Full Sun Landscape Ideas – 7 Tips for Landscaping in Sunny Backyards

hydrangeas in a garden
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Sometimes a sunny garden isn’t all it’s cracked up to be once you realize the heat can be too intense for some plants. Hydrangeas, lilies of the valley, and peonies have beautiful blooms, but it’s best to limit their sun exposure in the morning, for example.

If you want to have a lush and colorful backyard, you need to do some careful landscape planning to make the sunny climate bend in your favor. If you don’t know where to start, below are seven easy tips to help bring your sunny garden to life!

Full Sun Landscape Ideas

a garden with natural pools, rock gardens and seating areas
The dream garden!

There can be many challenges with sunny backyards including: 

  1. Heat and Moisture Stress: Plants in sunny backyards can experience heat stress and may need regular watering to combat the drying effects of the sun.
  2. Plant Selection: Not all plants can tolerate full sun, so homeowners may have a more limited selection when planning their landscape.
  3. Soil Deterioration: The constant sun can quickly dry out and degrade soil, which might require regular amendment to keep it nutrient-rich.
  4. Water Consumption: Sunny landscapes typically require more water, posing challenges in drought-prone areas or places with water restrictions.
  5. Maintenance: Full sun areas might demand more frequent maintenance, like pruning sunburned leaves or managing sun-loving weeds.

When planning full sun landscaping, it’s crucial to prioritize plants and techniques that thrive under the radiant warmth of the sun. Here are some landscape inspiration ideas to get you started. 

1. Plant Tall Trees

evergreen trees

A sunny backyard may suit some plants, but the heat can be too much for your home at the day’s peak.

To tone down the sun, you can plant some tall trees to provide some shade in your garden. Trees play a pivotal role full sun landscaping, offering an array of benefits that enhance the environment, protect other plants, and improve the overall experience of the space. 

Make sure to pick a local variety in your region so it’s easier for them to acclimate. Trees like oak, weeping willow, and American redwood are excellent shade trees because of their thick foliage and vertical growth tendencies.

Younger trees can take a while to mature, but once they do, they can also provide privacy and prevent floods in your area.

2. Add Heat-Tolerant Plants

bougainvillea on a wall
Bougainvilleas love the sun. No wonder they love the Mediterranean climate

If your garden only gets the blazing heat of the afternoon sun, delicate plants won’t be able to last.

However, it’s still possible to incorporate a combination of greenery and colors by adding afternoon sun plants. Vinca, coneflower, and salvia are some of the many hardy ornamentals that can withstand the heat of the midday sun. Just make sure to acclimate them slowly so they won’t get sunburnt.

If you prefer the lushness of a tropical garden, you can also incorporate local drought-tolerant plants, such as:

  • Bougainvilleas
  • Plumerias
  • Ferns
  • Achillea
  • Lavender
  • Daylily
  • Sunflowers
  • Cosmos
  • Petunias
  • Rose Bush

3. Create a Fruit and Vegetable Garden

There’s nothing like harvesting fresh produce from the garden by taking advantage of your sunny climate, so growing vegetables and fruit should definitely be included in your landscaping for backyards.

Some fruits and vegetables require 6-8 hours of sunlight daily to grow to their full potential. If you have the space, you can plant vegetables like cucumber, squash, eggplant, and tomatoes since they produce the most yield when exposed to the full sun.

If you want to grow some fruits, you can add watermelon, cantaloupe, dragonfruit, or avocado. Certain herbs can also survive the heat so you can also plant some basil, tarragon, dill, or chives.

Vegetable gardens are also brilliant for raised garden beds, which in turn have many advantages when in a sunny backyard. Gardeners can fill raised beds with a custom soil mix, ensuring optimal pH levels, texture, and nutrient content tailored to specific plants.

In sunny backyards, raised beds warm up faster in the spring due to their elevation, giving a head start to the growing season. This can be particularly beneficial for heat-loving plants that thrive in warm soil.

4. Incorporate Shrubs

californian lilacs
Californian lilacs love the sun

If you want to vary the plants in your garden, you should consider adding shrubs. They can help add a focal point to your space because of their colorful blooms and leaves. Tall shrubs can also provide shade in a sunny area, allowing you to place shade-tolerant plants.

Planting them repeatedly at equal distances can also add harmony and help fill out a minimal garden.

Butterfly bushes, California lilac, and oleander are flowering bushes that can grow into substantial sizes if you let them grow freely. Boxwoods, privet, and laurel are sun-loving bushes that are easy to shape into boxes or topiaries if you prefer that garden style.

5. Curate a Desert Backyard

If you’re more of a laidback gardener, adding desert plants to your sunny backyard can let you take advantage of its position.

Since cacti and succulents thrive under hot and dry environments, they’re the perfect plants for landscape inspiration. Aloes and agaves can also provide some color and interest to your landscape since they also love the full sun.

succulents in a rockery
Succulents thrive in sunny gardens

Make sure to plant them in well-draining soil and only water when the ground is completely dry. If you’re new to taking care of desert plants, you can start by potting them in containers so you can get the hang of their care.


At its core, xeriscaping is a set of principles designed to create landscapes that use minimal water. Many sun-drenched regions, especially those prone to drought, naturally support plants that thrive with minimal water. Xeriscaping aligns with the ecological and climatic realities of these areas.

Here’s a curated list of plants across various categories that are often used in xeriscaped gardens:

  1. Succulents: Agave, Sedum, Sempervivum, Echeveria, and Aloe. 
  2. Ornamental grasses: Blue Fescue, Mexican Feather Grass, Muhly Grass, and Switchgrass.
  3. Perennials: Lavender, Yarrow, Russian Sage and Penstemon.
  4. Ground Covers: Ice Plant, Creeping Thyme, and Trailing Lantana. 

6. Incorporate Hardscaping Elements

a garden with large stone patio, a small pool, lavender and flowers in a rock garden and a seating area

Hardscaping is also an option in your sunny backyard if your plants are constantly wilting. Hardscaping involves incorporating non-living elements into the landscape, such as pathways, patios, and rock gardens. In full sun yards, hardscaping offers a myriad of benefits that enhance the landscape and keep it easy to maintain. 

Hardscape elements like stone or concrete are highly durable and can withstand continuous exposure to the sun without deteriorating, unlike certain plants that might wilt or fade.

Pathways, patios, and rock gardens generally require less maintenance than planted areas. There’s no need for regular watering, pruning, or pest control.

Hardscaping can also help segment a yard into different zones or rooms, each with a distinct purpose, whether it’s a dining area, a walking path, or a contemplative space around a rock garden.

7. Set Up a Pavilion or Pergola

a pool with patio and pergola

Setting up a pavilion can be a great way of providing a shady spot to lounge when it gets too hot in the day. The design doesn’t have to be grand since you can always customize its size depending on the area of your backyard.

Don’t forget to add a comfortable seating area and amenities of your liking. It can be as luxurious as a bar and hot tub or as practical as a mini fridge and grill.

Granted, a pavilion can take up space in your yard, but it’s ideal if you like to entertain friends and family frequently!

a backyard with outdoor kitchen and bar
Install an open pergola in your garden and plant climbing plants like American Wisteria to give you shade

If you don’t have the space for a pavilion, a pergola can also be an excellent alternative for adding shade. It doesn’t take up as much space, and you’ll still have a seating area to relax in.

If you prefer to keep the roofing grid open but want a bit of shade, draping climbing plants on top can create the effect you need.

Flowering vines like American wisteria, jackman clematis, and summer shandy hop are sun-loving vines that can give your garden a breathtaking view once they grow lush on top of the pergola.

a sunny back garden with rock path, trees and hydrangeas

Adapting full sun landscaping techniques to the specific conditions of sunny backyards is crucial. Plants that are suited for sun-drenched environments will naturally thrive better, demonstrating stronger growth, brighter colors, and overall better health. 

Tailoring techniques to sun-filled yards often means incorporating drought-resistant plants and xeriscaping principles. This reduces water consumption, which is both environmentally responsible and cost-effective.

Also, a garden tailored for sunny conditions will look more cohesive and well-planned. Instead of struggling plants, you’ll have a vibrant landscape that harmonizes with the environment.

In essence, tailoring landscaping techniques to sunny backyards is about recognizing and respecting the inherent characteristics of the space. By doing so, gardeners can create lush, sustainable, and resilient outdoor areas that provide enjoyment year-round.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will receive a very small commission if you click through and make a purchase. These links help to pay the editorial costs of writing a blog. For more information, please read my full affiliate disclosure here.

I also use Artificial Intelligence Image generators to create some of my images. These are to show you examples of my ideas and inspiration when I cannot produce the real images myself.

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