Full sun landscaping in the northwoods - Knowledgebase Question

Chassell, Mi
Question by tbkirkish
March 28, 2008
I live in the northwoods of Michigan, but half my yard is full sun. What taller plants are good in full sun? I also like the look of the tall landscaping grasses that change color with season. Thank you, Tricia

Answer from NGA
March 28, 2008


These are my picks for the best long blooming perennials for full sun in Michigan gardens.
1. Coreopsis "Moonbeam," "Zagreb," "Early Sunrise"

Coreopsis gives you huge bang for your buck in the garden. They are prolific bloomers that need little more than regular deadheading to be happy. Place them in full sun and average soil. In fact, they don't like soil that is too fertile, as they will become floppy over time. Coreopsis should be divided every three years or so to keep them vigorous.

2. Daylily (Hemerocallis)
"Stella D'Oro," "Pardon Me," and any variety with "Returns" in the name

Certain varieties of daylily are longer bloomers than others. The common orange daylily that you see everywhere, while beautiful, is not the best choice if you want continuous color. Choose one of the above varieties, and give it average soil in a location with full sun to part shade. Remove the spent flowers and stalks to keep the plant looking tidy. For more on daylilies, see our Plant Profile.

3. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
"Pink Delight," "Adonis Blue," "Peacock," "Black Knight," "Guinevere"
Buddleias, commonly called butterfly bush, are wonderful accents to a garden. They are absolutely gorgeous in bloom; their plumes of pink, purple, blue, or white flowers attracting butterflies all summer long. They are very easy to care for, fast growing, and fragrant. Place them in full sun and semi-moist soil. Simply remove the spent blooms to keep it flowering from July until frost. To prune, cut the plant either all the way down to the ground, or back to green wood in March. Cutting it back helps develop tons of blooms for the coming season.

4. Lavender (Lavandula)
"Hidcote," "Munstead," "Grosso"

My personal favorite, because lavender is my favorite fragrance in the entire world. Put these beauties in full sun, in soil that stays relatively dry. After they bloom, cut the flower stalks off (save them, either for potpourri, sachets, or dried arrangements. Even the stems have that gorgeous scent!) and you will soon enjoy a second, smaller bloom. The blooms last a long time. If necessary, you can prune lavender in early spring, just as new growth starts. Just be sure not to cut into old, woody stems because new growth (and blooms) don't grow from old wood. Although, to be honest, I haven't had to do more to my lavenders than snip off the occasional winter kill.

5. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
"Goldsturm," "Goldilocks," "Indian Summer"
Rudbeckia are everything a plant should be: cheerful, drought-tolerant, and care free. Besides all that, if you leave the seed heads on after the flowers fade, you will have winter interest as well. Plant Rudbeckia in full sun. They are easy self-sowers as well. Where I once had a small plant, I have what now seems more like a Rudbeckia shrub! Rudbeckias rarely need dividing, but digging up the volunteers and planting them elsewhere in the garden isn't a bad idea. You'll want to have this plant all throughout your garden.

6. Russian Sage (Perovskia)
"Little Spire," "Blue Spire," "Longin"

Russian Sage sports tall spikes of delicate, lavender-blue flowers above lacy, grayish-green foliage. Russian Sage is fragrant. Plant them in full sun in fairly dry soil. I do absolutely nothing to my Russian Sage. You could cut back the old stems in the spring, but I leave mine standing year round. I think this is the one plant in my landscape that I honestly haven't touched since I put it in the ground!

7. Yarrow (Achillea)
"Gold Plate," "Summerwine," "Coronation Gold"

Yarrow can grow up to 40" tall and up to two feet wide. Give them full sun and average soil. Yarrow is very drought-tolerant. Once the flowers start to fade, cut the stems back to lateral buds to encourage more blooms. You can leave the stalks over the winter for seasonal interest, and cut the stalks down all the way to the clump of basal foliage in the spring. Yarrow also makes great cut and dried flowers.

8. Coneflower (Echinacea)"Magnus," "White Swan," "Big Sky Sunrise"

The best way to get prolonged bloom in your Echinacea is to remove the spent blooms. Smaller flowers will follow. I usually deadhead mine once, and then I leave the remaining flowers and seed heads all winter for seasonal interest as well as food for the birds. For more on coneflowers, see our Plant Profile.

9. Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum)
"Becky," "Alaska," "Silver Spoons"
The shastas I have in my yard are the legacy of the former homeowner, who had tons of them planted behind the garage. Once I saw their cheerful blooms, I dug them up and put them in the main yard where I could enjoy them. Shastas are tough, require hardly any care, and are drought tolerant. The only problem I have with them (mine is the old kind, Leucanthemum x superbum-maybe other varieties don't have this problem) is that they are prolific self-sowers. I spend quite a while in the spring pulling up Shasta seedlings. However, keeping them deadheaded will kill two birds with one stone. It will reduce the amount of self-sowing, and it will promote more blooms. Plant these cheerful flowers in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. Shastas also make great cut flowers.

10. Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
"Butterfly Blue," "Pink Mist," "Deepwaters"
These are wonderful not only for their long bloom period, but also for the fact that butterflies love them. Scabiosa gets up to two fee tall and wide. The plant consists of a mound of dark green, lacy foliage with tall strong stems, which hold up blooms in pink, white, purple, or blue. Plant them in full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. Keep them deadheaded to prolong bloom. As an added bonus, the foliage is evergreen. Leave the foliage through the winter, just cut back the flower stems. I have these is my side yard with Shasta daisies, Buddleia, and old-fashioned orange daylilies. I have color from Late May until frost!

So, there they are. Ten perennials that will work hard all summer so you don't have to!

Ornamental grasses are a natural for sunny garden sites. I'd interplant them with any of the above flowering perennials for a fantastically colorful and interesting garden. Enjoy!

You must be signed in before you can post questions or answers. Click here to join!

« Return to the Garden Knowledgebase Homepage

Member Login:



[ Join now ]

Today's site banner is by krobra and is called "Lantana Dew Drops"