Sunny gardens can grow and accommodate a truly vast range of plants. Every year new and exciting varieties of full sun plants are introduced to gardeners, taking their place alongside tried-and-true favorites. For a new gardener, the choices can seem overwhelming, and for seasoned gardeners, it might seem like you’re missing out on the latest and greatest plants if your landscape is mature.

7 underappreciated sun plants for the garden

We’ve come up with a list of new introductions as well as older plants that you might have missed during a visit to the Garden Center but are worthy of a second look. Here are our favorite low-maintenance, easy-care plants that will thrive in full sun and bring life to new or old gardens alike!

1. Sun Tree: Parrotia persica ‘Ruby Vase’ – Persian Ironwood

Parrotia ‘Ruby Vase’ has earned the common name of Ironwood with its reliable, sturdy growth even in urban settings. A deciduous tree with smooth grey bark, Parrotia has clean green foliage that emerges each Spring with a slight red band around the edges and ultimately displays a beautiful range of gold, orange, and red each Fall.

Unique flowers form small pom-poms of red along stems when the tree is dormant in the Winter and provide food for Winter pollinators. The narrow-upright form makes Ironwood an excellent choice for small gardens or plantings near streets or driveways. Ultimately growing to about 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide, Parrotia has a combination of features that make it a solid choice for virtually any sunny setting.

2. Sun Evergreen Shrub: Elaeagnus x ebbingei – Silverberry

Ornamental varieties of Elaeagnus, or Silverberry, are often maligned due to their close and ecologically invasive relatives (we see you, Russian Olive)—but we think these sterile, variegated, full sun and evergreen shrubs are worth another look. The stippled texture on the golden variegated leaves of favorite varieties like ‘Gilt Edge’ or ‘Olive Martini’ adds a layer of dimension and interest not commonly found on other evergreen shrubs. New growth often emerges dusky silver before aging to match the older foliage.

Silverberry bear miniscule flowers along their stems in Winter that fill the air with a heavenly fragrance. Elaeagnus feature upright, straight stems that lend themselves to hedging uses in the landscape, but the plants are attractive enough to add as a specimen backdrop to shorter plantings. Silverberry matures at between 5 and 10 feet tall and wide depending on the variety.

3. Sun Conifer: Chamaecyparis obtuse ‘Jade Waves’ – Fernspray False Cypress

Ferny, fine-textured branches extend gracefully outward from the center of Fernspray False Cypress. Evenly green with yellow and blue undertones, this full sun evergreen tree arches out to form an informal, upright, and pyramidal plant.

Chamaecyparis ‘Jade Waves’ is a slow growing conifer and ultimately matures between 6-8 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide, making it a good fit for a range of landscapes. Plant Fernspray False Cypress as a stand-alone in the corner of a bed, use multiple plants to form a non-traditional hedge, or plant it in containers to act as a year-round feature.

4. Sun Vine: Clematis macropetala ‘Blue Bird’

Blue Bird Clematis is one of the earliest flowering varieties of Clematis and comes into bloom in early April. Dainty, nodding clear-blue flowers emerge alongside small green leaves in April and remain on the plant well into May. Unlike showier Clematis, ‘Blue Bird’ has simple petals that mimic a bell, curving upwards as Spring progresses to reveal a cluster of tight white petals in the center.

Ideal for planting in virtually any exposure, Blue Bird Clematis can tolerate shady or sunny conditions. Plant Blue Bird Clematis near an entryway for an unexpected Springtime treat that will provide an attractive green backdrop to Summer planting schemes once flowers fade. This low maintenance plant requires minimal pruning and upkeep and will grow to 12 feet tall over time.

5. Sun Perennial: Agastache – Anise Hyssop

Agastache, called by any of its common names (Hyssop, Hummingbird Mint, Korean Mint), smells refreshingly sweet. This low-maintenance and drought-tolerant full sun perennial comes in a gorgeous range of flower colors and blooms reliably from June up until frost. New varieties are being introduced yearly, and while we have yet to meet an Agastache we don’t love, favorite varieties include Peachie Keen, Apricot Sunrise, Acapulco Salmon & Pink, and Rosie Posie.

Beloved by hummingbirds and bumblebees, Hyssop features stacks of 1-inch tubular flowers set along a strong, square stem and grows between 1 foot to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety. Each wand of flowers will bloom for weeks on end, and Agastache requires minimal deadheading. Cut back dormant stems by half in June after all seeds have been eaten by birds, but wait to prune away all dead branches until new growth emerges vigorously in April.

6. Sun Groundcover: Delosperma ‘Jewel Series’ – Ice Plant

The new Jewel Series of Delosperma ticks nearly every box when it comes to groundcovers for full sun—the plant is evergreen, tolerates neglect, heat, and drought, and blooms in a vivid array of new and on-trend colors. Gone are the days of electric purple Ice Plants being the only option available, Jewel Series includes the golden yellows of ‘Topaz’, corals of ‘Sunstone’, and vibrant cerise of ‘Garnet’, among others.

Fast growing and ideal for xeriscaping, Delopserma forms a low-growing mat of fleshy, rounded leaves in an olive green hue. The small, multi-petalled blooms are arranged around yellow eyes that have a ring of contrasting color before fanning out into another striking shade. Ultimately growing to about a 8 inches to 1 foot wide, Delosperma can be integrated into existing landscape beds easily for a pop of low-maintenance color.

7. Sun Annual: Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’ –  Firecracker Plant

Abundant, rich orangey-red blooms adorn the stems of Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’. Available as a Spring and Summer annual, Cuphea blooms for months on end and tolerates full sun, high temperatures without trouble. Bumblebees and hummingbirds are constant visitors to Cuphea, and their myriad of electric vermillion blooms put on an attractive and nectar-rich show.

With an upright, arching form, Firecracker Plant makes a perfect “thriller” in smaller potted arrangements or works well to highlight taller plants as a “filler” in larger container gardens. Cuphea requires minimal upkeep, pruning, or deadheading and quickly reaches its mature height of 1–2 feet and 1–1.5. feet wide.

For shady areas in your landscape, check out our favorite 7 Underappreciated Shade Plants!

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