USDA hardiness zone 8 is one of the warmer zones in the continental US. With higher summer temperatures, some tree and plant species can struggle to deal with the sun, which can become harsh as the day goes on.
If you live in a zone 8 region where the afternoon sun can be overbearing, it’s important to plant trees that can thrive in full-day sun even when it’s at its hottest.
Not only can they tolerate full sun, but some varieties will show superior growth with as much sun as possible.
Here are some excellent options for planting full-sun trees in zone 8.
7 Full Sun Trees You Can Grow in USDA Zone 8
1. Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)
It is named for the long, thin petals of its pinkish-white flowers, which resemble a splayed star and are quite unique compared to the more conventional tulip-shaped magnolia flower.
This variety is a Japanese native that can be grown as a shrub or small tree, simply by removing its low-growing branches. There are a number of cultivars, all of which are beautiful and tend to have different colored flowers. It is most often used as a specimen or in foundation plantings.
The Star Magnolia needs at least 4 hours of sun per day for adequate flower production, with more recommended. Full sun will also help to deter fungal infections such as powdery mildew and leaf spot, which this tree is susceptible to.
Other Common Names: Starry Magnolia, Magnolia Bush
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 feet tall, with a 10-15 foot spread
Flowering Season: Late winter, early spring
2. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
This Chinese native is beautiful, useful, and interesting – a triple threat! The sun loving Ginkgo tree is the world’s oldest living tree species, dating back 200 million years, and is still used regularly around the world as a landscaping tree.
Its leaves are its most notable visual feature, with their unusual fan shape and brilliant yellow fall color.
The Ginkgo has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine and is considered a sacred species in Japan. In landscaping, it is most often used as a street tree, specimen, shelterbelt, or windbreak. It is particularly useful in city gardens and coastal areas due to its tolerance to salt, air pollution, and drought.
They are not fussy trees either. Ginkgo can be grown in most soil types of varying conditions and pH levels, and fare better in compacted soil than the vast majority of trees. They will thrive in full sun.
Other Common Names: Maidenhair Tree
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 feet tall, with a 30-40 foot spread
Fruiting Season: Fall
3. Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Invest in your home landscape with the incredibly useful and versatile black walnut tree. This native nut-growing species is attractive, with lustrous compound leaves that turn bright yellow in fall, dark textured bark, and a spreading, oval canopy.
This sun loving walnut tree can be planted in the landscape as a bold specimen, focal point, or shade tree.
Outside of landscaping the black walnut has tremendous economic potential. A large crop of black walnut trees can be used as a timber plantation, as its wood is excellent for use in furniture-making. Its high-quality nuts can be processed and sold as a valuable foodstuff or oil extract.
Of course, growing a black walnut tree is not without its issues. Most notably the leaves, stems, and roots of this tree produce juglone, a toxic chemical that will stunt the growth of most trees and plants around it.
Plant the black walnut in a location with full sun exposure and rich, moist, well-draining soil.
Other Common Names: Native Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size at Maturity: 50-70 feet with a similar spread
Fruiting Season: Early-Mid Autumn
4. Red Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida ‘Rubra’)
One of America’s most ornamental traditional native trees, the sun loving Flowering Dogwood is an easy choice for gardeners who want a low-maintenance tree with plenty of benefits.
The Flowering Dogwood comes in a number of colors, and the red variety is a winning option with its stunning red blooms and neat, spreading habit. In fall its flowers are replaced by red fruits and reddish-purple and amber-colored foliage.
It is a very versatile landscape tree, able to be used as a small shade tree, specimen, anchor plant, and accent. It looks exceptional when planted near a patio, courtyard, or seating area.
While the Red Flowering Dogwood can grow in both full sun and partial shade, it will do best with as much sunlight as possible, as this will promote flower production. Provide a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight per day.
Other Common Names: Florida Dogwood, False Boxwood, False Box, American Dogwood, Indian Arrowwood, Cornelian Tree, Blood Twig Dogwood, North American Green Osier
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 15-30 feet tall, with a 15-20 foot spread
Flowering Season: Spring
Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees
5. Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana)
This sun loving native conifer grows at high altitudes in the western United States, and while it isn’t a widely used landscape tree, many US gardeners recognize the utility of its tough, adaptable nature.
While it is medium-sized in cultivation the Mountain Hemlock can grow up to 100 feet in the wild. Its short, densely-clustered needles and gray-green silvery foliage make an excellent evergreen display in zone 8 gardens.
It can be planted as a specimen to add year-round color and texture to your property, or it can be planted en masse as a hedge or privacy screen. Plant in full sun, with a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
The Mountain Hemlock is mostly pest and disease resistant, with the exception of hemlock adelgid, which appears on the needles in white tufts where there is inadequate air circulation.
According to the Washington State University Extension trees will have to be removed if severely infested.
Growing Zones: 5-8
Average Size at Maturity: 30-100 feet tall, with a 10-15 foot spread
Fruiting Season: Fall
6. Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox)
Naturally, winter isn’t the best time of year for a flower display, which is why the sun loving Wintersweet is such a unique addition to any garden.
This vase-shaped shrub produces translucent pale yellow blossoms in early to mid-winter, which add outstanding visual appeal and fill its surroundings with a sweet floral fragrance while it blooms. Plant near the entrance of your home or along pathways to make the most of its lovely smell.
The tree itself has an upright growth habit, gray bark, and glossy foliage. It is a decent specimen and works well in mixed shrub borders where it will stand out during winter.
The Wintersweet is a low-maintenance tree that is resistant to drought and most pests and diseases. It should be mulched annually but needs very little pruning. Plant it in a location with full sun exposure in moist, well-draining soil.
Other Common Names: Japanese Allspice
Growing Zones: 7-9
Average Size at Maturity: 10-15 feet tall, with an 8-12 foot spread
Flowering Season: Winter
7. Franklin Tree (Franklinia alatamaha)
A sun lover with a rich history in North American botany, the Franklin tree is perfect for gardeners who want a piece of southeastern US heritage in their backyard. The tree was named after founding father Benjamin Franklin, who was close friends with John Bartram, the first European botanist to document it.
The Franklin tree is a small deciduous tree or shrub with an open spreading canopy and long leaves that turn a lovely combination of orange, red, and purple in fall. In midsummer, the branches of the Franklin erupt with large, elegant white flowers that emit a fresh, appealing fragrance.
These trees work well as specimens and in border planting and make good container plants. For the best flower production plant the Franklin in a location with full sun exposure in rich, moist, well-draining soil with an acidic pH.
Other Common Names: Franklinia
Growing Zones: 5 to 8
Average Size at Maturity: 10-20 feet tall, with a 6-15 foot spread
Flowering Season: Mid Summer to Early Fall
Sun Lovers for Zone 8
By planting these species you won’t have to worry about sun exposure affecting your trees. Each variety, from the highly ornamental Star Magnolia to the tough evergreen mountain hemlock, will survive and thrive even in 12 hours of sunlight.
But sun requirements are only one of the many things you need to know about the trees you choose to plant on your property.
Make sure to familiarize yourself with USDA hardiness zone 8, as well as the microclimates that contain your landscape and the condition of the soil on your property. This will help you to understand which trees will succeed in your garden.
For more growing options, check out some of the most popular zone 8 trees you can plant today.
- 16 Popular USDA Zone 8 Trees to Consider Planting Today
- 14 Ornamental Flowering Trees for USDA Zone 8 Landscapes
- 9 Palm Trees for USDA Zone 8 Gardens & Landscapes
- 16 Best Bountiful Fruit Trees for USDA Zone 8
- 7 Trees You Can Grow in Full Sun in USDA Zone 8
Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor’s plant nursery.
As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture.
When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.