Although many plants love a sunny site, not all plants can withstand a site that is both sunny, and has dry soil. Since you’ll undoubtedly come across this problem at some point in your landscaping efforts, we’ve put together a list of 12 elegant full sun shrubs that thrive in these conditions.
Many free-draining soils in full sun do suffer quite an onslaught. After all, the constant heat and light can result in dry, stony, and sometimes powdery growing soils. Periods of drought only exacerbate negative growing situations. All of these aspects can cause problems, especially if your plants are not suited to these conditions.
Today, I want to share with you a list of shrubs that not only withstand these conditions, but positively flourish in them. The key is to choose your plants well. In turn, your dry, sunny site will be the picture of health.
1. Cistus x hybridus
We all love the Cistus shrub genus Not only are these plants easy to maintain, they have a good, bushy habit and provide a long-lasting splash of summer colour. This particular specimen is a hardy evergreen shrub with a dense habit. In ideal conditions, it’ll grow to around 1 metre tall and 1.5 metres wide.
Its glaucous foliage sits amongst a mass of bowl-shaped perfectly white flowers with bright yellow centres. These emerge from red-tinged buds for a show in the summer months. Ultimately, it’s a top choice for a sheltered sunny site.
2. Ceanothus x delileanus “Gloire de Versailles”
My next choice is commonly referred to as the “Californian Lilac”. It’s a medium-sized, semi-evergreen shrub with a bushy, rounded growing habit. The light green leaves are slightly more pointed than those of the pure Ceanothus species, growing to around 8 cm in length.
In summertime, large, scented powder-blue flower panicles contrast wonderfully against the light green, glossy foliage. It’s this contrast that makes this a special plant, in my opinion. This shrub is a vigorous grower which, in maturity, will reach a height and spread of 1.5 metres when planted in a sheltered position.
3. Eleagnus “Quicksilver”
Eleagnus are known to be a hardy plant species, and this “Quicksilver” variety is no exception. The matte, silver-green foliage has a loose growing habit with a slightly triangular shape. This is one of the hardiest full sun shrubs available, with a vigorous growth pattern and mountains of small, star-shaped, sweet-scented flowers from early summertime.
At maturity, you can expect a height of around 4 metres from this silver-leaved beauty. I guarantee it will be a valuable asset to any exposed, sunny site.
4. Hibiscus syriacus “Oiseau Blue”
This hibiscus’ flowers are some of the most beautiful I have seen. They feature large, violet-blue showy blooms, a deep purple centre, and yellow stamens. The flowers each grow to around 8 cm in width and continue to open in succession over a long period. In fact, you can expect to see them from late summer through to mid Autumn.
The deep green, toothed leaves develop by early summertime, providing a glorious glossy backdrop for the spectacular blooms when they appear. Very tolerant of hot, dry conditions, this hibiscus will need a sheltered site to reach its full potential. At maturity, you can expect this shrub to reach heights of up to 2.4 metres.
5. Pittosporum tobira
Alternatively known as the “Japanese pittosporum”, this is a large, half-hardy shrub with an erect, branched habit. If cared for diligently, it’ll grow to around 4.5 metres in ideal conditions. The evergreen foliage consists of glossy, deep green, leathery leaves that can easily withstand inclement weather conditions. As such, it’s just perfect for a windswept, seaside garden environment.
In late spring time, clusters of creamy white, bell-shaped blooms appear complete with a wonderfully sweet-smelling scent. These turn to vibrant orange fruits once autumn rolls around. It’s quite a large shrub, perfectly suitable for use as a flowering hedging plant.
6. Convulvulus cneorum
There is a lovely sheen to the silver-grey foliage of these low-growing full sun shrubs. It’s mound shaped, half-hardy, and flowers throughout the warmer months. Its foliage sets off the simple, pure white, funnel-shaped flowers perfectly. These blooms adorn this slender leaved specimen from late spring right through to late summer.
At maturity, expect a height of around 18 inches when planted in a sheltered, full sun position. These plants are not renowned for their longevity, but their profuse flowering makes up for their shorter lifespan.
7. Cistus x purpureus
This is a lovely variety of the Cistus genus, commonly known as the “purple-flowered rock rose”. An evergreen, this bushy shrub has narrow, dark green leaves and large purple-pink flowers with deep red central blotches.
Each flower lasts a single day throughout the entire summer, and is replaced by more until the end of the flowering season. For such a compact shrub, the quantities of flowers is quite impressive. As such, this is a great, colourful addition to a sunny bed with very little maintenance required.
8. Spirea japonica “Gold Mound”
I just love Spireas, and have many of them dotted throughout my garden at home. They’re incredibly easy to look after, with just a small amount of annual pruning needed to keep them in good shape. The “Gold Mound” variety is a reliable, hardy, deciduous shrub with a compact mound of spreading golden-yellow foliage.
In summertime, flat small pink flower panicles appear, contrasting beautifully with the simple golden leaves. At maturity, this Spirea will reach a height of around 75 cm. Furthermore, you might even see a generous spread of up to 1.5 meters. As a result, it’s one of the most valuable foliage full sun shrubs for any site, and is also known as the “Japanese Spirea”.
9. Yucca gloriosa “Variegata”
A strong architectural plant, the Yucca is simply perfect for hot, arid conditions. Its rigid, sharp-pointed leaves grow to around 60 cm in length, and the glaucous foliage forms from a central rosette, marked with a striking creamy-yellow leaf margin. On maturity, the Yucca has a short-but-sturdy trunk, and reaches a height of around 1.5 metres on foliage alone.
This striking plant does flower when the conditions are just right, though quite intermittently. Its tall, upright flower spike of creamy white, bell-shaped blooms can be seen above the spiky foliage in late summer. This slightly tender evergreen shrub is hardy in zones 7-9 and makes a good specimen plant.
10. Rosmarinus officinalis—Prostratus Group
Growing this scented rosemary plant on a hot and sunny site will fill the air with the wonderful herby aroma throughout most of the day. Being evergreen and glaucous in foliage, this is a plant well-used to a hot, windswept climate. As such, it requires little maintenance, and pretty much thrives on neglect.
Its arching branches create mounds of growth, amass with tiny lavender-blue lipped flowers come summertime. Dry soil with good amounts of sunlight will encourage dense growth, but overall, the height will reach around 45 cm. This is a perfect ground cover or creeping plant with many areas of garden interest.
As an added benefit, rosemary is a wonderful culinary herb. You can trim bits of it to use in all kinds of Mediterranean dishes, and it’s an excellent companion plant to beans, cabbage, and broccoli. Its blooms attract many butterflies and other beneficial pollinators, and it can even help to repel deer.
11. Stipa calamagrostis
I know the Stipa genus isn’t strictly a shrub, but I couldn’t resist adding a couple of my favourite full sun grasses to this list. The qualities they bring to any garden is irreplaceable throughout spring, summer, and autumn.
There are some great varieties out there but I simply love this “Feather Grass”. This is a tufted perennial with narrow, arching leaves topped with feathery panicles of pale green spikelets in the summer. Finally, further into the year, the grass will keep its structure but dull to a neutral color, and persist well into winter
12. Stipa gigantea
This is another from the Stipa genus, and is often referred to as “Golden Oats”. This is an evergreen, perennial grass that will grow to a height of around 2 meters. Its arching, linear leaves are topped with the finest slim panicles of long-awned, oat-like, purple-tinged flowers. These ripen to a glorious golden colour come late autumn.
If you plant this grass, you’ll find it to be a truly splendid specimen, happy in full sun and reaching its full potential in a bright, sheltered site. In addition, it’s also a great option for filling up large areas. Consider growing it alongside buildings, or to create barriers along property lines.
Remember that ornamental grasses aren’t just ideal for combatting erosion: they’re also immensely beneficial to the overall ecosystem. These lovely plants provide habitats for pollinating insects and birds, as well as small mammals.
This concludes my list of the best full sun shrubs for dry soils. Now that we have the shrubs taken care of, consider taking a look at the many perennials available for these site conditions. Interspersing these beauties will add interest to your space, and complement your shrubs gorgeously.