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Five Shade Plants for Containers

These plants are made in the shade.


Have a spot that just doesn't get any sun? No worries, these five plants for shade are easy to grow and can look spectacular. All you need is the right container with good drainage, high quality potting soil and to water and feed your plants regularly.


container gardening picture of fuchsia and begonia hanging basket
Photograph © Kerry Michaels

I love fuchsias. I have read that they are fussy, but I have not found that to be the case. I think they are amazing plants for shade. They will happily flower all summer and you can bring them into to house in the fall, if you live in a cold climate. Fuchsias are classic in hanging baskets, but can also look awesome in mixed containers. They look great paired with either complimentary or contrasting colors. Fuchsias can be a little particular about food and water. They like lots of both - though think moist, not wet. They don't like hot and dry conditions. Fuchsias come in a wide range of colors and flower shapes.

To see a combination basket with fuchsia and oxalis. For more information about fuschias.

Torenia or Wishbone Flower

container garden picture of flowering torenia or wishbone plant
Photo © Kerry Michaels

Torenia, also known as wishbone flower, is an elegant and cheerful plant which will flower all summer even in full shade. It is heat tolerant and really easy to take care of. This gem will thrive with regular watering and fertilizing until frost and you don’t even have to deadhead it. Wishbone flower is great in combinations or, in the right container, they can be beautiful on its own. You can use it in hanging baskets, window boxes or in any container with good drainage. It is relatively short, two to six inches, and will trail over the side of your container. My favorite is “Summer Wave, Large Violet.”

For more information on wishbone flower.

Heuchera or Coral Bells

container gardening picture of coral bells or heuchera, Dolce, Key Lime Pie
Photograph © Kerry Michaels

Heucheras, also known as coral bells, are some of my favorite container garden plants for shade. They are gorgeous and almost indestructible and come in a huge array of colors. Thriving in the shade, most coral bells will also tolerate some sun and are drought tolerant. Coral bells come in fabulous and unusual colors, ranging from an almost black-purple to a peach to a bright key lime. Coral bells will attract hummingbirds, and butterflies and some are hardy to a spectacular, minus 25°F. While deadheading isn’t necessary, removing flower stems after they have bloomed will keep your plant looking great. I've never seen a heuchera I didn't love, but a few favorites are "Dolce, Licorice," "Dolce, Key Lime Pie," and "Dolce, Creme Brulee."


container gardening picture of tuberous begonia, On Top Sunset
Photograph © Kerry Michaels

There are so many kinds of begonias, that it can make your eyes glaze over. They go from not that interesting to totally, incredibly, fabulous. Some tuberous begonias are so beautiful that you want to eat them (but don't). Rex begonias can have leaf colors, shapes and textures that are almost psychedelic. There are all kinds of new trailing, angel and dragon wing begonias that will bloom like crazy all summer. Most begonias need great drainage and don't want to be too wet. Some will be happy in full shade, and some would prefer filtered shade. Almost all flowering begonias will need to be fed regularly and generously with a diluted fertilizer.


container gardening picture of shade plants in container gardens
Photograph © Kerry Michaels

I'm a recently converted fan of coleus. I used to think of them as fusty and old-fashioned. Now I'm a total addict. Coleus are really good-natured shade plants - not at all fussy and some will even thrive in full sun. The colors that coleus comes in are jaw-dropping and the leaf shapes are varied and exciting. Even an ordinary coleus, when paired with the right companion in the right container can be spectacular.

The colors of coleus are often so intense and sometimes downright weird that you do have to be a little careful when mixing them with other plants. However, my suggestion is go a little wild. Have some fun and try improbable color combinations – sometimes they work beautifully.


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