Not everyone has a full-sun patio where they can display lush containers of annuals every year. But there are plenty of options for shade container gardening. You just need to know what to look for. A few years ago, while on a garden tour, I visited not one, but two gardens where containers filled with a variety of lush hostas complemented the shade gardens and seating areas.
Usually, we associate summer containers with annuals, but you can get creative with shade perennials, as well. In this article, I’m going to share some shade container gardening ideas I’ve gathered, as well as some important growing advice to put together pots that will jazz up porches, decks, and other living spaces.
Shade container gardening tips
Shade container gardening is not that different from putting together arrangements for sun. However there are a few pieces of advice that will hopefully set you up for success.
- Where to shop at the nursery: Head to the shady side of the garden center, but also sneak a peek at the sunny side to see if there are options that would fare okay in a spot that gets partial shade.
- Assess your location: When selecting the area where you’d like to display your pots, figure out where the sun moves throughout the day. Does it shine a bit on the area? Or is it in perpetual shade? This will help when you’re choosing plants.
- Read the plant tags carefully: They should indicate whether the plants need a bit of sunshine during the day or whether they’ll thrive in full shade. Partial sun means the plant should get about three to six hours of sunlight in a day.
- Choose the right pots: Make sure the containers you choose have good drainage holes, so the soil has a chance to dry out after watering or a rainstorm.
- Be mindful of the potting soil you use: It should be lightweight and drain quickly.
- Plants may require less water than annuals in the sun: Being in shade, your containers may take longer to dry out. This is why drainage and your pot choice are important. If your plants are perpetually sitting in wet soil, it could lead to mold or root rot. Place your finger a couple of inches in the soil to see if it’s still wet after a previous watering. Avoid watering if the soil is still damp.
Plant choices for shade container gardening
Choices may vary, depending on where you live and your hardiness zone. Here is some inspiration for your own made-for-shade containers.
If you’re sad about not planting a colorful annual flowers for full sun, like petunias or calibrachoas, you still have options. And fuchsias are one of them. They don’t like direct sunlight, but place them in a spot that gets a bit of sun and bright, indirect light throughout the day and they’ll reward you with blooms.
A lot of the time impatiens walleriana (and modern downy-mildew-resistant varieties of impatiens) are used in borders or for municipal plantings because of their low-maintenance nature and ability to spread. However, try planting them up in a container, paired with some interesting foliage. New Guinea impatiens would also make nice fillers in a potted arrangement.
Begonias offer a range of choice, depending on whether you’d like to focus on foliage or flowers. While their flowers aren’t necessarily anything to write home about, the leaves of rex begonias more than make up for it. Check out Begonia Escargot or the stunning Begonia Gryphon! You can find these stunners in a variety of patterns and colors. On the other hand, the foliage of a tuberous begonia is fine, but it’s the flowers that steal the show.
Hostas are popular in shade gardens, but you don’t always see them in pots. Why not? There are lots of foliage patterns and shades of green to choose from. As I mentioned above, I’ve been to a couple of gardens where hostas were prevalent in containers and displayed in very creative ways. They lent such a magical air to the gardens. This article provides tips on taking care of hostas in pots, including overwintering advice.
A hummingbird favorite, this annual thrives in both full shade and part shade. It features pretty violet-colored flowers that you don’t have to worry about deadheading. Overwinter it indoors so you can add it to next year’s container combos.
I love the lush, tropical look that ferns add to a garden. Plant them in hanging baskets or dig them into a modern urn for a sophisticated display.
Plant oxalis as a spiller in an area that gets partial shade. You can find oxalis varieties that are maroon with yellow flowers, and green with white flowers.
Herbs that don’t mind shade
I incorporate lots of herbs in my container arrangements for sun. They provide such great texture and some have pretty flowers. Luckily, there are a number of herbs that don’t mind a bit of shade throughout the day. It may stunt their growth a little, but if you’re growing them more as an ornamental plant, this won’t be as big of a deal. Lemon balm, chives, parsley, and mint are favorites of mine.
More plants for shade gardens and containers
- Annuals for your shade containers
- Plants for dry shade
- Planting Japanese painted ferns
- Look for blue hosta varieties at the garden center