Some Perennials for Sun
Perennials are expected to live longer than three years. Unlike annuals (zinnias, marigolds, radishes) which complete their life cycle in one growing season, and biennials (Sweet William, canterbury bells) which need two growing seasons to mature and set seed, perennials are typically cold-hardy plants that will return each year in the spring. They typically bloom one season (although many are re-blooming or long-blooming), can set seeds in the same year, and die back in winter, reappearing the following year. Echinacea, rudbeckia, and salvias are a few examples of perennial plants.
On this page are some of best perennials for the sun. Characteristics of these plants plants:
- Perform well when grown in a sunny spot
- Are cold-hardy to at least zone 5
- Exhibit nice color
- Are in bloom (collectively) from one end of the growing season to another
Note that these are distinct from drought-tolerant perennials. Some of the plants below will hold up well under dry conditions—but not all of them. Performing well in the sunshine with sufficient water is quite different from a perennial’s tolerating dry soil. Folks sometimes confuse these two characteristics.
Use Montauk daisies for late-season floral color. By cutting them back during the summer, you not only keep the foliage more compact but also delay blooming—until fall. If white isn’t your thing for a flower but you like daisy-style blossoms, another option that’s a perennial for the sun is Black-eyed Susans.
Delphiniums are one of the more striking plants on this list. Not only do they come in some eye-catching colors, but they also stand out because of their height. ‘Summer Skies’ is the cultivar in the image, but there’s a darker type you can grow called ‘Black’ Knight. Other perennials for the sun that are tall—and therefore well-suited for display along a fence line or in the back row of a layered flower border—are hollyhocks (although they are only short-lived perennials, at best) and Italian bugloss (another short-lived plant).
Centaurea montana is a perennial type of bachelor buttons. One of the cultivars is ‘Amethyst Dream.’ These plants should not be confused with the annual bachelor buttons, which is classified as Centaurea cyanus. One of the features of Centaurea montana is the delicate structure of its flowers (their color would be a close second; this perennial for the sun also comes in blue). Juxtapose them with a coarser-textured flower such as Stella de Oro daylily, and you create a wonderful contrast.
You may be most familiar with the traditional purple coneflower, but other colors are available. However, take caution because bugs love to chew the petals up. But goldfinches love the seeds—this is a trade-off many find to be particularly worth it.
The Stella de Oro daylily blooms so long and requires so little care. This perennial for the sun is a workhorse, plain and simple. Of course, if you’re not partial to workhorses, you might find an objection to this daylily in its very popularity (some find it “overused”). But if you don’t mind growing the same plant that someone else down the block may be growing, give this workhorse free rein and it will keep on plowing—with little supervision from you.
When mention is made of old-time favorites, the bearded iris is often part of the conversation. Partly what has made them so well-loved for so long is that they are very fragrant flowers (well, at least some kinds). Add to this trait that they’re such visually appealing flowers and it’s no wonder that they’ve been admired for generations. The ‘Batik’ cultivar is one of the prettier types, bearing bi-colored flowers.
In contrast to the succulents, this plant needs to be in moist soil to thrive. A patch of creeping phlox flowing down a slope and/or tumbling over a stone wall is one of the wonders of spring (the season in which this ground cover blooms). Joe-Pye weed blooms closer to the opposite end of the growing season. In between, let the hummingbird magnet, bee balm grace some sunny spot in your landscaping.