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Top 10 Best Shade Loving Plants For Containers

Last updated on May 5th, 2022

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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, should you wish, 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 to a porch, a deck or patio, even if that patio has an awning that blocks the sunlight.

1. Hosta

Hosta grow well in wet soils. 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.
Hosta, perfect for growing in pots

Hostas are perennials that 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 summer 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 particular 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 maximise the space and outgrow it.

Hosta
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2. 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. Perfect for growing on comtainers in shade.

Also referred to as the Golden Shield Fern, this deciduous fern produces beautiful fronds that can reach over one metre in length. The colours you get will start with a bright yellow-green and then as it matures it reaches 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 spring, making it the perfect container companion. Moreover, they take between 5 and 10 years to reach their ultimate maturity, at which point the spread will be between 0.5m and 1m and the height will be around 1 metre making it a suitable size for containers.


3. Astilbe – False Goat’s Beard

Astilbe - great for shade and wet soils but also grow well in containers but require regularly watering.
Perfect for growing in containers in shade but require lots of water

Astilbes 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 metre in size and they will grow up to 1 metre tall depending on the variety. There are smaller varieties that will only grow up to 30cm and these are perfect for container growing if you have smaller containers in your garden.

Astilbe
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4. Coleus

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.

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.

Coleus
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5. Fuchsia

Fuchsia shrub ideal for a shady position

The Fuchsia bush usually has a two-toned flower that is quite exotic and will make a stunning addition to your garden. They are 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 pots) 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 and 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.

Fuschia
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6. Heuchera – Coral Bells

You can use the leaves to draw attention to other flowers such as combining the purple leaves with a nearby plant that produces yellow flowers to create a beautiful mixture.
Available in many colours

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, making them perfect for very small containers where you can admire the different colour blooms produced such as red, pink, and white which stand out against the often green leaves, but these are available in many different colours too. The leaves are just as impressive as the flowers because they turn different shades throughout the season going from lime green to gold to red along the edges.

Heuchera
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7. Begonias

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.

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, the first being the Wax Begonias that have shiny, wax-like leaves and flowers that come in red, pink or white. The second is a Tuberous Begonia that can be grown upright 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 is often a deep red shade and provide speckled attractive foliage throughout the year.

Begonias
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8. Impatiens – Busy Lizzie

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.

Commonly referred to as the Busy Lizzie, this summer annual will provide flowers between June and the first frosts, during which time you can enjoy multiple colours ranging from pink, red, purple and 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, one that is designed for baskets and tubs and pinch back the stems of the younger plants in order to help them properly branch upwards and outwards.

These will provide flowers non-stop in shady conditions, unlike any other flower. It doesn’t get excessively large which allows you to fit it in different pots and planters. A pretty flower that offers five-petaled blooms of many colour varieties so that you can mix and match to get the rainbow effect you want.

Impatiens
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9. 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.

The Silver Queen is a special, variegated evergreen plant that can be found in many forms, the smaller of which is perfect for containers. You can actually grow it in a pot in the shade and cut it so that it serves as a topiary. With limited sunlight, it will actually slow down its growth rate and this allows it to fit more effectively in a smaller container long-term.


10. Hebe ‘Red Edge’

The Hebe red Edge is an evergreen shrub that is known for having simple leaves and spikes of small tubular flowers throughout the summer and the Autumn. The leaves themselves are oblong in shape taking on a blue or green shade and the margins are tinted with red in the winter time which is where it gets its name from 'red edge'.

Commonly referred to as Red Edge, this evergreen shrub will produce beautiful flowers in the summer and the autumn alongside leaves of blue-grey that enjoy red margins in the winter, hence the name.

This evergreen shrub is well known for its strength and ability to thrive in shaded areas, particularly in pots. In autumn you can sit back and enjoy the blue, grey and red colours on the foliage, the same in the spring. But come summer you can enjoy beautiful white flowers and purple flowers that compliment the leaf colours. Similarly to other plants on this list when it reaches full maturity the Hebe Red Edge won’t spread beyond 50cm in height and spread, making 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

Last update on 2022-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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