Container Plants For Full Sun – Choosing Full Sun Plants For Containers

White And Yellow Potted Cacti With Beach Landscape
container sun plants
(Image credit: Ruben Pinto)

Container gardens allow plenty of flexibility for gardeners with little to no space, but in the hottest part of the summer, keeping potted plants alive in full sun can be a challenge. This article will give ideas and information for successful container gardening in full sun.

Growing Container Plants in Full Sun

When you grow plants in full sun, the main threats you’ll need to protect plants from are the drying out and heating of soil and the burning of leaves. Plants in containers are more exposed to the elements than plants in the ground, so drying and heating problems are intensified. To minimize these problems, be sure to choose a large enough pot that is still proportional to the size of the plant inside. A small pot will dry out and overheat quickly in the hot sun, and you’ll need to water very frequently to keep your plants alive. Consider the container material as well: unglazed terra cotta pots and coir-lined hanging baskets allow water to evaporate through the porous sides. To prevent leaf burn, be sure all the plants you choose are suitable full sun plants for containers. For non-desert plants, be sure to water containers thoroughly whenever the soil surface feels dry. This may be every day during the growing season.

Combining Container Plants for Full Sun

One way to help plants conserve water is to make a mixed container garden in a planter. To fill a large pot, combine several plants that have similar growth requirements. Including a plant with broad leaves or a groundcover-like growth habit will shade the soil and help it retain moisture. To create a beautiful mixed container, combine plants with different sizes and textures and plants with complementary foliage or flower colors. For example, you could include a tall, grass-like plant; a short, flowering plant; and a trailing plant that cascades over the sides. This is also known as a thriller, filler, spiller.

Annual container plants for full sun

Choose heat-tolerant annuals for your full-sun container garden, such as petunias, many Salvia varieties, and annual kitchen herbs. Salvia guaranitica, a spike-shaped plant with dark blue flowers, is an attractive choice. Once you’ve planted your tall and midsized flowers or herbs, add trailing plants like bacopa (Sutera species) or sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) and groundcover type plants like sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) around the edges of the container.

Perennial potted plants for full sun

Planting a mixed perennial herb garden is a great way to use a full sun container. Many Mediterranean herbs do well in this environment. Tarragon, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and many others grow best in full sun and are well suited for containers. Desert plants, like agave, and heat-tolerant perennial flowers, like lantana, are other good choices. A spray of an ornamental grass or a grass-like plant makes an attractive addition to a mixed container. Miscanthus species, tall grasses often used as ornamentals, thrive in containers and in full sun. They add a textural contrast to flowers or groundcovers planted at their base. New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), with its tall, spiky foliage in green, red, and copper, is another good choice for containers.


Ilana Goldowitz Jimenez is a scientific and agricultural writer with a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Cornell University and a PhD in Chemical Biology and Infectious Disease from Harvard University.