf Fothergilla fall colors
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    The dwarf fothergilla is a sun-loving plant, but it also can tolerate a little shade. This shrub only grows to around 3 to 5 feet in height and spread, and it sports profuse white blooms in the springtime. The flowers have a pleasant honey-like scent. Moreover, its foliage has excellent fall color in shades of yellow, orange, and red. Make sure to provide your plant with good drainage, and regularly water it throughout the growing season to keep the soil evenly moist.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, slightly acidic, medium moisture, well-draining
    Continue to 5 of 13 below.
  • 05 of 13

    Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

    Oakleaf hydrangea

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    The oakleaf hydrangea is often used as a garden accent or as part of a shrub border. It grows to around 6 to 8 feet in height and spread. This shrub features pyramid-shaped panicles (branching clusters of flowers) in the late spring that go from white to a purplish-pink. Prune your shrub immediately after it’s done flowering. Be sure to give it some winter protection, such as with a burlap wrap or mulch, in colder growing zones.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White to purplish-pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 06 of 13

    Tiger Eyes Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger')

    Tiger Eyes staghorn sumac

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    Rhus typhina is a large shrub native to North America that can grow around 15 to 25 feet tall. But Tiger Eyes is a dwarf cultivar that only reaches around 3 to 6 feet in height and spread. This makes it ideal for landscaping. It features chartreuse foliage in the spring that matures to a bright yellow in the summer and picks up orange and red tones in the fall. The foliage contrasts nicely with its purplish stems. Provide your shrub with good drainage, and make sure you're not overwatering. Also, don't mistake these harmless shrubs with the infamous poison sumac (Rhus vernix).

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow-green
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 07 of 13

    Rock Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)

    cotoneaster horizontalis red berries

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    Rock cotoneaster is a shrub that also works as a ground cover because of its low, spreading growth habit. It reaches around 2 to 3 feet tall with a 6- to 8-foot spread. In the spring, the shrub sports tiny pink flowers that attract bees. And in the fall, its foliage turns a reddish-purple. Plus, in the late summer and fall the shrub features bright red berries. As long as you give rock cotoneaster an appropriate planting space, it usually requires minimal pruning. It tends to be a hardy, low-maintenance plant.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, moist, well-draining
  • 08 of 13

    Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

    beautyberry berries

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    Beautyberry is one of the few shrubs to feature purple berries. Its insignificant blooms, which appear in the late spring and summer, develop into these bright purple fruits that remain attractive on the plant until cold weather hits. Full sun results in more abundant fruits. Beautyberry is a fairly low-maintenance shrub. Pruning isn’t always necessary unless you need to remove dead, broken, or diseased portions. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Purple, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
    Continue to 9 of 13 below.
  • 09 of 13

    Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)

    pussy willow branch

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    Even if you’re not sure what the word “catkin” means, you probably can picture one once someone describes it as “those fuzzy things on pussy willow branches.” This shrub produces ornamental fluffy catkins on its leafless stems in the late winter and early spring. The male plants feature a showier display. Keep your shrub consistently moist through regular watering and rainfall. You may prune it close to the ground every three to five years to rejuvenate growth.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow-green
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet, well-draining
  • 10 of 13

    Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta')

    Contorted filbert with ice on its curlicue branching structure
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    Harry Lauder's walking stick is grown for the twists and turns that its branches take. Some other common names for it that reflect its form are contorted hazelnut and corkscrew filbert. Its screwball branching pattern adds interest to a garden, especially in the winter when its branches are bare. Water the shrub regularly to maintain soil moisture, but avoid planting it in heavy clay soil. Also, remove any root suckers to help maintain the plant’s appearance.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow-brown
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
  • 11 of 13

    Tatarian Dogwood (Cornus alba)

    Red dogwood bush

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    The tatarian dogwood grown in many yards (namely Cornus alba 'Elegantissima') is a multifaceted shrub. Its resume includes variegated (multicolored) leaves, flower clusters, and berries. But its main claim to fame is its colorful red bark, which is especially apparent in the winter and early spring. Likewise, yellow twig dogwood (Cornus servicea 'Flamiramea') features golden bark. Pruning isn’t always required, but you can remove about a quarter of the old growth each spring to promote new stems. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
  • 12 of 13

    Adam's Needle (Yucca filamentosa)

    White yucca flowers

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    Adam's needle is an evergreen plant that grows to around 4 to 8 feet tall with a 2- to 3-foot spread. It features a rosette of long, sword-shaped green leaves around its base. And in the late spring or early summer, a tall flower stalk arises from that rosette, which sports bell-shaped panicles of creamy white blooms. This plant is fairly low-maintenance and can tolerate poor, sandy soil, as well as some drought. Just make sure you plant it in an area with good drainage. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 10
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
    Continue to 13 of 13 below.
  • 13 of 13

    Japanese Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mop')

    Closeup of foliage of Gold Mops cypress

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    ‘Golden Mop’ is a slow-growing dwarf shrub. During its first decade of growth, it likely will only reach around 2 to 3 feet in height and spread, eventually topping out at around 5 feet. It features yellow foliage throughout the year that appears similar to a mop head, hence its cultivar name. Pruning is rarely necessary for this plant. Ensure that it has adequate soil drainage, and plant it in a spot that's protected from strong winds.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Nonflowering
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining