Pre-Planned Sun Garden Recipes for Chilly Growing Zones

Pre-Planned Sun Garden Recipes for Chilly Growing Zones

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A full sun garden gives Northern gardeners massive potential and helps extend your growing season just a bit longer than shade. It can also have its challenges for both gardeners and plants alike because of what comes with it - dry conditions, heat and humidity!

For a northern gardener, full sun is a welcome luxury after a long winter but can mean constant watering, leaf burn and even dry, sunbaked soil that leaves plants and people gasping. Finding plants that do their very best in your unique climate and in full sun can be tricky, but Nature Hills is here with some pre-planned gardens for full sun that will also stand a chance against cold winters. Plus some tips and tricks on combating the blaze!

Beat the Heat

We all want shade and cover when we’re stuck out in the sun. For plants, that coverage is best done at the root level. Mulch, moisture, hardy or native plants and good soil.

enriched soil

A surefire method for survival is first ensuring you have either hardy native plants that are made for the sun, or newer hybrids that are geared for anything your growing zone can throw at them. Choose plants perfect for your climate by adding your Zip Code to our Growing Zone Finder, have a look at Plants for Your State for ideas, and get in touch with your local County Extension Office to learn more about what will do best for your immediate area!

Having organically enriched soil is the first step in preparing your garden for the sun. Organic matter holds moisture longer and releases it slowly, plus gives your root systems a cool, fertile place to grow. Adding peat moss, rich compost and other soil additions help not only improve soil microbial life but also increase moisture retention, cool the soil, and help plants grow deeper and healthier! This also aerates the soil and keeps it from compacting, leading to smaller root balls and preventing moisture from getting deep into the ground.

Root Insulation mulch insulation

A thick layer of Arborist Mulch, 3-4 inches deep, over the top of your garden beds is a sure-fire way to hold in more moisture, regulate moisture levels, and keep temperatures down so roots stay cool! For northern gardeners, it also means insulation from the cold in the winter. It also prevents evaporation throughout the entire year. Mulch adds to the organic matter, microbial action and biodiversity of your soil as it slowly breaks down. It’s a win-win!


Using mulch and the methods above, you can help hold a more consistent soil moisture level throughout the highs and lows throughout the growing seasons. But another useful tool to help plants stand up to the sun is underground irrigation. When the sun is baking onto leaves and there’s water present from an overhead system or sprinkles, it can actually burn holes into the leaves or cause brown spots. Plants rarely take in moisture through their leaves, so give them the hydration they need to be delivered directly at the root zone! soaker hose

Soaker hoses and trickle irrigation won’t broadcast the water over the leaves and into the air, where most of it will just evaporate before the plant can use it, keeping the moisture where it’s needed most! This also prevents moisture on the leaves that can lead to powdery mildew and disease.

If you do water with a hose or sprinkler, water in the evening or morning so leaves have time to dry before the sun comes out. 

Shade Your World

These shade trees thrive in the full sun and cold winters while giving your garden relief from the sun! Set up a hammock and bask under their welcoming limbs! Evapotranspiration by trees, combined with the shade they produce, reduces summer temperatures by 2–9°F! Strategically plant them around buildings or shade pavement that would otherwise radiate heat and amplify the sun.

  • Linden Trees
  • Crabapple Trees - Blooms & Fruit
  • Birch, Aspen & Cottonwood
  • Dogwood Trees
  • Big Trees like Sycamore, Hackberry & Honeylocust
  • Evergreens

shade your world garden

Flowers That Defy The Sun

Hardy native perennials and shrubs that have evolved to survive your growing zone usually have also evolved for full sun and winters of your area! Here are some sun perennials that will also attract local beneficial pollinators and butterflies. These lovelies also bloom all summer and provide you with armloads of blooms for bouquets!

Flowers that defy the sun

Pre-Planned Gardens for Success 

Here are a few collections to get your creative juices flowing!

Cool As A Cucumber - Zones 3 and up

Lime, chartreuse, white and cool colors to catch the eye and enliven the landscape!

  • Little Lime® Hydrangea or Invincibelle Limetta® Hydrangea
  • Glow Girl® Spirea or Magic Carpet Spirea
  • Primrose Lilac
  • Darts Gold Ninebark
  • Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass
  • First Editions® Matcha Ball® Ash Leaf Spirea
  • Miss Manners Obedient Plant

cool as a cucumber

Whimsical Pink Pompom Pollinator Garden - Zone 3 and up

Rounded and mounded pink hues that call butterflies and bees.

  • Creeping Thyme 
  • Cinderella Butterfly Weed 
  • Autumn Joy Sedum
  • Sea Thrift Splendens 
  • SUNSPARKLER Firecracker Sedum 
  • PowWow Wild Berry Coneflower 
  • Coral Charm Peony
  • Purple Lovegrass or Pink Muhly Grass

Whimsical Pink Pompom

Reflect the Sun - Zone 3 - 4 and up

Glorious sunny hues of yellow, apricots and orange to bring the sun closer to home.

  • Lily Looks™ Tiny Double You Asiatic Lily
  • Tuscan Sun Sunflower or False Sunflower
  • Zipper Coral Bells
  • Sombrero Adobe Orange Coneflower or Tiki Torch Coneflower
  • Butterfly Weed Plant
  • Rainbow Rhythm® Orange Smoothie Daylily
  • Arizona Apricot Blanket Flower

Reflect the Sun

Night Time During Day - Zones 3 and up

Dark and dramatic hues bring depth and curiosity to the garden bed!

  • DAKOTA™ Burgundy Penstemon
  • Espresso Geranium
  • Blackhawks Big Bluestem
  • Nosferatu Daylily
  • May Night Salvia or Salvia Bumbleberry
  • Rock 'N Grow® Back in Black Sedum

Night Time During Day

Sterling Sun & Drought - Zones 4 & up

Cool, calm and collected silvers and blues add softness and grace to the garden.

  • Silver Mound Artemisia
  • Helene Von Stein Lamb's Ear
  • Blue Star Juniper 
  • Blue Oat Grass
  • The Blues Little Bluestem Grass or Heavy Metal Switch Grass
  • Silver Buffaloberry
  • Dropmore Ornamental Catmint

Sterling Sun & Drought

Soggy Sunny Soil Zones 3 & 4 and up

Damp spots in the garden, Rain Gardens, or that wet spot by the gutters, this one's for you!

  • Dogwood like Ivory Halo 
  • White Turtlehead
  • Milkmaid Swamp Milkweed
  • Miss Manners Obedient Plant
  • Buttonbush
  • Winterberry & Yaupon Holly
  • Variegated Iris
  • Summersweet Shrubs
  • Bald Cypress & Prairie Cascade Willow

Soggy Sunny Soil

Ready for The Sun

Get out your lounge chair and shades and kick back with a drink this summer without worrying about your garden when you select plants that are ready for the summer sun!

Straddling the heat of summer and cold winters can be a challenging situation! Let Nature Hills Nursery help you find the right plants for your unique landscape today by calling our customer service experts or dropping by our website anytime for inspiration! 

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