20 Tough Plants for Full Sun and Heat
Every garden has its challenges that you'll need to tackle. For many people, full sun and high heat are among those challenges. Long term, you can create a lower maintenance landscape by choosing durable plants that are well-suited to the area you have in mind. Check out the 20 plants we recommend for sunny, hot gardens.
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Successful gardens come in many guises, but to be successful your garden will need to meet the challenges in your garden and then start looking for plants that are well suited to thrive despite that challenge. For many of us, the heat of a long summer is one of the primary situations to solve. The good news is there many plants that are tough and durable enough to thrive when the summer seems intent on roasting us and our plants too. Consider the annuals, perennials and shrubs listed below if you face long summers with quite a bit of heat and many sunny days.
Common Name: caladium
If you live in the South, Caladiums are probably already a staple in your garden and why wouldn’t they be? They absolutely adore hot weather. It’s not a matter of whether they “handle the heat just fine” – they actually prefer hot weather. That means they are perfect for climates where the summer heat is sweltering. One of the things that makes Heart to Heart caladiums different from many other caladiums is that they are vigorous enough to perform well i both the North and South. So, if you are looking to add a splash of the tropics to your Michigan garden, Heart to Heart caladiums are just what you need. The second unique feature is that in addition to growing well in the partial to full shade, about half of the Heart to Heart varieties we offer will handle full sun as easily as they do the shade. Keeping the soil moist will help them thrive in more sun. There are nearly 30 different varieties in the series representing a wide range of colors, sizes and leaf shapes.
Uses: mass landscape planting, front to middle of the border, thriller in combination recipes, mono baskets, filler in combination recipes, monoculture patio planters.
12-24” height. 12-24” spread. Some shade only and some sun or shade. Annual except in frost-free zones where they will overwinter.
Common Name: Egyptian star flower
If you live somewhere hot and have never tried Pentas, you don’t know what you’re missing - especially with our Sunstar series. Sunstar pentas boast extra-large flower clusters - some nearly the size of hydrangea blooms - atop well-branched plants. They have excellent summer durability, blooming well through high heat and humidity, and they make ideal bedding and container plants for hot climates. These are medium-sized varieties that are well-suited to being planted in the middle of beds and can be thrillers and/or fillers in combination planters. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds are all attracted to the brightly colored flowers which will add another level of color and movement to your plantings. Available in four colors – Red, Rose, Pink and Lavender.
Uses: mono patio planters, combination recipes, pollinator gardens, in-ground beds
18-22” height. 16-24” spread. Part sun to sun. Annual except in zone 11.
Common Name: fan flower
This Australian native is as tough as they come. Fan flower has been grown for about 25 years in North America, but for a long time, the varieties available bloomed sparsely and had long, awkward branches. Our modern, refined Whirlwind fan flowers are packed with color and have a beautiful shape. They love heat, don’t mind low humidity or moderate drought, and don’t need much plant food to thrive. Bees will thank you for planting Whirlwind fan flowers.
Uses: upright containers, pollinator gardens, mass plantings in landscapes
8-14” height. 18-24" spread. Sun. Annual except in zones 10-11.
Common Name: euphorbia
Diamond Snow euphorbia is similar to Diamond Frost®, but with double flowers and a denser shape. If you’ve grown any of our Diamond euphorbias, you know that despite their delicate appearance, they are is as tough as they come. The plants provide a reliable mass of bright white blooms all season in upright containers and make great landscape plants, too. Like all our euphorbias, expect Diamond Snow to power through heat, humidity and drought with ease. For combination recipes, we suggest using Diamond Frost, whose stems weave among other plants. By comparison, Diamond Snow tends to form a denser mass of color in its own part of the container and is less of a mingler.
Uses: patio planters, garden beds, combination recipes, bright shade gardens
12-18” height. 12-18” spread. Part sun to sun. Annual except in zones 10-11.
Common Name: sunflower
This everblooming sunflower has a tall, well-branched, bush-like form that makes it perfect for the back of the bed, planted as an annual screen, lined along a fence, or grown in a large container. The blossoms measure about 4” across and do not need to be deadheaded to continue blooming from spring to frost. If you prefer, you can tidy them up by removing spent flowers, and the more you cut for bouquets, the more blooms you'll have. Suncredible Yellow sunflowers bloom far more prolifically compared to the type you grow from seed. They great for pollinators like bees and butterflies, too.
Uses: back of the bed, pollinator gardens, cut flower gardens, large patio planters
24-36” height. 20-32” spread. Sun. Annual.
See more fall flowers.
Common Name: sweet potato vine
Sweet Caroline sweet potato vines offer rich foliage colors, a variety of leaf shapes, good vigor and a well-behaved habit. Their vigor allows them to mix well in combinations without overwhelming the other plants in the container. They also perform beautifully as a dense and evenly spreading groundcover in sun and shade conditions. Whether you grow them in cool northern sun or hot southern climates, you’ll notice they have superior color retention in full sun compared to older cultivars. Sweet Caroline Medusa™ Green, pictured in the container recipes above, features unique palm-shaped leaves that are unlike any other sweet potato vine. The plant's shape is more mounded and less trailing with overlapping leaves. One university trial manager told us she didn't know she could ever love a green sweet potato vine, but she loves Sweet Caroline Medusa Green.
Uses: annual groundcover, recipe combinations, hanging baskets, patio planters
6-16” height. 20-36” spread. Part sun to sun. Annual except in zone 11.
Common Name: climbing sweet potato vine
These climbing sweet potato vines will climb their way into your heart and stay there for the whole season. Available in two colors, Sweet Caroline Upside Key Lime and Sweet Caroline Upside Black Coffee, these are vigorous, climbing annual vines that will twine their way to the top of a trellis, obelisk, fence or other structure in a single season. If you plant them in containers without an upright support, they will spill over the sides with long, trailing stems. You can grow them in the landscape as well where they will grow as an annual groundcover, although if they encounter something they can climb, they will take advantage and start to do so. These are a fun new type of sweet potato vine to experiment with.
3-6’ height. 1.5-3’ spread. Part sun to sun. Annual except in zone 11.
Common Name: lantana
This series of landscape-sized lantanas features a broad range of flower colors on large, densely branched, mounded plants. You can expect all Luscious lantanas to bloom non-stop all season without deadheading, as they set little to no seed. This series is perfect for people looking for low maintenance, heat and drought tolerant, long-blooming, pollinator-friendly, deer resistant flowers. Our newest additions are Luscious Royale Lemon Tart™, which is relatively compact golden yellow Lantana. Luscious Citron™ is a softer shade of yellow and a larger plant. It's perfect for adding a large splash of color in the landscape without needing to use too many plants. The third newest addition to the series is Luscious Basket Tangeglow™. Tangeglow is a unique golden yellow and orange plant with a bit of red. It has a somewhat horizontal growth habit which lends itself well to planting in hanging baskets, although it still works well in patio pots and landscapes as well.
Uses: pollinator gardens, large patio planters, middle of the bed filler, low maintenance gardens, beyond the hose planting areas
20-30” height. 20-30” spread. Sun. Annual except in zones 9-11.
Common Name: salvia
The Rockin' salvia collection is filled with large, bushy cultivars that are an absolute magnet for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Most are selections of Salvia guaranitica, which means they form robust plants topped with long spires of large, two-lipped blooms in shades of blue, purple and magenta. One member of the Rockin' series called Playin' the Blues® is a cultivar of Salvia longispicata. It stands up to four feet tall and bears narrow spires of bright violet blue flowers that bees love to feed from all season. All Rockin' salvias thrive in heat and can tolerate some drought stress once established.
Uses: middle of the bed filler, thriller in patio planters, pollinator gardens, low maintenance gardens
Size varies by variety, but is generally 2-4' height. 24-30” spread. Part sun to sun. Annual except in zones 9-11.
Common Name: salvia
You might think this plant looks a lot like Rockin' Playin' the Blues, and it does with one big exception: it's size. This salvia grows about half the size, topping out under two feet tall and about one foot wide. That makes it much easier to combine with other plants in container recipes and fit into the front of the border in the landscape. Its true blue flowers attract pollinating bees and butterflies as they are produced prolifically on well-proportioned plants from spring into fall without deadheading. Like the others, this salvia is also heat and humidity tolerant, and its aromatic foliage helps with deer resistance.
Uses: front of the border, thriller in small and medium-sized patio planters, filler in large patio planters, window boxes, pollinator gardens, low maintenance gardens
14-24” height. 12-16” spread. Part sun to sun. Annual except in zones 8-10.
Common Name: coneflower
Join the coneflower craze with this collection of single flowered, brightly colored coneflowers. Their stocky habit, large flowers with horizontally held petals and long bloom time all create tremendous beauty in your landscape. These blooms are pollinator magnets and during late fall to winter, the seed heads serve as food for birds. There are currently six varieties available: ‘Orange you Awesome’, 'The Price is White', 'Frankly Scarlet', ‘Yellow My Darling’ 'One in a Melon' and 'The Fuchsia is Bright'. Stay tuned for more colors coming in this series in the future!
Uses: pollinator gardens, middle of the border, thriller in patio planters, late summer color
18-24” height. 16-20” spread. Part sun to sun. Perennial in zones 4-8.
Common Name: rose mallow, perennial hibiscus
While perennial hibiscus are fairly well known, they are still vastly underutilized plants for the landscape. Our Summerific series is incredibly heat tolerant, surviving zone 9 summers but also overwintering well in frigid zone 4. Gone are ten-foot-tall hardy hibiscus with sparse flowers. Summerific varieties range from 3 to 4 1/2' tall and produce tons of huge flowers - up to 8 inches wide - from midsummer to fall.
Our newest Summerific introductions are fabulous. ’Edge of Night’ blooms with 7-8” bubblegum pink flowers with dark veining. Its jet black foliage is the darkest we’ve ever seen on a perennial hibiscus. It is really a stunning plant. ‘Valentine’s Crush’ blooms with gorgeous, vibrant red flowers on dark green foliage and ‘Lilac Crush’ blooms lavender pink with cool blue undertones. Both have flowers with thick, overlapping petals which helps them withstand summer thunderstorms better. All of these Summerific perennial hibiscus have fantastic garden presence and blooms prolifically for months. Grow them in place of shrubs to provide structure and tropical flair to your sun garden.
Uses: specimen plant, mass planting, deciduous hedgerow, pollinator garden
Size varies by variety but generally 5.5 - 5’ height. 4 - 5’ spread. Full to part sun (full sun for purple leaf varieties). Perennial in zones 4-9.
Common Name: perennial salvia
This series includes four fantastic perennial cultivars of Salvia nemorosa which are named for their prolific flowers in late spring/early summer and fantastic rebloom throughout the summer and early fall. Good heat and cold tolerance, as well as durability in the landscape make them excellent candidates for perennial gardens and mixed borders. They are unbothered by deer and rabbits but quite attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Profusion salvias will light up your garden every summer.
Uses: summer color, pollinator gardens, deer resistent gardens, borders, provides summer color
14-20” height. 16-20” spread. Full sun. Perennial in zones 3-8.
Common Name: stonecrop
Rock 'N Low varieties of stonecrop make fantastic groundcovers with interesting, colorful foliage and summertime blooms that attract pollinating bees and butterflies. They thrive in heat and handle tough growing conditions with east. Try growing them as no-fuss groundcovers in full sun gardens, rock gardens, in crevices of stone walls, or between stepping stones on a sunny pathway. There are currently two plants in this series. ‘Boogie Woogie’ (pictured here) is a fun variegated groundcover with green and cream foliage that gives the plant a bright look all summer. In early to midsummer, the plants become sprinkled with yellow flowers. 'Yellow Brick Road' is similar in habit, but has smaller, more finely textured, solid green leaves that become totally covered in vibrant yellow flowers from mid to late summer.
Uses: perennial groundcover, rock gardens, low maintenance gardens, beyond the hose gardens, front of the border, pollinator gardens
6-8” height. 16-24” spread. Full sun. Perennial in zones 3-9.
Common Name: stonecrop
Rock 'N Grow varieties of stonecrop have a taller, more upright clumping shape compared to Rock 'N Low varieties, and they bloom later in the season from late summer into fall. We've taken great care to select only varieties that have strong stems and a tight habit that won't split open once the plants are in bloom. One of the best things about these plants? Bees and butterflies will adore them as much as you do. Plus, if you leave the seed heads standing in the fall, they provide food for birds.
'Lemonjade' is unique in that it bears lemon yellow flowers instead of the traditional pink - a color that may work better with your fall color palette. 'Coraljade' has the same rich green foliage as 'Lemonjade,' but its citron green buds open to soft coral pink flowers. 'Back in Black' has near-black foliage and unique flowers with cream petals and a deep garnet red center. 'Tiramisu' forms a wide dome of bronze-green foliage topped with pink buds that open to cream flowers. 'Midnight Velvet', coming new in 2024, forms a broad dome of deep purple leaves topped with rose red flowers and dark red seed heads.
Uses: perennial gardens, rock gardens, low maintenance gardens, beyond the hose garden, pollinator gardens.
Height varies by variety but generally 16-22” height. 26-32” spread. Full sun. Perennial in zones 3-9.
Common Name: stonecrop
This collection of stonecrop includes shorter, tight dome-shaped, non-spreading varieties that grow about twice as wide as they are tall. Like Rock 'n Grow varieties, they have been carefully trialed and selected for their tight habit that won't split open late in the season. Towards the end of summer when many other perennials are finished blooming, these stonecrop varieties come into full glorious bloom much to the delight of bees and butterflies.
‘Pure Joy’ produces a solid mound of light pink flowers that completely obscure the foliage when in bloom. It has become a garden staple for the late summer and early fall garden. Other varieties that offer the same perfectly mounded shape and prolific flowering as 'Pure Joy' include ‘Bundle of Joy’ with white flowers and ‘Pride and Joy’ which has darker pink flowers. 'Popstar' produces coral pink blooms atop blue-green foliage. 'Superstar' bears the darkest pink flowers of the series. ‘Bright Idea’ blooms much earlier than the others in the collection, with sunny yellow flowers that cover the dark green foliage in early summer.
Uses: pollinator gardens, fresh late summer color, front of the border plant, low maintenance gardens, flowering groundcover.
10-12” height. 16-20” spread. Sun. Perennial in zones 3-9.
Common Name: juniper
Montana Moss® juniper is a low-growing evergreen juniper that contributes appealing texture wherever it is planted. Soft-to-the-touch, blue-green foliage resembles moss or maybe even something from the under the sea. It makes an excellent edging or groundcover and pairs nicely with all colors of both buildings and plants. Deer resistant and sun-loving!
Uses: groundcover, edging plant, front of the border, mass planting
2-4’ height. 3-5’ spread. Sun. Hardy in zones 4-9. Flowering shrub.
Common Name: crapemyrtle
Crapemyrtle is a summer stunner with colorful blooms from midsummer to fall. But why wait all season for conventional crapemyrtles to do their thing when you can plant one with fabulous foliage that shines all season? Center Stage crapemyrtles delight with deep, purplish black, mildew resistant foliage and vividly colored blossoms that appear earlier in the season. Though they were bred in Michigan by Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs, each of the varieties in this series have demonstrated excellent heat tolerance in Florida trials.
Uses: hedge, specimen plant, mixed border, mass planting.
6-12’ height. 8' spread. Sun. Hardy in zones 6b-10. Flowering shrub.
Common Name: pomegranate
Plant a piece of history! Appreciated and cultivated since ancient times, pomegranates are a true link to the past. Peppy Le Pom™ pomegranate is a different take on the classic, with a cute little dwarf habit that not only adds ways of how it can be used in the garden - it also expands where it can be grown. Its petite size makes it perfect for growing in containers in colder climates. Just bring it indoors when the temperatures dip to continue to enjoy the show all winter. Peppy Le Pom spends the summer covered in the orangest blooms you've ever seen, each dangling from the stems like an ornament. These develop into tiny little pomegranate fruits, which, while technically edible, have only a few small, sour seeds inside, so they're best appreciated on the plant.
Uses: patio planters, garden beds, adaptable as a houseplant, specimen plant
3-4' height. 3' spread. Sun. Hardy in zones 7-10. Evergreen Shrub.
Common Name: mirror bush
Enjoy bright, vivid color every day of the year with our collection of Wax Wing mirror bush cultivars. As their common name implies, their foliage is extremely glossy and colorful. It's an ideal plant for growing a low hedge or edging, and it mixes well with other plants in colorful flower gardens. This very heat tolerant shrub cannot survive winters in areas colder than USDA zone 9, but not to worry since it can be brought indoors for winter and enjoyed as a colorful houseplant in colder climates. Waxwing Orange has a fiery array of glossy red and yellow leaves. Waxwing Lime has leaves with a swirling melange of yellow, lime green and mahogany purple tones. Waxwing Gold has leaves splashed with emerald green and bright gold. In cooler weather, a perky red leaf edge lends a glowing effect.
Uses: low hedge, mixed borders, large containers, mass plantings
1-3' height. 3' spread. Part to full sun. Hardy in zones 9-11. Evergreen shrub.
Want to Learn More?
- Explore our Pinterest board of Drought Tolerant Plants.
- Watch this video featuring 5 heat-tolerant perennials.
- Learn how to keep your annuals blooming strong all summer in this article.