Because plants derive their energy from sunlight, most flowering shrubs like lots of it. Of course, that often depends on the intensity of the light, which tends to be stronger the nearer those plants are to the equator. So, bushes that happily bask in full sun in northern zones might haplessly bake in it in southern ones.
Still, the shrubs listed here generally can take the heat for their place in the sun. Just make sure they don’t dry out completely in the process.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleja spp)
Named for their ability to attract butterflies with their nectar, these bushes grow from 5 to 15 feet high and feature fragrant clusters of tiny blooms in a wide variety of colors. The toughest B. davidii species are hardy to USDA zone 5. Butterfly bushes remain controversial, since they can crowd out butterfly larvae’s native host plants in some growing regions. For that reason, gardeners in mild climates where buddlejas are likely to become aggressive should choose sterile cultivars that can’t reproduce.
California Lilac (Ceanothus spp)
If your sunny site scorches dry during the summer, you’ll appreciate California lilacs. As with the more common lilacs, they usually produce their sweet-scented clusters of blue or white blooms in spring. But shrubs of this entirely different genus often are evergreen, vary in height from 1 to 30 feet, and tolerate arid summer conditions. Most are perennial only in USDA zone 7 or higher, but New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus), is the exception; it is hardy to zone 3.
Related: The Dos and Don'ts of Pruning Shrubs
Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)
Though this vitex can be shaped into a tree that grows up to 25 feet high in the more southern zones of its range, it generally remains shrubby in northern areas, where it dies back to the ground every winter and doesn’t surpass 3 to 5 feet during the growing season. It makes fragrant spikes of chastely muted but classy white, pink, or—more typically—pale purple blooms against silvery foliage for most of the summer and autumn in USDA zones 7 through 11.
Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)
With 1 ½- to 2-inch blooms resembling oversized strawberry blossoms in white, pink, yellow, and orange shades, shrubby cinquefoil cultivars vary from 2 feet to more than 4 feet high. Hardiness varies according to cultivar, but can range from USDA zones 2 through 9. Although the plants prefer full sun in northern zones, too much sun can fade the color of their blooms in the South. Gardeners there might want to opt for morning sun and afternoon shade when planting their cinquefoil.
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles spp)
Among the first bushes to blaze into bloom in spring, sun-loving flowering quinces often are called fire bushes for their most common single orange or red 1½- to 2½ -inch flowers and ruddy-tinged new foliage. However, those blooms also come in white, pink, or double versions in USDA zones 5 through 10. Growing 3 to 10 feet tall, flowering quinces sometimes produce small fruits, but are not the same genus as the quince fruit tree.
Lantana (Lantana spp)
Shrubs that gardeners either love or love to hate, lantanas have a fruity but somewhat peculiar scent, which purportedly contains notes of gasoline and tomcat. However, that odor only becomes obvious when the plant is bruised or broken. Varying in height from 2 to 6 feet, the shrubs produce their often multicolored clusters of small flowers for much of the year in USDA zones 8 through 11. In cooler zones, gardeners typically grow lantanas as annuals or container plants.
Oleander (Nerium spp)
“Killer” shrubs that can bloom from late spring to autumn in USDA zones 8 through 11, oleanders grow from 3 to 20 feet high with 2- to 3-inch funnel-shaped flowers in white, yellow, pink, or red. In this case, though, take their “killer” moniker literally, since the glossily evergreen shrubs are highly toxic. They’re also prone to an insect-spread scorch disease caused by bacteria rather than the sun. So, gardeners need to be cautious about oleanders’ placement and care.
Rockrose (Cistus spp)
Growing from 2 to 6 feet tall with striking 1½- to 4-inch flowers that somewhat resemble single roses, rockroses generally bloom most heavily in late spring and into early summer in USDA zones 7 or higher. They might flower sporadically thereafter when happy. Also valued for their resin-y, wooly, or silvery foliage, they can rock a rock garden even when not in bloom.
Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
With showy blooms 4 to 8 inches across in a wide variety of colors and in single, semi-double, and double forms, tropical hibiscus shrubs really shine in the sun. They can reach 30 feet high in completely frost-free USDA zones, such as 10 through 12. But they also may persist, if protected, in zones 8 and 9 as well. Elsewhere, the shrubs grow as annuals or houseplants. Keep in mind that the individual flowers last only one day—and traditionally were used to shine shoes!
Weigela (Weigela spp)
Weigalas wag plenty of funnel-shaped pink or red blooms in spring, but can look a bit plain thereafter. So, savvy gardeners will opt for variegated or purple-leaved cultivars, which still contribute color to the back of the border in summer. Varying from 3 to 10 feet high, these shrubs are deciduous and will shed their foliage—colorful or not—in autumn.
Rose (Rosa spp)
It is feasible to grow roses in almost every USDA zone, with the possible exception of chilly zone 1. Roses vary in size from diminutive miniatures to ramblers that can climb 50 feet. Although a few might bloom in partial shade, these shaded bushes are more prone to lankiness and fungal diseases. These beloved shrubs usually need full sun in the North to “come up roses.” In the Southwest, however, where the sunlight can be especially intense, a little afternoon shade might prove beneficial.
Whether you're a lawn care novice or a master gardener, everyone can use a little help around the yard. Subscribe to The Dirt newsletter for tips, recommendations, and problem-solving tools that can help you tame your great outdoors.