How to Use Shrubs in a Sunny Garden


Using shrubs in a sunny garden can reward a homeowner by increasing curb appeal. Take the time to choose the right combination of plants, planting location, and soil amendments, and you'll achieve a stellar design.

Site Selection

Step 1

Choose a sunny spot in your yard with good drainage. If planting near a house without gutters, make sure to plant out beyond the roof's drip line. You might think that shrubs in a sunny garden would benefit from water pouring off a roof, but this is not the case. The deluge damages foliage and increases the chance of fungus and bacterial disease.

Step 2

Measure the maximum amount of space you have for the shrub(s) to grow. A sunny garden can quickly become a mess if plants are not spaced properly. Most shrubs grow equally tall and wide. Don't assume that shrubs can be drastically pruned to fit a location. This can ruin a plant's form. It also adds maintenance that could be avoided with the choice of a smaller bush. Sun-loving shrubs also attract pollinators like honeybees to their blooms. While bees are excellent for a garden, hundreds of them by a door or open window can cause anxiety to passersby.

Step 3

Consider the proximity of a water source. If one is not nearby, investigate xeriscaping.This is a water-conserving design practice that encourages those with sunny gardens to use succulents, cactus and other drought-tolerant plants like Indian hawthorn and oleander. Plant sweet pepper bush, nandina, and African iris in sunny gardens that remain moist. Combine with perennials like canna lilies for added contrast.

Soil Preparation

Step 1

Mix organic matter like mushroom compost or composted cow manure into the shrub bed. Sandy soil offers little nutrition.

Step 2

Inquire at a plant nursery about what shrubs thrive in sun. Forcing a shade-lover into the sun can result in leaf scorch and money down the drain. Also request a recommendation for a slow-release fertilizer or soil amendments. Shrubs in a sunny garden often require regular feedings to maintain richly colored foliage and consistent blooms.

Step 3

Sprinkle a weed pre-emergent powder throughout the shrub bed. This will not kill existing weeds, but it will keep seeds from germinating.


Step 1

Place the shrubs, still in their nursery pots, where you'd like them. Consider the appeal of contrasting leaf color and texture. The burgundy foliage of a loropetalum will pop more if placed next to the lime-green leaves of duranta. Combine evergreen and deciduous shrubs in a sunny garden to maintain interest throughout a bed all year long. Don't underestimate the beautiful form of bare branches that act like garden art throughout the dormant season.

Step 2

Dig holes twice as wide and deep as the root ball.

Step 3

Remove the shrubs from their pots and gently loosen their roots. In cases where plants are root bound, use pruners to score them apart. You want to avoid the root ball keeping the shape of the pot.

Step 4

Place shrubs in the holes so that the root ball is 1/2 inch above the surrounding ground. Push down the soil around the roots so that no air pockets are left.

Step 5

Create a ring of soil, about 3 inches tall, 12 to 15 inches from the trunk of the shrubs. This will keep water from running away from the plant.

Step 6

Saturate the root ball with a hose or bucket of water. Do not rely on sprinkler systems to water a new shrub, because they do not reach deep enough. This will cause the shrubs to create shallow root systems that are less drought-tolerant.

Step 7

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around each shrub. Avoid placing mulch right up against a shrub's trunk. By allowing 3 to 6 inches to remain mulch-free you will prevent crown rot that can kill a shrub over time. Mulch is important, particularly for shrubs in hot, sunny gardens, because it retains soil moisture.

Tips and Warnings

  • Read and follow label directions on fertilizers and soil amendments to prevent harming your plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Mushroom compost or composted cow manure
  • Water source
  • Slow-release shrub fertilizer
  • Shrub(s)


  • The Ohio State University: Root Problems in the Garden and Landscape
  • The Samuel Roberts Nobel Foundation: What Does Organic Matter Do in Soil?
  • The UGA Cooperative Extension: Xeriscape, a Guide To Developing a Water-wise Landscape
  • Walter Reeves Gardening in Georgia: Shrubs for Damp Soil

Who Can Help

  • The UGA Cooperative Extension: Georgia's Native Plants
Keywords: southeast, shrub, sun-loving, bushes, landscaping, compost

About this Author

Christine Lucas has been a freelance writer for four years and writes a parenting column for The Savannah Morning News called Rattled. Previously, her work has been on gardening. Lucas has written for "Lawn & Garden Retailer," "Southern Families," and "Georgia Gardening." She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from the University of Delaware.