Our site is reader supported, this means we may earn a small commission when you buy through links on our site.
Top 10 Best Shade Loving Plants For Containers
Last Updated on January 21, 2020 by John
If you have a shaded area of your garden it can be difficult to find plants that will thrive especially when you walk through a nursery and see that most plants have a label indicative of the need for sunlight and a great deal of it.
Thankfully there are plenty of shade loving plants that you can grow in your garden, and what’s more, you can grow them in containers. Not everybody has the opportunity to grow plants directly in the ground. Some people simply don’t have the soil or they don’t have the time or money to regularly amend poor soil in which case containers are an ideal solution. Additionally, container gardening gives you the opportunity to add plants on to a porch, a deck, or patio, even if that patio has an awning the blocks the sunlight.
Hostas are perennials which you can grow easily no matter where you live and if you have a particularly shaded area in your garden rest assured that these plants will likely outlive many of the other plants you have and possibly yourself. In the summertime, they produce beautiful flowers with a rich fragrance.
Hostas are perfect for containers and will thrive in damp conditions and shade. The reason they thrive in containers so well is because of how they grow. They will grow to fit the size of the space provided for them so you don’t have to be as cognizant about the size of the container because they will grow to fit that container and if it’s a smaller container they will grow more slowly so that they don’t maximize the space and outgrow it.
Dryopteris affinis (Golden Shield Fern)
Also referred to as the Golden Shield Fern, this deciduous fern produces beautiful fronds that can reach over one meter in length. The colours you get will start with a bright yellow-green and then as it matures reach a rich green.
These will thrive well in full shade or partial shade and provide you with rich green foliage all year round with the added yellow foliage in the springtime making it the perfect container companion. Moreover, it takes between 5 and 10 years to reach their ultimate maturity at which point the spread will be between 1/2 and 1 metre and the height will be around 1 metre making it a suitable size for containers.
Astilbe flowers also grow well in shaded areas and will attract plenty of butterflies to your garden. When grown in containers they offer clusters of flowers nestled on top of fern-like foliage. You can pick different varieties that come in pink, white, or red.
The flower clusters can reach between 30cm and 3/4 of a meter in size and they will grow up to 1 meter tall depending on the variety. There are smaller varieties that will only grow up to 30cm which makes it perfect for container growing if you have smaller containers in a smaller garden.
Coleus (Coleus spp.)
Coleus brings with it delayed flowering with a focus more on prolific branching. These plants do much better in shade than they do in full sunlight. However, if you put them in a pot located somewhere they will receive morning sunlight and then shade throughout the rest of the day, you can achieve the optimum brightness in the leaves and they look amazing.
There are small flowers that grow regularly and offer a beautiful backdrop to your garden. You can encourage more growth for your existing plant or less growth. If you don’t want the flowers and the subsequent petals dropping all over your garden you can of course pinch off the branches every few weeks to maintain a specific flower formation without allowing it to over flower.
The fuchsia bush usually has a two-toned flower that is quite exotic and will make a stunning addition to your garden and is available in many varieties. Moreover, it will do quite well in shaded areas. It’s important that you water correctly and keep the container properly tended to so that you can enjoy an abundance of flowers all summer long.
You should check the leaves and the stems at the point where they meet regularly to make sure there aren’t any insects trying to eat away at your plant. Fuchsias prefer cooler temperatures in the morning without a great deal of sun exposure so be careful where you place them in the containers during the height of the summer. If they are exposed to too much sun it will actually weaken the plant and the flowers may not be able to fully develop.
You can get some Fuchsias that are hardy which will last for many years but the flowers tend to be much smaller than the tender varieties you often see in baskets and tubs. Look for a hardy variety if you want to enjoy the flowers year after year.
Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Coral Bells bring with them traditional foliage and bell-shaped flowers hence the name. Often evergreen when grown in more sheltered spots, these plants do very well in partial shade.
Between spring and summer, you can watch them reach their full maturity of 30cm perfect for very small containers and admired the different colour blooms produced such as red, pink, and white witch stand against the often green leaves but they are available in many different colours too. The leaves are just as impressive as the flowers in so far as they turn different shades throughout the season going from lime green to gold to red along the edges.
Begonias have patterned and variegated foliage with brightly coloured blooms. They can be grown in containers effectively and thrive in the shade. They will start to produce flowers at the beginning of Summer and continue until the first frost. You can pick one of three popular types, first being the wax begonias which have shiny, wax like leaves and blooms that come in red, pink, or white. second is a tuberous begonia which can be grown up right or in a trailing fashion over a trellis that you have inserted into the container. Angel wing begonias have an underside to the leaves that’s often a deep red shade and provide speckled attractive foliage throughout the year.
Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)
Commonly referred to as the Buzzy Lily, this summer annual will provide blooms between June and your first frost date during which time you can enjoy multiple colours ranging from pink to Red to purple to Orange all the way to White depending on the variety.
It requires low maintenance and is very tolerant of shade. When grown in a container make sure that you provide it with good quality compost designed for baskets and tubs and pinchback the stems of the younger plants in order to help it properly branch upward and outward.
With these, it will provide flowers non-stop in shady conditions, unlike any other flower. It doesn’t get excessively large which allows you to fit it different containers and of course offers five-petaled blooms of many colour varieties such that you can mix and match to get the rainbow effect you want.
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’
Silver Queen is a special, variegated evergreen that can be found in many forms the smaller of which are perfect for containers. You can actually grow it in a container in the shade and cut it such that it serves as a topiary. With limited sunlight, it will actually slow down its growth rate which allows it to fit more effectively in a smaller container long-term.
Hebe Red Edge
Commonly referred to as Red Edge, this evergreen shrub will produce beautiful flowers in the summertime and the autumn alongside leaves of blue grey that enjoy red margins in the winter time, hence the name.
This evergreen is well known for its strength and ability to thrive in shaded areas, particularly in pots. In the Autumn you can sit back and enjoy blue, grey, and red colours on the foliage, the same in the springtime. But come summer you can enjoy beautiful white flowers and purple flowers juxtaposing the leaf colours. Similarly to other plants on this list when it reaches full maturity the red edge won’t spread beyond 50cm metres in height and spread which makes it perfect for smaller containers. It is quite easy to grow in containers with well-drained soil and is really only susceptible to leaf spot and aphids.
Image credits – Shutterstock