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21 Full Sun Annuals for Patios and Window Boxes

When the dog days of summer arrive, the heat is stifling and the humidity is high, most plants are going to be stressed.  However, there are full sun annuals that not only survive, they thrive when the heat is on.

Contributors: Kerry Meyer

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What plants do well in full hot sun?

These plants will take the heat and keep growing strong.

 

Big Sur

Sun or Shade Caladium

Heart to Heart® Caladium

Tough, sun tolerant flowers aren’t the only way to add fantastic, colorful plants to sun blasted spaces. It would be hard to beat the vibrant, colorful foliage of our Caladiums. While most caladiums are best in shade, the Heart to Hearts featured here will thrive both in sun and shade conditions. These tropical plants don’t just tolerate heat, the hotter it gets, the happier they are. You can use them as a thriller in container recipes or in some cases they can function as a filler. The prefer moist soil and will do best when well-watered, but not constantly wet. Caladium foliage colors can change over time depending on the conditions they are growing in. As temperatures and other factors change over time, emerging leaves may have different coloration from earlier emerging foliage. That is one of the coolest new things I’ve learned lately about plants!

They have a wide range of colors and patterns to choose from and are 15-20” tall and 8-12” wide.

  

Texas Primrose

Ladybird® Calylophus

Calylophus is a southwestern native plant that adores heat and thrives when lesser plants start melting away.  We named this duo Ladybird as a tribute to former first lady, Ladybird Johnson. She established the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which works to preserve native Texas plants. These two plants were bred and selected to have masses of large flowers on heat tolerant, drought tolerant, easy-care annuals. The frilly foliage contrasts with the large, colorful flowers. The cheery yellow flowers are a great component for combinations for tough locations. Sunglow has bright yellow flowers and Lemonade has soft yellow flowers that transform to soft peach as they age. The Ladybirds are 4-8” tall and will spread up to 20” wide. They prefer full sun locations.

 

Heliotrope

Augusta Lavender Heliotropium

Once you try it, you'll be devoted to this Heliotrope. Let's start with the fact that it is simply a beautiful plant. That alone is enough to be enamored with it. However, it pairs that classic beauty with unexpected toughness. It is extremely heat and humidity tolerant, which means both the deep south and far north can be successful with this plant. The habit is somewhat upright, which creates a mound when planted in the landscape and it will flower over the pot edge when planted in containers. It will be a great component plant for combination recipes. Note: like many heliotropes, this plant is toxic if ingested. When it is warm and sunny, you’ll enjoy delicious fragrance from this wonderful plant. Augusta Lavender is 6-12” tall and will spread 12 to 24”.

 

  

South African Phlox

Safari Jamesbrittenia

This revolutionary new series of Jamesbrittenia will blow you away. This heat tolerant South African native has seemingly been on the cusp of greatness for years but has never quite broken through with the right combination of plant performance and beauty. We have finally cracked the code. Summer performance in both landscapes and containers is great. The bicolor blooms are sure to standout in your garden. This is wonderful component plant in patio planters and hanging baskets. The Safari varieties are 6-12” tall and 12-24” wide.

 

  

Tuberous Verbena

Cake Pops® Verbena rigida

Cake Pops verbena are very heat and humidity tolerant and are great plants for the deep south, in addition to the rest of the county. This verbena doesn't cycle out of color, so you'll get reliable color all summer long. Cake Pops is destined to become a Southern basket and combination recipe staple. It is easy, tough, durable and drought tolerant. It is native to the Southern US. These fun plants are an excellent addition to sunny hot garden areas anywhere. Cake Pops get 10 to 18 inches tall and wide and are exceptional summer plants.

 

Wild Watermelon

Summer Snapdragon

Angelface® Cascades Angelonia 

If you’re looking for easy care flowers for your containers and landscape but struggle to find something that survives your hot, humid summers, try Angelface and Angelface Super summer snapdragons. They bloom all season long with flowers on tall spikes, and don’t need to be deadheaded to keep them flowering. These robust annuals will fill a smaller container on its own, or you could use it as a tall thriller in the middle of a large combination container planting. If you are looking for a filler and spiller, our Angelface Cascade varieties are just the ticket. And Angelface is not one to faint the first time you miss watering either—thank goodness for easy to grow plants like Angelface!

They come in shades of blue, pink and white and have three different habits. Regular Angelface are upright and 18-30” tall. The Angelface Supers are upright and 30-40” tall. The Angelface Cascades are mounded-trailing and 8-14” tall.

Euphorbia

Diamond Mountain Euphorbia

Now euphorbia comes in small (Diamond Delight®), medium (Diamond Frost®), and extra-large with the introduction of Diamond Mountain. If you’ve grown this versatile annual, you know it pairs well with just about everything in sun and part shade. Think of it like baby’s breath, adding a hint of white to complement everything around it. We introduced this super-sized variety to be able to compete with our most vigorous annuals like Supertunia Vista® petunias, creating magnificent hanging baskets and huge upright containers. It’s also a great heat and drought tolerant plant for the landscape, growing similar in size and shape to a spirea shrub. You’ve never seen a euphorbia quite like this!   

2-3’ tall. Part sun to sun. Annual.

Globe Amaranth

Truffula Pink Gomphrena

Here’s a must-have plant for any lover of awesome plants. It’s so easy to grow this vigorous annual that blooms like crazy all season and keeps its shape better than some gomphrenas. Full, bushy plants become covered in hot pink, cotton ball-shaped blossoms that pollinators adore. They last a long time when cut for fresh bouquets and even dry the same color, so you can use them in dried crafts and arrangements, too. This plant thrives in heat and humidity, and handles drought once its roots are established. Grow it in large containers or in the landscape where it will shine brightly from spring into fall.

22-30” tall. Full sun. Annual.

Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet Caroline Medusa® Green Ipomoea

It’s not every day that we get this excited over a new foliage plant, but Sweet Caroline Medusa Green was definitely a favorite. Distinctive palm-shaped leaves have a thick texture that prevents them from wilting in the heat of the day. Tight internodes result in a compact, mounded-trailing shape that helps it behave in recipes where it won’t overrun its companions. Sweet Caroline Medusa Green is ideal for tighter landscape applications where it won’t need to be trimmed constantly to stay in bounds. It can be used in place of a Boston fern in hanging baskets where it will thrive in sun or shade and require less water. We think gardeners will love this new kind of Ipomoea for its ease of maintenance and unique foliage.

6-12” height; 18-24” spread; part sun to sun; vigor 3

Related: Sweet Potato Vine Care Guide

Bush Daisy

High Noon® Euryops

Sunny yellow is a perennial favorite for gardeners. This new tough, durable, heat tolerant annual is a great addition to our collection of yellow flowers. It is an easy to grow plant that is dramatically improved versus previous versions of this plant.  High Noon sets the new standard for the genus. We’ve refined it by making it more colorful with larger flowers and we’ve given it a denser, more compact habit. Long flower stems help it mix easily with other heat loving plants like Luscious® Lantana and Angelface® Cascade Angelonia in hanging baskets and upright containers. Its semi-succulent, thick leaves are perfectly uniform and handled dry down better than other Euryops.

10-14” height; 12-18” spread; part sun to sun.

 

Tangerine Queen

 

Lantana

Luscious® Lantana

We’ve improved on a classic favorite by adding more flowers on more densely branched plants for this series. Watch as the hummingbirds come calling when its clusters of tubular flowers are on display. Plant one in your window box so you can see the show up close. Luscious lantana are fantastic sun, heat and drought tolerant flowers for large containers and landscapes. Since they are selected to have no or few seeds, they’ll bloom continuously all season without deadheading.  Our newest addition is Luscious Royale Red Zone, which is certified sterile, which can be important in mild winter climates.

20-30” tall. Full sun. Annual.

Salvia

Rockin’® Salvia

If you want to see pollinators in your garden, plant these salvias. These revolutionary new varieties bears large, intensely colored flowers with black bracts. Their deep throats hold plenty of nectar for your favorite winged creatures all season long. Rockin’s are also more refined than many salvias of this type, forming bushy, upright clumps of deep green foliage. That means it won’t take over the container when you plant it with other vigorous annuals, and it will fill out beautifully when given plenty of room to strut its stuff in the landscape.

24-40” tall. Part sun to sun. Annual. 

Available in 4 flower colors.

 

White Hot Recipe

Fan Flower

Whirlwind® Scaevola

Don’t be fooled by the delicate looking, fan-shaped flowers and gracefully mounded to spreading habit of this beautiful series. It is native to the Bush Country of Western Australia, which makes it extremely tolerant of heat, humidity and drought once established. It makes a fun filler and spiller in your containers but is also a durable groundcover when planted in the landscape. It is available in pink, blue, white and now a light blue and white bicolor.

8-14” tall. Part sun to sun. Annual.

 

Canna Lily

Toucan® Canna

If you love the look of tropical plants but need one that is as easy to grow as a petunia, try our Toucan Cannas. They grow quickly to make bold thrillers in your large containers and thrive in the landscape too. Cannas flower like crazy all summer in warm climates where they love the heat, and are grown more for their bold foliage in northernmost climates where they bloom late in the season.  They come in 4 colors Yellow, Coral, Dark Orange and Scarlet.  They love the heat, but despite the title of this article they aren’t really a good option for window boxes!

30-48” tall. Part Sun to Sun. Annual.

Spider Flower

Senorita Cleome

Cleomes (spider flowers) have been around for a long time. But there was talk. Thorns. Sticky leaves and stems. The Senoritas have restored Cleome's reputation. The magnificent dark leaves on their 3-5 feet tall upright branches are topped by clusters of flowers. And they bloom with abandon from late spring through fall. They scoff at heat, and renounce all thorns and sticky substances. Deadheading isn’t needed. They are free of pests and disease, although peacocks will munch the flowers. So avoid them if you have flocks of free-roaming peacocks! Not good for window boxes.
24-48” tall. Sun. Annual.

Large Firecracker Plant

Vermillionaire® Cuphea

Vermillionaire is an absolute hummingbird magnet! It is extremely heat and humidity tolerant; very low maintenance, and great for southern gardens and everywhere else. It is drought tolerant, but can also tolerate higher water and fertilizer applications. It is great when planted in landscapes and wonderful in containers by itselft or when used as a thriller in combination recipes.

18-28” tall. Full Sun. Annual.

 

Dwarf Morning Glory

Blue My Mind® Evolvulus

Sky blue flowers are in short supply. The most common sky blue flowers, Lobelia and Delphiniums, are decidedly not heat lovers. Enter Blue My Mind Evolvulus which is both a true sky blue color and a true heat lover, it will thrive in the deep South, and everywhere elese,  and handles humidity with ease. It’s a great plant for the most heat blasted locations in your garden.

6-12” tall. Full Sun. Annual.

Wisteria Lane Recipe

Coleus

ColorBlaze® Plectranthus

Add a little WOW! power to your containers and landscape with these outstanding coleus. The color range goes from radiant gold foliage and red venation that glows from a distance to black with a slim lime edge. The fifteen options in this group grow vigorously to form full, bushy clumps of fantastic foliage. In lower light, the colors will be different than when grown in a sunnier location. All of the ColorBlaze coleus, are bred to bloom very late or not at all, extending their garden performance into fall. Our newest addition to this collection is ColorBlaze Royale Pineapple Brandy.

16-40” Tall. Sun to Shade. Annual.

Purslane

Mojave® Portulaca

These durable and colorful flowering succulents bloom all summer long in juicy shades of tangerine, pink, red, fuchsia, and yellow without deadheading. Choose which color suits your color palette when you buy. The vivid blooms are a welcome sight especially in high summer when they really come into their own. These plants are a great choice for warm climates and poor, drier soils



Nighthawk Recipe

Sedum

Lemon Coral® Sedum

Lemon Coral is a world-class champ at looking great when conditions are challenging. The spikey chartreuse foliage looks like it would be tough and prickly, but is actually quite soft and "petable." It is wonderful in landscapes and is an outstanding container plant, where it will fall over the edge of containers. It loves heat and can tolerate dry soils, although average moisture will keep it looking fresh. Lemon Coral is grown for its lovely foliage, although if you are lucky it may bloom as well


 

Blanket Flower

Heat it Up® Gaillardia

I love plants that have multiple traits to recommend them. This duo are not just fast-growing fillers, they are heat tolerant and pollinators adore them. The plants feature either scarlet-red flowers with yellow tips or sunny yellow flowers.  They flower continuously all summer long without deadheading. I've never been near these plants in bloom without seeing a bevy of bees. I adore these plants!
12-24” tall, Up to 3 feet wide. Part sun to sun.

Want to Learn More?
Container Gardening Guide
Browse Container Garden Recipes that use ColorBlaze® coleus.
Watch dozens of gardening videos on our YouTube channel.
Explore our Pinterest board that features plants that are great in both sun and shade.
See more container plants for full sun on GardenDesign.com.

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