Help this reader: What’s a good perennial for sun?

black-eyed Susans in Amherst
Black-eyed Susan. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Here’s a question from a reader:

“I’m considering removing my Stella de Oro daylilies (I have seven in a very sunny location) since they are no longer rewarding me with blooms. They are a great deal of work and not much reward.

“Wondering what perennial you would recommend for full sun?”

Linda Liberi, Williamsville

This is the kind of question I think would benefit from a wide range of opinions. What would you suggest for Linda? Please leave a comment below.

Here’s my suggestion: black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). You’ll get a bigger reward for a lot less work.

The plant gets lots of flowers that bloom for weeks. It’s a late summer flower; they’re blooming now. (Technically, the black-eyed Susan is a biennial, but I’ve never had a year when I was waiting around for blooms.)

The black-eyed Susan flower is bright and cheery. I’m partial to yellow in my garden, so I like it a lot.

It’s a native plant, so it’s very low maintenance. Unless the weather is super hot and dry, you don’t have to even water them.

It spreads, so it’s a great plant if you’re just starting out and want to expand your garden beds over a number of years. However, it doesn’t spread aggressively; it’s easy to control.

In the summer, pollinators like the flowers. In the winter, birds like the seed pods. Plus, the seed pods look pretty against the snow.

But there are so many wonderful perennials out there. I’ll bet you have many that you can suggest. Please leave a comment below.

How to get your questions answered

Sometimes readers contact me with questions that I can’t answer. I’m not a gardening expert– I’m a writer by profession. I interview knowledgeable people in order to provide you with great articles on

So when someone asks a question I can’t answer, I post the question and rely on my readers to share their expertise. If you have advice for Linda, please leave a comment below. If you want to know the answer to this question, check back later to read the comments.

Sending a question to me to post can be helpful if you’re looking for a wide range of opinions and don’t mind waiting for the answer. If you want to try this route, email the question to me at and I’ll pose it to my readers in an upcoming issue.

A more efficient route for getting your questions answered is to turn to Master Gardeners with Cornell Cooperative Extension or to turn to your local garden center.

For Master Gardeners at Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County, call (716) 652-5400 from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays or email them at For Chautauqua County, email your question to; call the Helpline at (716) 664-9502, ext 224, or stop in to the Frank Bragg Ag Center, 3542 Turner Rd., Jamestown,  from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays.

There are helpful Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in other counties, too. Find contact information here for your county’s Cooperative Extension office.

The businesses that support this magazine have very knowledgeable staff. Check out our Gardening Directory or click on the ads to the right.

24 Comments on “Help this reader: What’s a good perennial for sun?

  1. Hi Laura, thanks for your suggestion. I took out the link you included because it contained at least one plant that isn’t a perennial in Western New York.

  2. My favorites are the cone flowers which come in so many varieties now..awesome also the beautiful hardy Hibiscus with the dinner plate flowers..never disappoints. Another enjoyable flower is the hardy geraniums…variety of colors. I train mine up into a large cone shaped tri-pod. It’s beautiful…
    blooms all summer. Also you might try the butterfly bush. Hummingbirds and butterflies delight in it.

  3. I agree with the others who recommended coneflowers(several colors) and Russian sage. Very low maintenance.
    Both of these have been vigorously blooming in my garden since June.
    As for coreopsis, mine are still in bloom from June but they require frequent deadheading or they look scraggly.

  4. My neighbor plants ornamental grasses along the back of my fence and I spend the summer using Round-up trying to keep them out of my garden beds. The West Texas form of Salvia reptans makes a nice alternative to an ornamental grass and it is covered with small blue flowers in late summer into fall which the honey bees and hummers use. It is also deer and drought tolerant and doesn’t travel but stays in a nice clump. I only water mine about once a month if we have a very hot dry summer.

  5. While Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan) is a great choice; it is a later bloomer. For a season of color try planting some ornamental grasses (Festuca ovina glauca) among different blooming daylilies. Coreopsis is indeed a constant bloomer and there are so many varieties to choose from. Coneflowers, as mentioned are wonderful too, though I’ve read they are over-hybridized and may be short-lived. There are so many colours now to choose from. If you do plant Black-Eyed Susans, try planting a deep blue or purple flower like salvia, Centurea montana,Balloon flower, bee balm, or campanula.

  6. Another good plant for sun and dry conditions is Penstemon barbatus coccineus. Red flowers will bloom off and all on season if you remove the spent stalks .can be divided every couple of years. divisions root very easily in the ground. Just keep moist until they start to grow on their own. Also another good hummingbird and butterfly plant. Penstemon hirsutus (northeastern common beardstongue) with whitish flowers is also good for sun but has a short bloom time and mainly attracts bees.

  7. For a sunny area that may stay on the wet side Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) is very good. It grows tall and columnar and has red flowers in July though fall. Another is Lobelia siphilitica (Great Blue Lobelia) with blue flowers and similar growing conditions. If they are happy they may reseed after a couple of years providing more plants for you or to pass along. Hummingbirds use them extensively. Even not in bloom they are a nice tall green plant and they are both native plants. Do not mulch these plants and keep debris leaf litter, etc) away from the crown even in winter or the plants will die. No other special care. My plants are growing in a low spot of my yard and in front of gutter down spouts and receive lots of water every time we have a good rain and they do great. I even have quite a few young seedlings this year that I may have to dig up for lack of room if anyone wants some in the north towns N. Tonawanda.

  8. I agree with Connie. Black Eyed Susans are are a great plant. It is a long lasting bloom and even when the yellow flowers fall off the black middles remain for awhile.

  9. Any of these sedums may compare to the height of your stella d’oro — you may wish to try them. I am partial to sedums as they are practically carefree, and they perform superbly in my zone 6 garden under full sun. The only weak one I find is sedum matronna.

    Sedum purple emperor
    Sedum frosty morn
    Sedum black jack
    Sedum autumn joy
    Sedum neon
    Sedum touchdown teak

    I also agree with any of the compact varieties of echinacea and phlox. You may also wish to consider repeat blooming daylilies if you are really tired of your stellas.

  10. I recommend yarrow! We put ours in the sun and it loves it. The flowers are white and pink on the same plant. My friend calls it “invasive,” but I like the fact that it has “babies” – it means I can share plants with my friends.

    We also have coneflowers, and love them, too.

  11. I favor Potentilla which comes in a variety of colors. I have mango-tango, but have also had the plain yellow variety. It forms a lovely bush which increases in size each year, especially if you prune it to a pleasing shape, and mine has been flowering since June.

    I also agree that dividing the daylilies and planting among them is a good strategy – bee balm is perfect. A beautiful scape depending on the space might be the potentilla in front, with daylily, bee balm, and the black eyed susan.

  12. I would first ask the question, “Do you have deer and if you do, are you totally fenced in with a fence that is opaque and at least 7 feet tall? If you are not and see deer in your neighborhood, Google deer resistant plants and use them. Do not plant hostas or day lilies! Russian Sage, Blacked Eyed Susan’s and Coreopsis are usually safe, I live in the Village of Williamsville and have extensive browsing by deer. It has reached the point that repellents no longer work.also, the Master Gardener Hot Line is good to call for info. (I am a Master Gardnener)

  13. One of our favorite perennials is Russian Sage (Perovskia). It is considered a bush, but it has the most beautiful tiny lavender flowers on it that bloom all summer. The branches are thin so when the wind blows, they just sway gently. We had so many comments on them during our Ken-Ton Garden Tour and also in the Open Gardens. We have several scattered throughout our backyard.

    Another favorite perennial of ours is Phlox. They come in so many beautiful shades of pink and purple, along with white. Again, they bloom during the summer, and if you pick off just the dead flowers and don’t deadhead the entire flower head, you will get a second bloom!

  14. How about bee balm and daisies or butterfly weed? The best show I have is from perennial geraniums…they bloom all summer with a delicate purple flower much loved by pollinators and they’re set off nicely by yellow or white flowers.

  15. I love coneflowers
    They come in a lot of different colors
    I have some beautiful red, pinks and purples

  16. I am using Phlox.
    There is a great range of color from white, variegated to dark red.
    Also I have some giant hibiscus which have been very hardy for me and they come back year after year so well that I have divided them.. I do,however have to,use a lot of Hostas as I have some shade too.

  17. Black eyed Susan’s are very cheerful in the garden as well as easy. Another favorite that is easy in the sun is Purple coneflower (or any coneflower).

  18. Coreopsis are aggressive bloomers. I have them in the front (south facing) with black eye Susan’s and blanket flowers.

  19. If you like Stella D’oro you should probably lift your plants and separate them and share them with your friends. Overcrowding leads to less blooms. Most day lilies need to be separated after a while. I also like phlox for midsummer blooms, there are so many varieties available, from dwarf to the tall variety. Another flower that blooms a long time (from early Aug to mid-September is the Japanese Anenome.
    This one can be invasive if not checked every two years.
    Enjoy! and Happy Gardening!

  20. Definitely recommend echinacea (coneflower); there are lots of different varieties to choose from. Also garden phlox,veronica, salvia such as May night, clump forming achillea (yarrow),chelone (turtlehead) and echinops (globe thistle)

  21. I like to stick with natives everywhere possible because they are the lowest maintenance. Natives evolved in this region and are, therefore, the hardiest and grow the best. Here are some suggestions:

    Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya): Gorgeous and very tall with lavender flower spikes that the pollinators adore. Tolerates very dry conditions.

    Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa): Another native with bright orange flowers, important especially for the Monarch Butterfly.

    Echinacea (E. purpurea): Lovely long flowering pink heather flowers.

    Tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata): Bright yellow flowers that go on forever.

  22. Coreopsis is a good perennial.Just add it too your garden and don’t take out your daylilies.

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