Do you have a sunny spot for planting flowers? These 30 prettiest sun loving flowers will make your garden the envy of all your neighbors.
Table of Contents
- Acidanthera (also known as Abyssinian Gladiolus and Abyssinian Sword Lily)
- Camassia (also known Casamas, Quamash, Indian Hyacinth, and Wild Hyacinth)
- Canna Lily
- Dendrobium discolor (also known as Antler Orchid)
- Eremurus (also known as Desert Lily, Desert Candle, and Foxtail Lily)
- Gaillardia (also known as Blanket Flower)
- Hymenocallis (also known as Spider Lily)
- Indian Paintbrush
- Milkweed (also known as Butterfly Weed)
- Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi (also known as Deer-Antlered Orchid)
- Texas Tulip (also known as Rain Lily)
- Tigridia (also known as Mexican Shellflower)
Acidanthera (also known as Abyssinian Gladiolus and Abyssinian Sword Lily)
(Acidanthera bicolor Murielae)
If you are looking for tiny oases of white in a massive summer planting, acidanthera is an excellent choice. This cousin of the gladiolus is not suitable as a focal point for a flower bed, but it’s great for framing larger plantings. And it is a great choice for flower gardens in hot-summer, cool-winter climates.
Acidanthera are not fussy about the soil they grow in as long as they have good drainage and full sun. If you live in hardiness zones 8 and up, you can leave acidanthera to overwinter in your garden. But if you have cold winters, be sure to dig up the bulbs before the first hard freeze and replant them about 3 to 5 inches (75 to 125 mm) in the ground in late spring. Acidanthera need protection from snails and slugs.
(Lupinus texensis. There are other similar, larger lupine species.)
Texans tend to go bananas over bluebonnets. The Texan writing this article once planted bluebonnets over 15 miles of roadside (in North Carolina). Getting bluebonnets to sprout after planting in September for bloom the next March and April, however, can be a challenge.
The old-timey method of ensuring a stand of bluebonnets was to rub them against a hand file to remove just enough of the hard seed coat to encourage faster germination. It’s easy to remove too much of the seed this way. About 30 years ago, garden centers started offering bluebonnet seed that had been soaked in an acid bath. The results were disappointing.
The best way to ensure a stand of bluebonnets is to put out about twice as much seed as you think you need and wait up to two years for nature to take its course. For this reason, you should use bluebonnets for massive plantings. They will look great the second (or third) year. But they require no special care other than planting them in a sunny location.
Buttercups have a buttery golden color and petals that reach upward to form a cup shape. Most buttercups are wildflowers, but there are some buttercups that have been hybridized for garden planting.
Buttercups grow from bulbs. Plant them about 5 inches (12-13 cm) deep in the fall if you live in a cold-winter climate, or about 2 inches (5 cm) deep in the spring if you live in a warm-winter climate (USDA hardiness zone 8 or higher). That’s all the care they need. It’s OK to mow down dead foliage when the leaves turn brown in the summer.
There are succulents that thrive in the shade, but there’s no such thing as a shade-loving cactus. On the plus side, if you have sun and gravel or sand and you can discipline yourself not to overwater, you can cultivate a planting of cactus that erupts in glorious bloom in late spring every year. The main challenges in growing cacti are protecting them from jealous gardeners who might want to dig them up and take them home.
Camassia (also known Casamas, Quamash, Indian Hyacinth, and Wild Hyacinth)
(Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene)
Camassias like their feet wet and their heads in the sun. A meadow plant native to the American Northwest, the camassia requires no attention after planting. Just set out the bulbs and let them take over. You’ll have reliable summer bloom for years to come.
Any gardener who has a well-watered spot in a sunny summer garden can grow cannas. There just isn’t any summer flower that is easier to grow (although the writer managed to kill cannas one year by planting them in a corner that didn’t drain after a flood). Cannas are cousins of birds of paradise and ginger plants. They don’t need a lot of attention other than regular watering (without leaving standing water), but you will have to lift their rhizomes in the fall and store them in a dry, cool place for planting in the spring after last frost if you live in a cold-winter climate.
(late-blooming Canna species)
What’s the difference between a canna and a canna lily?
Cannas and canna lilies are the same species, but canna lilies are late-summer and fall bloomers that provide nourishment for bees, butterflies, and bats when other blooming flowers have died down. Canna lilies are cold-sensitive, so be sure to lift them for overwintering if you live in USDA hardiness zone 7 or colder.
If you are familiar with herbal medicine, you know about cone flowers. Several species of purple coneflowers are used to make immune stimulants. But not all coneflowers are purple. These hardy summer flowering plants come in purple, pink, orange, red, and even chartreuse. And not all coneflowers have the familiar shuttlecock shape. They also come with ruffles or double petals or a powder putt center.
There is a species of coneflower for all but the coldest (USDA hardiness zones 1 and 2) and hottest (USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11) climates. Coneflowers need sun but tolerate afternoon shade. Once you get them started, they take care of themselves. They are even deer-resistant, although you will need to protect them from gophers and woodchucks.
(Crocosmia aurea (Pappe ex Hook.f.) Planch.)
With a little extra attention, crocosmia can provide color in sunny locations in your garden throughout the summer until first frost. They need both good drainage and watering every week to keep the soil evenly moist, and you should remove spent blooms to encourage new flowers. But don’t remove the leaves. Allow crocosmia to store up energy to get them through winter dormancy so they can bloom again next year.
Crocosmia provide pinwheels of color in the late fall garden almost until the first frost. Care for them the same way you would care for irises.
(Dahlia pinnata Cav. and 41 other species)
Dahlias are a delightful addition to sunny gardens in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11. They come in a range of colors and in at least 14 different shapes, including dahlias that look like waterlilies, dahlias that look like pompoms, and dahlias that look like orchids.
Your writer learned the hard way that dahlias are delectable to snails and slugs. They also are susceptible to bacterial wilt, fungus, and mildew. If you live in USDA hardiness zone 7 or in a colder-winter climate, you will need to dig up your dahlias and store them over winter in a cool, dry place until you plant them after the last frost the next spring.
Daylilies bear three-petaled blooms that only last a day, but they bloom over and over again throughout late spring and summer. They come in yellow, orange, pink, green, almost-black, lavender, purple, and red. They grow in almost any well-drained soil, but some varieties need late-afternoon to achieve their full color before the sun goes down.
If you want to expand your planting, dig up the plants after first frost and divide the corms for planting the next spring. Keep cats away from daylilies. All parts of the plant are toxic for cats.
Dendrobium discolor (also known as Antler Orchid)
Some orchids thrive in shade. Dendrobiums need at least four to six hours of strong sunlight every day to produce eight to twenty blooms on each 20-inch stem. Given the right temperatures, about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) during the day and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) at night, it will bloom for as long as six months before it needs a rest period. The writer has had success with dendrobiums by giving them a mist every day for needed moisture but killed dendrobiums by overwatering during their winter dormant period. Make sure their growing medium is never soggy.
Dendrobium has an unusually long flowering period, usually about six months, provided the plant is provided with a combination of 4 to 6 hours of strong sunlight every day and nearly constant humidity. This orchid prefers daytime temperatures of about 80° F (27° C) and nighttime temperatures around 68° F (20° C). In the winter, when the plant is not blooming, it’s OK to mist the plant every day to give it adequate moisture, but it may need additional moisture (as long as its growing medium is not soggy) when it is blooming.
Eremurus (also known as Desert Lily, Desert Candle, and Foxtail Lily)
With flower spikes that can extend up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall, the eremurus makes a dramatic focal point in the summer garden. This hardy plant from Afghanistan and Turkmenistan doesn’t need much more than sandy soil, full sun, and a winter cold snap to stimulate next year’s blooming. It should be protected from wind. The soil in which you plant eremurus should be well-drained but well-fertilized.
Gaillardia (also known as Blanket Flower)
Gaillardia can grow into fields of foot-tall plants sporting petals of yellow and red and brown that blanket entire fields and meadows. Gaillardia reproduce from both tubers and seeds, so there isn’t a lot you have to do to keep them coming back every year other than to avoid mowing them before all their foliage has died down.
(Gladiolus communis L.)
In a sunny, well-watered, protected garden gladiolus will bloom all summer long. Gladioli are delightfully fragrant, and they come in over 40 colors and shades.
Gladioli are fussy about both getting enough sun and having slightly acidic soil, with a pH between and 7. Bulbs should be stored indoors over winter in USDA hardiness zones 7 and lower.
Hymenocallis (also known as Spider Lily)
(Hymenocallis littoralis (Jacq.) Salisb.)
At age six, my nephew once asked me why Spider Man had lilies. Although, as far as we know, no spider lilies are grown in gardens by Spider Man, these exotically shaped red or white lilies appear on the sunny edges of marshes and bogs in the late summer across the eastern United States. Gardeners almost anywhere in the United States can grow them as annual plants, but if you live in a cool-summer location, be sure to provide them with a sunny location for healthy growth.
Indian paintbrush adds a splash of color to spring gardens. It’s a nice complement to bluebonnets or gaillardia, with which it will share a root system to derive its nourishment. Indian paintbrush and its companion plants grow well even on alkaline, rocky soil, but full sun, especially in early fall, is essential for its life cycle. Indian paintbrush takes several months to germinate.
(iris germanica L. and about 300 other species).
No matter where you live, short of on the tundra or in a desert, there is some species of iris that will give you months of summer color in a sunny garden location. Irises don’t just bloom for weeks on end. They also attract bees and butterflies to pollinate other plants in your garden, needing nothing other than full sun and gritty, well-drained soil. When you set out irises, place the “root” so it gets sun, and leave it alone except for weekly watering and monthly fertilizer during the growing season. grow under all kinds of conditions.
The liatris is an awesome addition to any garden for butterflies and hummingbirds. Its blue spikes produce nectar to feed migrating birds and butterflies on their travels north and south summer, spring, and fall. Liatris is cold-hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5 and above and grows in all kinds of soils but requires full sun for a good bloom.
Milkweed (also known as Butterfly Weed)
When I had a farm on the monarch butterfly migration route, I set aside 2 acres of pasture for growing milkweeds. Every fall there would be one or two nights when millions of monarch butterflies settled in for the night, covering every inch of every milkweed in that part of the pasture. Then the next morning, the sky would be filled with butterflies as they resumed their journey south.
Milkweed is amazingly easy to grow. After all, it’s a weed. Just throw out handfuls of seed in the fall and let nature take its course. It’s almost impossible to grow milkweeds from transplants.
Marigolds love heat and sun and protect nearby plants from sun. They tolerate high temperatures and moderate drought, but you won’t get a colorful display without full sun. You can grow marigolds from seed, but you’ll get a flower display and insect protection a lot faster if you start with transplants you get at the nursery.
Muscari are a group of about 12 plants known as bluebells in the United States and bluebonnets in the British Commonwealth. They bloom en masse in late spring in sunny locations, taking over the landscape in two or three years if they are allowed to multiply. Muscari can tolerate light shade but a much more bountiful display results from full sun. Don’t try to grow them from seed. The seeds can cause severe skin inflammation. (I once got the seed under my fingernails and lost those fingernails for about a year.)
Pansies love sun but hate heat. They provide early spring color in cold climates and bloom all winter in USDA hardiness zones 5 and higher. Provide them with full sun and a well-drained, rich loamy soil.
Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi (also known as Deer-Antlered Orchid)
This beautiful orchid from Indonesia and the Philippines thrives in direct sunlight and high heat, up to about 100° F, or 37° C. Just be sure to give it daily moisture but also to make you don’t leave any water standing in its eaves. Blot excess water with a paper towel if necessary.
There is one absolute rule for raising roses successfully. All roses need full sun.
It’s also important that you don’t skimp on compost and soil amendments, that you protect the crown of the plant from winter freezes, and you don’t allow the leaves to stay damp. But if you have a sunny spot for your rose bed, you can make all the other changes you need to guarantee success.
Rudbeckia survive heat, cold, floods, and drought, as long as they have full sun. These tiny relatives of the sunflower include the Black-Eyed Susan and hybrids that come in orange, yellow, red, and even brown. Once you get a stand of rudbeckia started, it will take care of itself.
Texas Tulip (also known as Rain Lily)
White, pink, and red Texas tulips burst out of the ground after a long summer drought with the first rains of fall. Just a few hours after emerging from the ground, they bloom, and in about two weeks they have stored enough energy to go dormant, hidden underground for another year.
It’s incredibly easy to grow Texas tulips. Just plant them about 3 inches under the ground in the early fall, wait a year, and you will get a surprising burst of color. Just be observant and don’t mow them down on that one day they finally stick their heads over the ground.
Tigridia (also known as Mexican Shellflower)
(Tigridia pavonia (L.f.) Redouté)
The ancient Aztecs referred to the plant we now call tigridia as a jaguar flower. The name of the flower in English, Latin, and the ancient language of the Aztecs refers to its tiger-like coloration complete with spots. You’ll have to frequent your garden every day to appreciate tigridia. Blooms only last one day, but there may be multiple blooms on the same stalk. Tigridia have care requirements similar to their European cousin, the iris.
(Tulipa species, there are about 75 species of tulips)
There is a tulip of just the right color and shape for every garden, but you will get the best bloom if you plant your tulips in a sunny location. Tulips are used as a focus for early spring gardens, and they need extra warmth from full sun to get a good start.
Tulips come back year after year, but you can ensure spring bloom by planting tulips in the fall (if you live in a cold-winter climate, USDA hardiness zones 7 and lower) or very early spring (if your location has warmer winters). All tulips thrive in full sun. Taller tulips need protection from wind.
Zinnias are a low-growing annual flower in the Sunflower family. They thrive in summer heat, but they require full sun. As long as you avoid spraying them with water while the sun is out (their leaves will turn brown), they are blissfully easy to maintain with weekly watering and annual fertilizer. Cut them from fresh flowers and they will just bloom again in a day or two.