Shrubs for Sun: These 10 Top Performers Go Beyond Flower Power

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

Diablo ninebark's leaves (image) turn reddish in autumn. They're darker in summer.
Diablo ninebark's leaves turn a brighter color in fall. David Beaulieu

Another list of the best shrubs for full sun can be found elsewhere, where the bushes highlighted are examples that are grown largely for their flowering displays. The list below has a different emphasis. Here the focus is on plants that 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 below:

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

For each entry below, remember that you can simply click the link near its picture to learn more details about it, including how best to grow the shrub in question.

  • 01 of 10
    Goldmound spirea flowers (picture) are a nice addition to the leaves. The latter are nice in fall.
    Goldmound spirea has pretty flowers in spring, but the leaves are valued more. This shrub also bears good fall foliage. David Beaulieu

    As you can see from the image, 'Gold Mound' spirea does have nice flowers. 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...MORE visual interest when not in bloom.

  • 02 of 10
    Flamingo Japanese willow (image) while not evergreen, is grown for its foliage.
    Flamingo Japanese willow isn't an evergreen, but it's known as a foliage shrub. David Beaulieu

    This willow shrub 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...MORE vines are highly recommended.

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

  • 03 of 10
    Diablo ninebark's leaves (image) turn reddish in autumn. They're darker in summer.
    Diablo ninebark's leaves turn a brighter color in fall. David Beaulieu

    Diablo ninebark is, like Gold Mound spirea (above), 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 juxtapose with brightly-colored plants to create a contrast. Some might wish to juxtapose Diablo ninebark with a type of weigela bush that has golden leaves in spring.

    The picture supplied here shows what Diablo ninebark's fall foliage looks like. As you can see, those dark leaves become...MORE much brighter in autumn.

  • 04 of 10
    Fothergilla bush's fall color (image) is enhanced by sunlight. The shrub also blooms.
    Fothergilla bush's fall color can be splendid if the shrub receives sufficient 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 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Oakleaf hydrangea (image) is one of the better shrubs for fall foliage. Fall color is red.
    Oakleaf hydrangea is one of the better shrubs for fall foliage. David Beaulieu

    Both bottlebrush and oakleaf hydrangea 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...MORE contribution to your landscaping over the course of the year.

  • 06 of 10
    My picture shows the spectacular fall foliage of sumac. The ocean serves as backdrop.
    Colorful sumac can provide a spectacular fall-foliage scene. 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' 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.

  • 07 of 10
    Cotoneaster bushes (image) have bright red berries. The tiny leaves give a fine texture.
    Cotoneaster bushes have bright red berries and tiny leaves. David Beaulieu

    Cotoneaster 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. They are quite prolific.

  • 08 of 10
    Pussy willow catkins (image) are symbolic of spring. They're in the Salix genus.
    Pussy willow catkins are iconic symbols of early 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 (picture) enjoys, even though few grow them in the landscape.

    But these delightful symbols of the transition from later winter to early spring are not the only shrubs that bear catkins. Flamingo Japanese willow was...MORE mentioned above as an additional example. Another shrub for full sun that sports catkins is Harry Lauder's walking stick. 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 screwball branching pattern.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    Redtwig dogwood bushes (image) go well with snow. That's why they're winter shrubs.
    Redtwig dogwood bushes look their best in the snow. David Beaulieu

    The red twig 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 functions in a similar way in the yard, but its bark is golden.

  • 10 of 10
    My picture of yucca shows an Adam's needle in bloom. It is related to asparagus.
    A mass of Adam's needle in flower would certainly be hard to miss. David Beaulieu

    Adam's needle is a type of yucca and represents the evergreen shrubs on this list. Some people think of it as more of a perennial, since they do not associate its blade-shaped leaves with a "shrub." If you are seeking a more conventional evergreen shrub, the golden false cypress bushes -- such as 'Gold Mops' and 'King's Gold' -- can be an excellent choice. They need full sun to achieve their best color.

    Looking for other kinds of full-sun plants? Check out my list,...MORE 10 Best Perennials for Sun.