With its large flowerheads, the sunflower is a classic, summer-blooming flower that grows in varying shades of yellow with some darker red to brown flowers. Growing up to 108 inches tall and 24 inches wide, sunflowers are magnificent blooms to behold in the garden. Tucked along flowering and evergreen shrubs, the sunflowers pop out to create a showy garden display.
Similar to the sunflower, Russian sage requires full sun and well-drained soils to thrive. Growing 3 to 5 feet tall and wide, Russian sage complements the sunflower with its bright violet blooms that grow on 9- to 12-inch panicles. Emerging in summer, like the sunflower bloom, Russian sage lights up the garden. The gray to green leaves on Russian sage grow 1 to 2 inches long and require a spring pruning to promote new growth the following season. Russian sage thrives in nutrient-laden soils and retains its foliage and color all year long, including winter. Plant Russian sage in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8.
The butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is a summer-blooming deciduous bush that produces brilliant draping blooms in a wide range of colors including purple, yellow, pink and lilac. Growing 5 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 wide, the butterfly bush is striking planted alongside the sunflower. Like the sunflower, butterfly bushes are drought-tolerant and withstand periods of limited moisture during summer. Easy to transplant, butterfly bushes tolerate a wide range of soil types, including sandy and clay soils. A butterfly attractant, the butterfly bush has gray to green leaves that grow 4 to 10 inches long. The large, rounded form of the butterfly bush next to the tall, upright sunflower creates a cohesive look to the garden. Butterfly bush thrives in zones 5 to 9.
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) is a summer-blooming shrub with large green palm-shaped leaves that complement the bright yellow sunflower blooms. The upright, white blooms of the bottlebrush buckeye grow 12 inches long and shoot up and out of the foliage. Beginning in fall, the bottlebrush buckeye foliage turns yellow to bronze for a fiery garden display. Deer-tolerant bottlebrush buckeye can withstand a wide range of growing sites and has a spreading growth habit. Growing 6 to 10 feet tall land wide, bottlebrush buckeye is an ideal shrub to grow behind the sunflower to provide a green backdrop to the ever-vibrant and tall flower. Plant bottlebrush buckeye in zones 5 to 9.