For areas in your yard that get full sun (meaning 6+ hours a day of sunlight), there is no shortage of gorgeous full sun annuals you can plant. And the best part about these beautiful annual flowers and plants is they are generally inexpensive and widely available. This means you can load up your yard with tons of beautiful color and texture without spending a lot of money.
Full sun annuals add gorgeous color to borders, walkways, flower beds, and containers. They can also add interesting textures and bold colors to your perennials that remain green most of the year. Some of the most widely used full sun annuals include petunias, strawflowers, zinnias, calibrachoa, sunflowers, and portulaca.
It’s important to check your planting zones when planting anything in your yard. You don’t want to waste money on plants that aren’t suited for your climate. This seems to be more relevant when planting perennials since you want those to return year after year. However, it’s a good idea to know your zone.
Full Sun Annuals
I’m breaking it up between annuals and perennials – this post is all about annuals that love full sun and I’ll include the planting zones that are most desirable for each.
But first – what’s the difference between annuals and perennials?
- Annuals – plants and flowers are considered annuals when they have to be replanted each year. There are exceptions to this depending on your planting zones. Certain plants can be considered annuals in one zone, but perennials in others depending on temperatures.
- Perennials – these are plants and flowers that return year after year. They will often require more attention in the first year or two after planting but will give you yearly color and variety without replanting.
Annual Sun Loving Plants
Petunias are suited for pretty much all planting zones. They’re annuals so you’ll have to replant each year, but the good news is that they’re very inexpensive from garden centers. You can often find a six-pack of petunias for just a few bucks!
- suitable for all planting zones
- wide variety of colors including white, pink, lavender, purple, bicolor, yellow, salmon, and more
- can tolerate temperatures down to 39 degrees (frost will kill them though)
- easy to grow and resistant to disease
- inexpensive and widely available at garden centers
- great for borders, hanging baskets, and container gardening
- disease resistant
- prolific bloomers that flower all summer
- generally grow between 8 and 18 inches wide and 6-24 inches tall
Mix Petunias in containers with Salvia, Dusty Miller, Zinnias and Potato vines for an interesting and varied look. Or plant rows of Petunias in a border for a striking display of color all summer.
Strawflowers are annuals that also make good cutting plants. They love the sun and are generally good for all growing zones. I’ve personally never grown these but I remember seeing these in my Grandma’s flower gardens in full sun areas.
- members of the daisy family
- variety of colors including pink, yellow, orange, and white
- good cutting flowers and also for drying flowers for use in craft projects
- suitable for most all growing zones after the danger of frost has passed
- tolerates drought
- often grown from seed
- full sun plants, they will reach for the sun if you plant them in shady areas
- petals have an interesting straw-like texture
- does not need nutrient-rich soil, but must be well-drained soil
- mature plants reach 24-36″ tall
Add Strawflowers in large groups to your sun-filled flower beds with Petunias, Yarrow and Zinnias for a fabulous mix of color that blooms from summer to fall.
Zinnias are one of my most favorite flowers because they are so easy to grow! They are classified as annuals but will produce seeds that can grow the following year.
- Suitable for growing in all zones (be sure to start seeds after the last frost)
- Deer Resistant
- Zinnias make perfect cutting flowers
- Can be susceptible to powdery mildew if spaced too close together or too much water is on the plants
- Easily grown from seeds
- Attractive flowers that bees and hummingbirds love
- Continuous blooms all summer and into a mild fall
Plant Zinnias with low lying succulents or a bushy herb like rosemary for an interesting mix of color and texture in a flower bed.
Technically, Calibrachoa (also called million bells) is an annual in most planting zones but can return in zones 9-11 (most frost-free areas). However, I’m in zone 8A and I’ve had my Calibrachoa return several times. So don’t pluck them out when they die back just in case!
- One of the most prolific and gorgeous bloomers of all the annuals!
- Calibrachoa come in a variety of colors including yellow, pink, dark pink, and purple
- Widely available at garden centers
- Suitable for all planting zones, perennial in 9-11.
- Drought tolerant, but don’t let it dry out continuously or overwater it.
- Fertilize if your leaves start looking pale yellow/green color
- Trailing flowers that are perfect for planters or containers.
Plant Calibrachoa in a planter with a potato vine and dianthus for a beautiful combination of color and texture.
How can anyone not love a Sunflower? They just exude happiness and summer if you ask me. There are many varieties of sunflowers, but the most common that comes to mind is the Mammoth variety that can grow more than 12 feet tall and have huge single blooms.
- Sunflowers are best grown from seed outdoors
- Give them plenty of room to grow – space them at least 18 inches apart and thin if necessary
- They will follow the sun while growing
- Sunflowers need well-drained and nutrient-rich soil
- Suitable for Zones 2-11
- Need at least 6-8 hours of full sun per day
Sunflowers will be a showstopper in your landscaping or garden. You can use them as cutting flowers too if you prefer though they won’t last as long as some other flowers.
Another easy to grow favorite full sun annual is Portulaca. These wispy green stems that look like rosemary give way to a variety of colored little flowers that bloom continuously all summer.
- These come in practically every color – pink, red, yellow, white, orange, purple, and white to name a few
- Portulaca is widely available, super cheap, and easy to grow in all zones
- Perfect for hanging baskets and containers and also makes an attractive groundcover
- Drought tolerant, heat tolerant, and will even thrive in poor soil – it’s the perfect flower
- Deer resistant
- Grows 3-8 inches tall
- Perfect for groupings with taller plants in containers
If you are looking for the perfect budget-friendly full sun annual, Portulaca is your answer. You can grab a pack of 6 at any garden center for just a few bucks. As long as you give them sunlight, they will thrive!
Calendulas are annuals that are often mistaken for Marigolds and are also referred to as Pot Marigolds.
- Full sun annuals
- Flowers from calendula are edible
- Suitable for growing in all zones and the flowers will continue to thrive even in cool weather
- Grow to heights of 9-28 inches
- Available in shades of orange and yellow
Calendula makes a beautiful cutting flower along with zinnias and sunflowers. Be sure to add some to your borders or cutting gardens.
Marigolds are popular full sun annual flowers because they flower from spring all the way until the first frost. This means you get to enjoy these beauties past summertime depending on where you live.
- Annual, full sun plants
- Marigolds are suitable for growing in all zones
- These make good cutting flowers
- Prolific bloomers that can grow from 6-24 inches tall
- Marigold plants can be planted in the ground or containers
- Come in varying shades of yellow and orange
Add Marigolds in front of Zinnias for a striking array of color and height for the perfect cutting garden that your butterflies and hummingbirds will love!
So now that you have some ideas for what to plant in your yard for the areas of full sun, what do you do about the areas with shade?
I’ve got you covered – perfect shade plants include Hosta and Impatiens – for the full list, be sure to check out 10 of the best plants that thrive in shade!