Annuals for Full Sun

Meet some annuals for sun that dazzle as summer heats up, including new sun-tolerant versions of shady favorites.
Southern Garden Tour

'Persian shield' Strobilanthes dyerianus

This southern garden is bursting with color at all turns; 'Persian Shield' features a gorgeous purple and green glow and will steal the show in any garden. 

This southern garden is bursting with color at all turns; 'Persian Shield' features a gorgeous purple and green glow and will steal the show in any garden. 

Fill the sunny spots in your yard with sun-loving annuals. These sun-worshiping beauties include familiar faces in the annual scene, including petunias, zinnias, marigolds and sunflowers. Sun annuals also encompass tropical plants that bring a dash of calypso color to planting areas, like mandevilla vine, canna and hibiscus. 

Plant breeders have also worked to develop annuals for sun from traditional shade-loving favorites. Sun-tolerant impatiens and caladium are newer kids on the botanical block and are earning fans for their garden performance. When it comes time to plant full-sun annuals, you won’t sigh for lack of choices. 

Full-sun annuals should receive at least six hours of direct sun each day. These sun-worshipers can survive in lower light, but growth will show some variations. The number of blossoms may decrease, and stems will likely stretch a bit, yielding long and lanky plants that may need staking. Sun annuals like variegated snapdragon, which have patterned leaves, may develop a lesser degree of variegation when they’re tucked into shadier conditions. 

Sun annuals feature bright flower colors in a host of plant sizes. Within the petunia group alone you can find plants like Supertunias or Wave petunias that grow several inches per day, along with miniature versions that form tidy tufts blanketed with blooms. Petunia flower colors mimic a rainbow—and then some. Zinnia and pansies are two other full-sun annual groups that include a wide variety of flower hues and combinations. 

Some sun annuals like celosia or salvia offer an incredible variety of plant sizes and flower forms. Celosia is a great group of full-sun annuals to draw from to introduce fun textures to plantings. With their spiky flower forms, salvias are the go-to plants for introducing vertical elements to your garden. If you want color intensity in the gold, burgundy and orange range, select marigolds. This group also offers a wide range of plant sizes and flower types. These are the full-sun annuals to use when you want plants that need minimal maintenance to look good. 

For over-the-top size, count on tropical full-sun annuals, like banana, canna and elephant ear. These annuals for sun bring a variety of leaf colors to the garden. For tropical color in full sun annual flowers, try bougainvillea, Chinese hibiscus, passionflower, angel’s trumpet or princess flower. Remember when growing tropical plants that they usually have big appetites and need frequent fertilizer to achieve their growth potential. Using a liquid fertilizer works well with tropicals in containers. 

Some annuals for sun work well as cut flowers and provide plenty of stems for garden-fresh bouquets. This list includes plants like larkspur, snapdragon, angelonia, strawflower, zinnia and gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta). Be sure to tuck some foliage annuals, like alternanthera, plectranthus and Persian shield (Strobilanthes) into your garden to accent arrangements with eye-catching, colorful leaves. Full sun annual ornamental grasses can also provide a wonderful touch to garden gathered bouquets with their distinct seedheads.

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