General gardening topics

12 Shrubs that thrive in full sun

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I’ve been a professional gardener for 20 years, working on my family’s nursery. Over the years, I’ve often been asked about the best shrubs for small gardens and shrubs for low-maintenance gardens. However, in this guide, I want to talk about some of my favourite shrubs that thrive in full sun with very little shade.

Many shrubs prefer a more partially shaded position with the sun for around 5-6 hours a day; in 10-12 hours of sun, some shrubs start to show signs of faded bleached flowers and issues with wilting, especially during a drought. Many shrubs struggle in an open sunny position, but there are some shrubs that will actually thrive in a sunny position with no shade and are also drought tolerant.

How Tall and Wide do Hydrangeas Grow
Although Hydrangea thrive in a shades position they also do well in sunny position where they get sun all day.

I want to start my list of shrubs for a sunny position with Ceanothus, also known as California Lilac. It’s one of my favourites and great for bees, too. I’ve also included hydrangeas which grow well in pots and are usually recommended for shaded positions; however, they will thrive in full sun.

What I do recommend doing is placing some mulch, which can be bark, leaf mould or even some garden compost, around the base of any shrubs planted in an open sunny position, especially during a drought, as it helps retain moisture in the soil as well as suppressing weeds.

1. Ceanothus (California Lilac)

One of the best shrubs for fulll sun is Ceanothus also known as Caliifornia Lilac
Ceanothus (California Lilac)

Ceanothus, or California Lilac as it’s more commonly known, is one of my favourite shrubs. It’s a brilliant shrub for planting as a single shrub as a focal point in the garden, as I have done. However, it is also a good option for hedging or even as a ground cover plant if you plant the Repens variety.

There are several different varieties, but my favourite ones include Ceanothus ‘Blue diamond’, ‘Puget blue’ and ‘Autumnal blue’, all perfect for a sunny position. I really like Ceanothus for sunny gardens due to its drought tolerance and minimal care needs.

Another huge plus, and one of the reasons I always incorporate them in many landscaping jobs and have them in my own garden, is that they attract the bees and add much-needed masses of colour from spring to early summer. As with most shrubs, it thrives in well-draining soil, requiring little water once established, but as with all newly planted shrubs, it will need watering for the first 12 months until established. In terms of eventual sizes, depending on the variety and habitat, they can grow anywhere between 3ft and 20ft, but they do respond well to pruning after flowering to control the size.

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2. Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas thrive in full sun

Hydrangeas are truly enlivening shrubs. Varieties like ‘LA Dreaming’ provide you with a wide array of colours, in the same plant. In fact, you can enjoy purple, blue and pink all in the same plant without the requirement of needing to change the soil (altering the pH levels), as you would need to do with other varieties. The length of their flowering cycle means you enjoy flowers late into the summer, long after other flowers have faded.

With Hydrangeas you can choose the lime green arborescens, the oak leaf foliage of the quercifolia, or the giant ball blooms of the macrophylla and mophead varieties. Most Hydrangeas are hardy, but they will start to wilt in the heat of the summer. They thrive in full sun or partial shade and need watering about once per week at times of low rainfall or if you are growing them in containers. If you have a mophead variety, you can change the colour of the blooms by amending the soil to be highly acidic (for blue colours) or highly alkaline (for pink colours), or somewhere in between for a purple mixture. 

3. Chaenomeles ‘Flowering Quince’

one of my personal favourites is Chaenomeles, or Flowering Quince for a sunny position
Chaenomeles ‘Flowering Quince’

Another one of my personal favourites is Chaenomeles, or Flowering Quince, as it’s often referred to. It’s perfect for sunny positions with plenty of space, and it really comes into its own in early spring with its display of vibrant flowers in shades of red, pink, orange, and white, depending on the variety.

This hardy shrub is easy to grow, thrives in full sun, and does well in a range of soil conditions, but it does better in well-drained soil, as do most shrubs that don’t like wet feet. In terms of eventual sizes, it can quickly reach a height of 3ft to 10ft, depending on the variety, making it versatile for different garden sizes and uses, from hedges to an established focal point. I have one planted next to my squirrel-proof bird feeders, and the birds use it as cover to go back and forth.

It’s also excellent for attracting pollinators, particularly bees, like the ceanothus does, but earlier in the season when many other shrubs and plants are not flowering yet. It takes minimal care; pruning after flowering helps maintain its shape and promotes healthier growth, and it’s also very drought-tolerant once established. This low-maintenance, high-impact shrub offers a fantastic display when in flower, followed by large fruits, making it a valuable addition to sunny gardens.

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4. Cistus

Cistus Purpureus Purple Flower

If you have a hot spot, with ample sun, consider planting a Cistus. These plants thrive in poor or moderately fertile soil, but for best results, they need great drainage to accompany their full sun exposure.

They will do well in alkaline, chalky soil so if that is what’s lining your garden, don’t worry about amending it when you can grow Cistus shrubs. These plants have drought-tolerant foliage of a silver-green colour and the flowers appear like bouts of tissue paper, in pure white or pink shades. They are sure to fill your garden with extra brightness.

One of the more popular varieties is the ‘Ladanifer’ that has white flowers spotted with maroon, and golden anthers. With these shrubs, you cannot prune them the same as other plants, however, after flowering, you can pinch back the new growth to encourage a bushier shape. 

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5. Lavender

Lavender is effective at bringing things like bees to your garden but it would bring ample butterflies especially when the whorls of tiny flowers show up in summer.

Lavender is a very distinctive plant, not just because of its floral shape but the fragrance that accompanies it too. These grow best in well-draining soil and full sun. Once they flower you can cut away snippets to create a floral arrangement, or just simply lay them on your pillow to help add a natural aroma to the room. You should prune them after they have finished flowering so that they don’t grow too woody. Pruning should be done into the fresh green growth and not the old woody stems otherwise you will not get new flowers next season. 

One of the hardiest varieties is the English Lavender, with its slender spikes of flowers atop green stems. Varieties like Grosso are dark purple while Lavandula x intermedia or Hidcote is quite common and reliable. 

6. Abelia


This is a stunning shrub that produces trumpet-shaped pale pink flowers all summer long, with a rich fragrance. Even if you have a garden in a mild area with ample sun but lower temperatures, this plant will tolerate it because it is hardy down to -10°C. This is a semi-evergreen shrub, which means even after the summer flowers fade you can enjoy glossy leaves all winter long, as long as there is milder weather. The plant should be pruned every 3-4 years because it can grow out of hand otherwise, reaching up to 4 metres tall. If you plan on pruning, do so in April or May. 

7. Buddleia

Planting Buddleia. plant in full sun or partial shade in any well-drained soil.

The Buddleia, or the Butterfly Bush as it is more commonly known, is aptly named because of its power to attract butterflies into your garden. This shrub is a widely known summer plant that offers beautiful flowers on long stems, each of which cascade downwards, creating a sort of fountain-like effect. The cone-like arrangement of small, purple flowers will entice butterflies and your neighbours. Once the flower spikes are spent, you should remove them so that the plant can put its energy into new shoots and subsequently, new flower buds. 

Water the plant regularly, and in the summer, only if you are experiencing a drought. This plant should not be overly fertilised because this will encourage leaf production instead of floral production. 

8. Cotoneaster

You can find this in the form of a deciduous or an evergreen tree meaning that its semi-evergreen depending on the location with very simple leaves and clusters of flowers that are white or pink.

This plant is a summer-flowering shrub that gets covered in small white flowers. Once they all open, get ready for lots of bees. They have herringbone styled branches that form a sort of wall and create extra privacy in your garden. What’s more, summer isn’t the only time you can enjoy what they have to offer. In fact, autumn is when the plant is finished with flowers and in their place present ample red berries that are heavily attractive to birds. These plants need full sun or partial shade. They are very flexible when it comes to soil type, as long as the soil is well-draining. 

9. Leycesteria

Leycesteria formosa

During the summer, Leycesteria is a great border plant to have in your garden. It will soak up the sun and give you a sturdy frame that offers privacy and protection. Its bright green stems remain rich in colour, all season long, even in winter. In the summer you get green leaves and strings of maroon coloured flowers. The flowers here are quite unique because they are actually bracts, inside of which are wine coloured berries.

Often referred to as Himalayan Honeysuckle, these plants are natural magnets to all manner of wildlife including birds, bees and butterflies. They draw in many birds, such as pheasants and blackbirds, hence their other given nicknames. They grow best in moist, well-draining soil with exposure to full sun. You can prune them hard if they are outgrowing their space. Be advised though, that they do reach 2.5 metres tall and wide quite easily. 

10. Hebe

Hebe Purple Shamrock is also known as the Hebe ‘Neprock,’ which is adaptable to soil conditions. It can survive in full sun, partial sun, or mostly shady places and flowers during the summer.

These shrubs don’t just offer flowers in summer. They can flower almost any month of the year, but they are nonetheless, often overlooked by homeowners. As an evergreen shrub, you not only get flowers but green foliage all year round, even beneath the snow. They naturally attract bees and butterflies when their flowers are in bloom. If you have a border garden, these will serve you beautifully, thanks to the rich colours. 

If you cut them while in bloom, they make excellent additions to flower arrangements. If you want flowers well into autumn, try planting the ‘Autumn Glory’ variety. If instead, you want variegated leaves that boast green and purple, the ‘Silver Queen’ is a great option.

11. Deutzia

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This is an emerald green shrub that boasts bright pink flowers that literally smother the plant when in full bloom. What’s more, some of the varieties are fragrant, adding something extra to your garden.

You can grow them in full sun or partial shade, and don’t worry about soil pH levels because they are very tolerant of a range of soils. They need good drainage and if given these conditions will reach between 0.6 and 1.2 metres tall and wide. They attract bees so prepare yourself for an onslaught of bees during their flowering season. After flowering, be sure to prune them to keep the shrub tidy. 

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12. Fuchsia

Fuchsia hanging basket

Finally, there are hardy Fuchsias. These are graceful blooms with a range of flower colours. The blooms flow downwards, with beautiful layers to their design. Some varieties have panicles of flowers against large green leaves, others have slender flowers against grey pink leaves. They should be watered regularly, especially during the heat of the summer, but be sure not to overwater them or they will rot. There should be good drainage wherever they are planted, and fertiliser administered every two weeks during the growing season. 

Last update on 2024-04-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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