When designing and maintaining your landscape, it’s important to choose plants that will thrive in the specific conditions on your property. Sunny areas require drought-tolerant groundcovers that can handle intense sunlight and heat without scorching or fading. The right groundcover plants can provide color, texture, and erosion control while creating a polished, cohesive look.
This guide will walk you through the best groundcover options for sunny spots in your yard. We’ll cover how to select the right plants, tips for caring for them, and specific varieties that are suitable for full sun exposure. With the proper planning and maintenance, you can create stunning garden beds, borders, and pathways using hardy, sun-loving groundcovers.
What to Look for in Sunny Groundcovers
When choosing groundcovers for sunny areas, there are a few key factors to consider:
Plants must be able to withstand dry conditions and long intervals between waterings. Succulents, sedums, and xeriscaping plants are great options.
Stress from full sun exposure can cause foliage to fade and scorch. Look for plants rated for Zone 9 or higher.
Sun Exposure Range
While “full sun” groundcovers need at least 6 hours of direct light, some can tolerate partial shade. Check details.
Lower maintenance plants stay tidy longer with less pruning and weeding required. Avoid aggressive spreaders.
Appearance and Function
Consider the texture, height, and spread. Groundcovers can provide color, prevent erosion, and more.
Groundcovers vs. Lawns in Sunny Areas
While sod and grass seed can create a lush lawn, this requires significant water, mowing, and maintenance. Groundcovers are often better suited for sunny spots:
- Lower water needs – Most drought tolerant groundcovers require little to no irrigation once established.
- Reduce erosion – Groundcover plants can stabilize sloped areas and prevent soil runoff.
- Less mowing – No weekly trimming needed compared to traditional lawns.
- Lower maintenance – Groundcovers don’t need frequent re-seeding, fertilizing, aerating, and weed control.
- More design options – Mix colors, heights, and textures to create decorative beds, paths, and borders.
If reducing water usage is a priority, or if your sunny yard is on a slope, groundcovers are likely the better choice.
Best Perennial Groundcovers for Sunny Areas
Perennial plants come back every year, providing reliable color and coverage. Here are top perennial groundcovers for full sun areas:
With thick, fleshy leaves that store water, sedum is highly drought resistant. The succulent foliage comes in many hues and textures.
- Try Sedum spurium – red stems and green leaves
- Sedum acre – bright gold leaf color
Ice plant (Delosperma cooperi) has bright magenta-purple flowers that bloom spring through fall. The succulent foliage stays low and spreads rapidly.
Also called “moss phlox”, this plant grows low, spreading mats covered in colorful flowers in spring.
- Phlox subulata – Pink, purple, blue, or white flowers
Commonly called “pinks”, the evergreen foliage remains attractive all year. Flowers bloom in summer.
- Dianthus gratianopolitanus – Cheddar pinks, bright pink blooms
- Dianthus carophyllus – Deep red blooms
This hearty herb makes a great evergreen groundcover and releases a pleasant scent when stepped on.
- Thymus serpyllum – Wild thyme, light purple flowers
- Thymus praecox – Mother of thyme, pink blooms
The tiny leaves form a dense, uniform mat. Slender flower spikes bloom all season long.
- Veronica repens – Creeping veronica, blue flowers
- Veronica prostrata – Prostrate veronica, bright white blooms
With pointy, overlapping blue-green or yellow-green foliage, junipers form a thick evergreen cover and discourage weeds.
- Juniper horizontalis – Blue rug juniper, gray-blue color
- Juniper conferta – Shore juniper, lime green or yellow tips
Best Annual Groundcovers for Sunny Areas
Annual plants live for just one growing season, but quickly fill in spaces with color and texture. Here are top annual groundcover choices for full sun:
Alyssum flowers continuously from spring through first frost with a light, sweet scent. The low plants spread into a carpet of white or purple.
Also called portulaca, this succulent annual loves heat and drought. The colorful flowers open in the morning and close at night.
Heat and drought tolerant, lantana produces clusters of brightly colored flowers that attract butterflies from late spring until frost.
With lush green foliage and vibrant clusters of purple, red, or pink flowers, verbena blooms constantly throughout the season.
A fleshy-leaved succulent, purslane forms a thick mat in poor, sandy soils. The red-stemmed plants bear small yellow flowers.
The round leaves and edible flowers of nasturtium come in bright shades. It spreads quickly and reseeds itself each year.
Design Tips for Sunny Groundcovers
Here are some key tips for effectively incorporating groundcovers into your sunny landscape beds and borders:
- Combine a mix of groundcovers for unique color and texture combos. For example, let low grey sedum and bright green creeping juniper mingle.
- Use upright plants and Boulders to break up expansive groundcover areas. This makes the space more interesting.
- Allow groundcovers to meander out of defined beds into lawn areas. This creates a natural, flowing look.
- Plant drought-tolerant perennials and annuals in bare patches within groundcovers to add pops of color.
- Use groundcovers on slopes and uneven terrain where they can help control erosion.
- Plant sun-loving groundcovers under trees and shrubs where grass struggles to grow due to lack of light.
- Surround stepping stones or garden pathways with low, hardy groundcovers that tolerate foot traffic.
Caring for Sunny Groundcovers
While groundcovers require less maintenance than lawns, they do need some care to look their best:
- Drought-tolerant plants need very little irrigation once established.
- Water new plantings regularly until root systems develop.
- In very dry climates, occasional deep soaking can be beneficial.
- Fertilize in early spring before plants actively grow. Use a balanced flower/vegetable formula.
- Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers that promote excessive leafy growth over flowers.
- Keep beds weed-free while plants fill in fully. Dense coverage resists weeds.
- Hand pull weeds in spring and fall. Avoid herbicides that could damage groundcovers.
- Trim any overgrowth or dead patches that develop to keep the planting looking tidy.
- Cut back spent flowers on blooming plants like sedum and veronica.
- Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch around plants to cool the soil, reduce weeds, and conserve moisture. Replenish as needed.
- If plants outgrow their space, you can divide clumps in either spring or fall. Replant divisions to fill or expand beds.
Using the right maintenance practices keeps your sun-loving groundcovers healthy while eliminating the need for intensive upkeep typically required of lawns.
Recommended Groundcover Varieties for Sunny Areas
Here is a chart of some of the best groundcovers to plant in sunny spots, along with details on their key features:
|Sedum spurium||2-4 inches||12-18 inches||Red stems, green leaves, pink summer flowers|
|Sedum acre||2-3 inches||24 inches||Lime green to yellow evergreen foliage|
|Delosperma cooperi||2-3 inches||24 inches||Purple daisy-like flowers bloom spring to fall|
|Phlox subulata||3-6 inches||24 inches wide||Moss-like evergreen foliage, carpet of spring blooms|
|Thymus serpyllum||1-3 inches||12-18 inches||Fragrant grey-green leaves, purple flowers|
|Veronica repens||3-6 inches||18 inches||Glossy dark green foliage, blue spring blooms|
|Juniper conferta||6-12 inches||8-10 feet||Lime green evergreen foliage, salt tolerant|
|Lantana camara||1-2 feet||3-5 feet||Multi-colored flowers attract butterflies|
|Portulaca grandiflora||4-6 inches||2 feet||Succulent foliage, rainbow of flower colors|
|Nasturtium||6-12 inches||2 feet||Edible leaves and flowers, reseeds readily|
This chart gives you a quick glance at height, spread, and features of some excellent options to create stunning groundcover beds in sunny spots. Pair varieties together for eye-catching combinations.
Key Takeaways for Sunny Groundcovers
- Check that plants are rated for full sun and heat tolerance. Sedums, ice plant, phlox and thyme are great examples.
- Groundcovers have advantages over turf grass in sunny areas since they require less water, mowing and maintenance.
- Combine perennials like juniper, dianthus and veronica with annuals like sweet alyssum for year-round color.
- Allow plants to meander and fill in areas organically for a natural look. Use hardscape and Boulders to break up expansive beds.
- Take care of new plantings by watering consistently, removing weeds, and fertilizing lightly. Maintenance is minimal once groundcovers become established.
With the right plant choices suited to sunny, dry conditions, you can create stunning gardens that withstand heat and drought with little maintenance required. Follow the tips in this guide to pick, design with, and care for gorgeous groundcovers that thrive in full sun.