Sunny Garden Plants
This sunny garden plan — about 300 square feet in area — is perfect for a site receiving direct sun for at least six hours each day. These sunny garden plants were selected for their outstanding ornamental character and for their ability to attract pollinators, including native bees, butterflies, and birds, and creates a garden for all seasons.
(Clethra alnifolia x ‘Hokie Pink’) N, P
A must for the pollinator garden, the ‘Hokie Pink’ cultivar produces spicy-fragrant pink flowers in late summer and golden-yellow foliage in autumn. It has a compact habit, growing only 5 feet tall and wide
2. Purple Coneflower
(Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinstern’) N, P, B
The ‘Rubinstern’ cultivar has tall rigid stems bearing large, daisy-like blossoms with deep-pink ray flowers surrounding large, coppery-orange cones. It has a long flowering period, beginning in late summer. Goldfinches peck at the dried brown seed heads in winter.
3. Blue Wild Indigo
(Baptisia australis) N, P
Growing to 4 feet tall, with an attractive shrubby habit, blue wild indigo will grow and bloom in the same location for decades. Upright 12-inch spikes of bluish-purple pea-like blossoms appear in spring, followed in midsummer by inflated light-green seed pods.
4. Redvein Enkianthus
(Enkianthus campanulatus) P
Spring clusters of creamy-yellow bells with deep red veins hang below the whorl of leaves at each branch tip. Pruned as a small tree, it will reach 12 feet in height. Fall color begins golden-yellow before turning to a mix of red and gold.
(Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’) N, B
Winterberry holly provides a winter-long display of bright red berries before birds finally take the fruits in late winter. ‘Winter Red’ has larger fruits than the species. To ensure abundant fruit set, plant one male pollinator of the cultivar ‘Jim Dandy’ somewhere nearby.
6. Swamp Milkweed
(Asclepias incarnata) N, P
A clump-forming perennial, swamp milkweed grows 3 to 4 feet tall. Late-summer pink to mauve flowers are followed in fall by attractive pods that split open, releasing silky-haired seeds. Swamp milkweed is an important larval host for the monarch butterfly.
7. Orange Coneflower
(Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’) N, P, B
The ‘Goldsturm’ cultivar grows to 3 feet in height, with an upright clump-forming habit. In late summer, 3-inch daisy-like flowers with deep yellow rays and dark brownish-black center disks are borne singly on stiff branching stems. The black seed heads remain attractive during winter, and birds eat the seeds.
8. Foxglove Penstemon
(Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’) N, P
From spring through early summer, the ‘Husker Red’ cultivar bears white flowers in panicles atop rigid stems. The blossoms are magnets for hummingbirds. The maroon-red foliage remains attractive through summer.
9. Peach-Leaved Bellflower
(Campanula persicifolia) P
Peach-leaved bellflower grows to 3 feet tall, with sturdy flowering stems arising from a rosette of bright-green leaves. The large bell-shaped flowers, ranging from white to a deep lavender-blue, appear in midsummer. Remove spent flowering stalks to encourage continued bloom.
10. Nodding Onion
(Allium cernuum) N, P
From spring through early summer, delicate clusters of lilac-pink bell-shaped flowers nod over soft, flat, arching leaves that persist into late summer. Plants naturalize by self-sowing and production of bulblets.
(Achillea x ‘Coronation Gold’) P
Through midsummer, ‘Coronation Gold’ bears large, flat heads of golden-yellow flowers on tall upright stems. After the flowers fade, the finely divided, aromatic, silvery to gray-green foliage remains as a focal point in the garden.
(Nepeta x faassenii) P
A sunny spot protected from intense noonday glare is perfect for catmint’s late-spring through midsummer display of light-purple flowers. After blooming, shear plants back to rejuvenate the foliage and keep them tidy.
All of the recommended plants can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 7. Most, including some of the non-natives, provide food and shelter to insects and birds. (The few non-native plants in these designs aren’t considered invasive.) In our description of each plant, “N” stands for plants that are native to the the eastern United States, “P” for plants that attract pollinators and other beneficial insects, and “B” for plants that provide food for birds.