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What Plants Require Full Sun?

By April Sanders ; Updated September 21, 2017

Most plants need at least some exposure to sunlight each day to thrive. A small number of plants can grow even in deep shade, while others require full sun to survive. Full sun is defined as being exposed to less than one hour of shade per day. These full-sun plants are often tropical or drought-tolerant plants.


There are many showy perennials and annuals that thrive in full sun. Full-sun perennials, which are plants that return to bloom year after year, include yarrows, which feature large clusters of flowers in many different colors and thrive in dry soil, and asters, which bloom in the fall. Annual flowers (which bloom for only one season) that require full sun include snapdragons and ageratums, which have masses of long-lasting, fuzzy flowers.

Ground Covers and Vines

Ground cover plants and vines are often used in hot, dry locations that are hard to water. The common bearberry is an evergreen ground cover that thrives in hot sun. In the fall, bearberry leaves turn a brilliant scarlet color, which matches the hue of the plant's berries. Grape vines come in a wide range of cultivars, all of which require full sun to produce their luscious fruit. Creeping juniper is a needled evergreen ground cover that requires full sun to thrive.


Many flowering shrubs require afternoon shade to prevent scorching, but there are some that thrive in full sunlight. The beach plum shrub, which produces small, edible plums, grows in coastal areas in the eastern part of the United States and requires full sun. The gray berry is a semi-evergreen and produces small, gray berries that release a pleasing fragrance when crushed. The tropical hibiscus is a favorite, with its large, trumpet-shaped flowers in bright colors. The cranberry bush has beautiful white spring flowers and red fall fruit and leaves, but it is considered an invasive plant in some areas, so check before you plant it.


Most palm trees, with their bare trunks tipped with graceful fronds, require full sunlight. The western catalpa, which blossoms with large white flowers in the summer, tolerates very hot, dry weather extremely well. The white fir tree, with its blue needles, is drought and heat resistant. The hedge maple is a great privacy tree and requires full sunlight to thrive. The burr oak is a beautiful tree that needs full sunlight and lots of room to grow.