Having lots of sun is always an important part of raising houseplants or outdoor plants in containers. Most people struggle with choosing plants that will thrive in low-light or shade because that can be a bit of a challenge.
The truth is that it is just as difficult finding the right plants for very sunny spots too.
You’ll find that most of these sun-loving plants are flowers, because plants that put out blooms need the extra energy from sunlight to make that happen. In very warm areas, many of these plants will grow as perennials because they don’t freeze over the winter.
In more regions, they are annuals that can be planted each spring for a season of color and growth.
1 – Petunias
For a riot of color in a range of shades, go with pots of petunias. They come in purple, red, pink, white and different combinations of variegated shades too.
Petunias do just fine in fairly hot or sunny conditions but as I cover in another post, you will need to keep them watered when the soil is dry through the top inch of soil. Hopefully you’ll have 8 hours of sun for your petunias, though they can manage fine with five or six.
Certain varieties grow in a vining fashion, making them excellent in hanging baskets or window boxes, letting their tendrils drape over the edges (these varieties are known as wave petunias). Or stick to a more bush-shaped petunia for a standard planter.
2 – Lavender
If you have a large enough pot, lavender can be an excellent container plant and can even be grown indoors. Unlike most of the others on this list, lavender can withstand freezing and can come up each year as a true perennial. And that means it can grow larger each season.
In fact, it may be better to grow lavender in a container to keep it from spreading too much and taking over a garden.
The soil in your container should be loose and well-draining, and you’ll need a spot with full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours. You can let the soil dry right out as long as you give it a thorough soaking when you do water.
As the dried flowers are really popular to bring indoors for their lovely scent, you can harvest the floral spikes when they are in full bloom. They’ll dry quickly and can be used around the house for a little aroma and to promote health.
3 – Million Bells
Though they look a lot like petunias, million bells are a different species of plant altogether. They are a low-growing plant, rarely getting to be a foot high, and the brightly colored flowers resemble small petunias.
As usual, having a lot of sun is important for million bells, though they aren’t as happy in the heat as a petunia would be. Adding a little shade when the summer heats up can help them last longer and keep blooming right until fall.
The soil should be kept moist and not left to dry out too much.
4 – Sedum
Sedum is a really large group of succulents, with so many varieties that you might not even realize they are all the same type of plant. Some are low-growing creepers, and some stand up high.
Regardless, they all have characteristic fleshy leaves and produce large clusters of very small flowers that usually bloom in the late summer or fall. A more upright variety will work the best as a container plant, such as Black Jack, Brilliant and Showy Stonecrop.
Even though they are a succulent that likes sun, sedum plants are very cold hardy and will get through winter fine. That also means they can outgrow a pot in a few years. Expect to repot or at least divide up your cluster of sedum on occasion.
5 – Canna Lilies
Tall elegant lilies are always nice in a container, though canna lilies are only perennials in warmer zones 7 through 10. If that is your region, you might find they eventually get a little too large for an average pot, reaching up to 8 feet high.
Get them situated in a spot with bright sun for most of the day, and possibly give them a feeding of fertilizer once a month. Though they thrive in the sun, these lilies are not going to do well in dry conditions. Keep them regularly watered so the soil is moist at all times.
As each bloom starts to die back, snip off the stalk to prevent the flower from going to seed. This stimulates the plant to put up more flowers, rather than going dormant.
6 – Blanket Flower
Looking like a bright red and yellow daisy, the blanket flower is a colorful choice for that bright sunny spot. They work very well in large containers and can reach heights between 1 and 3 feet, depending on the variety.
If you are short on space, go for the “Goblin” strain that stays small. Dry soil is fine occasionally as they are somewhat drought tolerant as well as sun-loving.
A blanket flower will keep on blooming from early summer right through until you get your first frost, if you cut back older flowers before they go to seed. It’s a hardy perennial and will come back even after a cold winter.
If you’re not fond of replanting every spring, this will save you the effort.
7 – Portulaca
Portulaca is a popular choice for rock gardens, loving the sun and dry soil, and creeping to create a lovely ground cover. Sometimes known as moss rose, this desert plant will grow in the most “inhospitable” garden spots.
It blooms is many different colors, and has unusual thin leaves along its tendrils. For a plant to drape over the edges of a hanging basket, this is perfect.
Your plants won’t likely survive the winter unless you live in a hot region (above zone 10), so just consider your portulaca as an annual. They’ll want at least 8 hours of direct sun, and should be watered when the soil has dried out.
Like with blanket flowers, you should pinch off the dead flowers to keep the plants blooming longer.
8 – Verbena
What verbena flowers lack in size, they make up for in number. Large clusters of bright flowers, including some brilliant blue ones that are very striking, make this a very popular container plant.
Like several other plants on our list, there are many varieties to choose from, letting you pick from larger upright plants or lower creeping types to suit your location.
They’ll need fairly regular watering but will do fine if the soil dries out a little from time to time. Loose and well-draining soil is a must. An added benefit for growing verbena is that it is very attractive to butterflies, and will help bring them to your yard.
Container Planting Tips
No matter what specific plants you decide to grow, there are some handy tips about container gardening that can help you out.
For the sun-loving plants that don’t do well in wet soil, think about getting unglazed ceramic pots or boxes made from unsealed wood. These materials will allow water to evaporate faster, and help keep the soil environment more suitable. You may have to water more often but you eliminate the risk of water-logged roots.
Need sunlight and tolerating heat are two different things. Even a sun-loving plant can get too hot so watch for wilted plants or any that start to develop brown edges to their leaves.
Water more often, and possibly put something light up to give them a little shade until it cools off. Or you can take advantage of the portable nature of containers, and move your overheated plants temporarily.
Lastly, though not mentioned specifically for all plants above, a little fertilizer can be a smart move for any container gardening. Without the natural flow of water and nutrients from surrounding soil, a pot can become quite sterile.
A standard fertilizer blend for flowering plants can be applied to your pots about once a month to keep everything growing well.