Best container plants for shade – 8 pretty choices to lift a dark spot with foliage and flowers (2023)

Make the most of shady outside spaces by choosing container plants that will thrive in these conditions. If you're looking for ideas on arranging pots in the shade of a tall tree, nearby building, dense shrubby hedge, or overhanging balcony, there are plenty of container plants to choose from that will grow happy and healthy.

There are lots of positives when planting up containers with the best shade plants. They need less watering and deadheading, and provide a refuge from bright light and heat for insects and pollinators. They also tend to make longer lasting displays as part of your container gardening ideas as they're not exposed to harsh sunlight and increased transpiration (water loss).

Many plants have the ability to thrive happily in shade, and will bring dark corners to life with a pop of color or some lush and leafy foliage, so take your pick from our expert suggestions.

Best container plants for shade – 8 pretty choices to lift a dark spot with foliage and flowers (1)

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs/Future)

8 of the best container plants for shade

The plants for pots in our expert selection here will tolerate shade for most of the daylight hours, but they still need some filtered sunlight to thrive, such as you would find under the canopy of tall trees.

1. Hostas

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(Image credit: Future)

Hostas are a great choice for shaded container gardens due to their lush foliage and various colors and sizes. A selection of shade loving hostas planted in pots adds long-lasting interest to your yard, and the lush foliage makes a very restful combination to transform a dark corner or shady gap in your planting.

'Hostas are a popular container plant for shady areas,' says Sara Lundberg (opens in new tab), owner of Bloom & Haul,a seed company based in the Pacific Northwest. 'They are hardy and come in a variety of colors and leaf sizes, making them a versatile addition to any container. They prefer moist, well-draining soil and can tolerate some sun, but they thrive in partial to full shade.'

As well as the showy palm-like leaves of the standard green hostas such as ‘Halcyon’, available from Nature Hills (opens in new tab), a range of more unusual colors is available too, from purple to blue, yellow to variegated.

Best container plants for shade – 8 pretty choices to lift a dark spot with foliage and flowers (3)

(Video) Top 10 Best Flowers for Shaded Areas 🌻🌹 // PlantDo Home & Garden

Sara Lundberg

Sara heads up the seed company Bloom & Haul, which is based in the Stafford Hamlet area of Oregon, surrounded by Pacific Northwest farmland and wine country. Their passion for gardening and growing their own food was recognized when they won five blue ribbons at the 2022 Oregon State Fair.

2. Impatiens

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Impatiens are known for their vibrant and long lasting blooms that easily brighten up a shady patio or gloomy corner of the yard. This shade-loving plant is versatile, and it will thrive planted up in containers.

Use Impatiens on its own as the focal point in an outdoor planter to make a bold statement, or use it as a filler to add a pop of color with other shade-loving container plants. Impatiens will flourish and look stunning in a container as long as the conditions are right.

'Impatiens are a great choice for growing in containers in shady areas,' says Zahid Adnan (opens in new tab), plant expert and the founder ofThe Plant Bible.'These plants produce bright and colorful blooms that can last all season long. They prefer moist soil and can tolerate partial to full shade.'

Impatiens are available in a variety of colors, including pink, red, orange, and white, making them an attractive addition to any container garden.

3. Hydrangeas

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(Video) PETITTI How to Make a Container Garden for the Shade

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It's a safe bet to choose light shade for hydrangeas planted up in containers as overall they tend to prefer these conditions, mainly because they will wilt if it's too hot in summer when temperatures soar.

Hydrangeas are one of the best shrubs for shade, and there are more and more varieties being sold specifically for containers.The smaller and more compact varieties do well in a container, such as this hot pink 'Summer Crush' hydrangea from Amazon (opens in new tab).

Choose a pot that is at least 45cm in diameter and use good quality potting compost with organic matter mixed in. Water hydrangeas regularly to ensure the compost doesn’t dry out, and feed regularly throughout spring and summer for a long-lasting display.

4. Ferns

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(Image credit: William Robinson/Alamy Stock Photo)

Garden ferns are one of the most popular shade plants for containers, especially if you choose evergreen options that will add structure and interest in winter months too. Most ferns grow well in pots as they have shallow roots.

'Ferns, such as the Boston Fern or Maidenhair Fern, thrive in the cool and moist conditions of a shaded container garden,' says Ben McInerney (opens in new tab), director of 'They also add a touch of lushness and greenery to any space. However, ferns can be sensitive to dry conditions, so be sure to keep the soil consistently moist and avoid over-watering to prevent root rotting.'

Play around with ideas for a combination of different ferns with contrasting foliage planted up in one large pot for a winner in a shady corner. For a great container filler plant try Dragontail Fern (Asplenium x 'ebenoides') with its long, narrow and spikey fronds as your go-to, such as this Dragontail Fern from Nature Hills (opens in new tab).

'Ferns grow in the wild under the shaded canopy of forest trees which makes them perfect for the shadiest corners of any landscape or home garden,' says Nathan Heinrich (opens in new tab) of Nathan Heinrich Design. 'While some ferns die back in winter, there are plenty that are green year-round. Some of my personal favorite varieties are sword ferns, foxtail ferns, and bird nest ferns.'

Best container plants for shade – 8 pretty choices to lift a dark spot with foliage and flowers (7)

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Nathan Heinrich

One of Nathan's first jobs, while attending college for Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, was at a local family-owned garden center.Over the next several years while earning his college degrees, Nathan worked at wholesale nurseries, further expanding his knowledge and experience with plants.

In his final position before starting his own company, Nathan was the propagation manager for one of California’s largest nurseries where he oversaw the design and construction of commercial greenhouses and the propagation of millions of seedlings plants each year. For the next 12 years, Nathan and his team designed events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and internationally before eventually relocating full-time to New York.

5. Heuchera (Coral Bells)

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(Image credit: Peplow/Getty Images)

Fabulous, easy to grow, and shade tolerant, heuchera varieties are one of the best choices for containers in gardens that don't get much sun. There are dozens of varieties of these beauties (also known ascoral bells) to choose from in all colors. Then there are the spikes of tiny, bell-shaped flowers to enjoy too.

'Heuchera is a fantastic choice for container gardens in the shade,' says plant expert Emily Hoffman (opens in new tab) of 'With their stunning foliage in an array of colors like deep burgundy, chartreuse, and silver, they add a touch of vibrancy to any shaded space. These low-maintenance perennials are not only easy to grow, but their striking appearance also makes them an eye-catching focal point.'

Heuchera come in all shades of red, pink and purple with varieties like this 'Plum Pudding' variety from Amazon (opens in new tab), as well as lime green, amber and cinnamon so you are spoiled for choice.

'Primo Pretty Pistachio' is my favorite heuchera,' says Ivo Iv (opens in new tab), founder of Decor Home Ideas. 'I'm a big fan of this hardy perennial, not only for its medium-pink flowers but also for its adaptability to part or full shade. I've planted this in a cozy nook on my patio, and it always brightens up the area.'

6. Coleus

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(Video) 5 Awesome Plants for Shade! 🌿🌥👍 // Garden Answer

Coleus plants are durable and easy to grow outside in containers, in addition to being popular houseplants. These vibrant shade-lovers, also known as painted or flame nettle, can really lift a gloomy spot in your yard.

The new, bigger, sun-loving varieties of coleus have revolutionized container gardening. Try Coleus Sky Fire 'Coleus hybrid' (available from Nature Hills) (opens in new tab), with dazzling purple and scarlet foliage, and ruffled lime green edges that will pop in a shady part of the yard.

'Coleusis one of the most versatile container plants for shade,' says Janet Loughrey (opens in new tab) of Garden Design, a former Oregon State University Master Gardener and member of the Garden Writer’s Association of America. 'This versatile annual can be planted in containers by itself or alongside other plants with similar growing needs. It offers months of continuous color from planting until the first hard frost.'

7. Begonias

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(Image credit: Linda McKusick/Alamy Stock Photo)

A display of begonias potted up in containers will positively shine out from deep shade. The trick to making these plants look contemporary is not using them en masse but instead dotting them amongst leafy foliage to add a color pop.

'A great option for adding color and texture to a shady container garden is the colorful and low-maintenance begonia,' says Ben McInerney. 'Begonias come in a variety of colors and sizes, making them a versatile choice for container gardening. They prefer shade or partial shade and are well-suited for container gardening due to their shallow root systems.' They also require little maintenance and can be easily propagated from cuttings.

'There are different types including wax begonias, tuberous begonias, angel wing begonias and fancy leaf begonias,' adds Janet Loughrey. 'Begonias come in upright or trailing forms, and all of them thrive in containers either by themselves or in combination with other shade-loving plants.'

8. Lily of the valley

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(Image credit: Stock Photo)

Shade garden favorite lily of the valley is the perfect solution for areas that receive very little sunlight. The wonderfully fragrant nodding flowers on delicate upright stems look fabulous planted up in a container as part of your spring planter ideas.

'Personally, one of my favorite plants to grow in partial shade or dappled shade is lily of the valley,' says Travis Turgeon (opens in new tab), plant expert at Potted Exotics. 'When grown in partial or dappled shade, they bloom with tons of beautiful white bell-shaped flowers, and they release a wonderful fragrance that adds to any garden aesthetic. These will even grow and bloom in full shade conditions.'

While they aren't in bloom, their foliage remains a deep green, so it's an elegant choice throughout the growing season. 'They are hardy in USDA zones 3-9, but will tolerate conditions on the shoulder of each zone,' adds Travis. 'On top of it all, lily of the valley is one of the easiest garden plants to care for, without a doubt.'

As these choices prove, it's not just flowers for pots in full sun that can introduce plenty of color and vibrancy to your yard. These shade-loving container plants can be just as effective as their sun-loving cousins, brightening up your outdoor space in perhaps more unexpected ways.

Going for the right plant for the right place is key, however. Avoid a costly container gardening mistake by ensuring your plant of choice can cope with shady conditions if you're placing it in a spot that doesn't get much sun.

(Video) Flowering Plants for Shade - 15 Annuals & Perennials to Brighten Up Your Shade Garden


Best container plants for shade – 8 pretty choices to lift a dark spot with foliage and flowers? ›

Hostas are shade tolerant and will do well in varying amounts of shade, yet they still like to receive some sun during the day. In the landscape, pick shady areas with diffuse sunlight and avoid exposure to full sun in the afternoons.

Can hostas grow in full shade? ›

Hostas are shade tolerant and will do well in varying amounts of shade, yet they still like to receive some sun during the day. In the landscape, pick shady areas with diffuse sunlight and avoid exposure to full sun in the afternoons.

What is best to grow in shade? ›

Beetroot, carrots (baby), chard, kale, kohl rabi, leaf salads, lettuce, peas, runner beans and spinach are all relatively tolerant of light shade. Sowing seeds in modules in bright conditions and then transplanting will get them off to an early start with an established root system.

Will geraniums flower in shade? ›

Position. Give geraniums full sun for good flowering, though they will grow in light or partial shade.

What plants last all year round in pots? ›

All-Year Greenery: 6 Best Evergreen Plants for Pots
  • Boxwood. With green and glossy leaves and the fact that it's such an easy plant to shape through smart pruning, boxwood is one of the best evergreen plants for pots. ...
  • 2. Japanese Pieris (Japanese Andromeda) ...
  • Nandina. ...
  • Lavender. ...
  • Conifers. ...
  • Rosemary.
Dec 20, 2021

What are the fastest growing plants for pots? ›

Try a few of these old reliables known for flourishing fast.
  • Burgeoning by Leafs and Bounds. 1/15. ...
  • Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum) ...
  • Asparagus Fern (Asparagus spp.) ...
  • Burn Plant (Aloe vera) ...
  • Grape Ivy (Cissus alata) ...
  • Philodendron (Philodendron spp.) ...
  • Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) ...
  • Purple Passion Plant (Gynura aurantiaca)

What are the most popular pots for plants? ›

Ceramic pots are the most popular type of container for houseplants today. You'll find them in all kinds of styles, colors, and sizes.

What Colour is best for outdoor plant pots? ›

In an outdoor setting, darker-colored pots will absorb more sunlight and retain heat longer than light-colored ones.

Should you cut off the flowers on hostas? ›

Cut The Flowers

Tall scapes of flowers can be costly for hostas to produce and maintain. Cutting them off as they start to emerge will divert that energy back to the foliage, creating a fuller look. Other gardeners just don't like the look! Don't worry; cutting the flowers back won't damage the plant.

Can hostas grow in pots? ›

Hostas are among those perennials that do very well growing in the confines of containers. They come in thousands of cultivars and they are easy to care for, making them the perfect plant for busy or distracted gardeners.

What happens if hostas get too much sun? ›

Although they're known for their shade-tolerance, most hosta varieties perform well when exposed to a bit of morning sun and afternoon shade. Too much sun exposure will result in burned leaves, starting from the edges inward. The leaves will look brown, dry, and papery.

What flower does not need sunlight? ›

A go-to flower for shady spots, impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) will transform any dark corner into a flower festival. Many gardeners use impatiens as a quick-growing summer groundcover for hard-to-plant locations under tall trees.

Do begonias like shade? ›

Tuberous, Elatior or Reiger begonias do not like direct sunlight and need to be in a nice shady spot, especially during the warmer part of the day (from 11 am to 6 pm). Although they love the shade, begonias are still showstoppers. They are bright and full of color, with many shades and varieties to choose from.

Do any plants like shade? ›

But shady gardens can shine, too. Many beautiful annuals, perennials, and shrubs actually love the shade. Whether you're planting under fast-growing shade trees, in flower beds, hanging baskets, or containers on a patio, a wide variety of plants love the shade and will add color and interest to your outdoor spaces.

Do geraniums do well in containers? ›

Geraniums grow well in containers of all shapes and sizes, as long as they have drainage holes. The key to successfully growing geraniums in pots is to place them in sunny locations and out of damaging winds. The added benefit of growing geraniums in pots is that you can simply move pots inside during the winter.

Which geraniums grow well in shade? ›

Discover 11 gorgeous hardy geraniums for shade, below.
  • Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir Purple'
  • Geranium 'Patricia'
  • Geranium himalayense 'Gravetye'
  • Geranium nodosum.
  • Geranium phaeum 'Raven'
  • Geranium 'Nimbus'
  • Geranium 'Orion'
  • Geranium 'Rozanne'
Apr 12, 2022

What flowers don't come back every year? ›

The short answer is that annuals don't come back. Plants that flower and die in one season are annuals—although many will drop seeds that you can collect (or leave) to grow new plants in the spring.

What is the hardest plant to take care of? ›

1. Fiddle-leaf fig. While the fiddle-leaf fig may be trending on Instagram, it is also leads the list of the hardest houseplants to keep alive, with 61% of people failing to do so. This pretty plant hates an environment change, so doesn't respond well to moving around the house, or when moving homes.

What pots can stay out all winter? ›

Concrete pots can stay out all winter and look best if you plant them. In this pot are evergreen boxwoods, evergreen 'Cintronelle' heuchera, and evergreen ivy. The pansies will die back but show again in spring. Concrete containers come in all styles, from fun to traditional.

What plant pots can stay outside in winter? ›

Metal, concrete and wood containers typically handle freezes well, as do fiberglass and resin pots. Some plastic pots also survive winter fine, but may become brittle over time. Winter sunlight can fade fiberglass and resin pots.

What size pots are best to grow in? ›

Stick to the rule of thumb of only potting into a slightly larger pot, not jumping into a significantly bigger one. This usually means a pot that is 2.5-5cm (1-2in) wider in diameter than the previous container and not much deeper (be careful if potting into deep pots such as 'long toms').

Do plants get bigger in bigger pots? ›

They also looked at 65 independent studies across a wide range of species including tomato, corn, pine tree, cactus, wheat, and cotton plants, and found that all species reach larger sizes when grown in a bigger pot. On average, doubling pot size allowed plants to grow 43% larger.

Do plants do better in plastic or ceramic pots? ›

Unlike clay, plastic is non-porous, which means it doesn't let in or out as much moisture or oxygen. As a result, plastic planters retain moisture for nearly double the time of clay planters. That means if you're the type that tends to forget to water your plants, plastic is probably a safer option than clay.

What kind of flower pots is the best? ›

Our advice is to go porous. Porous ceramics like terracotta will dry more evenly than plastic pots, and any wood planter will dry even faster than terracotta. Ceramic planters also are great choices. And if you're worried about weight, fiberglass planters are ideal for plants 8" or larger in diameter.

How do I choose a plant for a container? ›

Choose plants with a variety of different shaped leaves and flowers, some with larger leaves and others with finely textured ones. Choose a mix of thrillers, fillers and spillers to give some dimension to your container planting. Just be sure to follow guidelines 1 and 2 first when selecting plants.

What color combinations are best for plant pots? ›

  • Purple and white. ...
  • Classic white and green. ...
  • Cool blues. ...
  • Green and pink. ...
  • Sunset shades. ...
  • Coral pink. How pretty is this? ...
  • Bold brights. (Image credit: MusicMan5Photos/Alamy Stock Photo) ...
  • Customized mix. Create a summer container look your way by choosing the color and flower mix that most appeals.
Mar 14, 2023

What color of pots are nice? ›

Light-colored pots such as orange, beige, and yellow can make your home or garden look vibrant and full of energy. In contrast, dark-colored pots such as blue, green, or gray can give off a more relaxed and demure feel.

What happens if you don't cut hostas back? ›

The good news is that hostas, also known as plantain lilies, are tough and forgiving plants. Even if you forget to prune them at a certain time or you neglect to prune them at all, they'll still survive just fine, even if they don't look their best.

What happens if you don't divide hostas? ›

Unlike some perennials, hostas can go for years without being divided—they just keep getting bigger. However, dividing them every four or five years encourages vigorous, healthy growth and will prevent crowding. And the result is simply more of a good thing.

What time of year do you remove hostas? ›

As a general rule, hostas should be cut back in the late fall. Start with leaves that have wilted or turned brown. Healthy leaves can stay a bit longer to help the roots store needed energy. If 25% or more of the hostas is dying, you will know it is time to cut it back.

Where should you not plant hostas? ›

Avoid planting hostas in heavy clay soil, which won't offer enough drainage. In areas that receive a lot of snow in the winter, to protect stems and leaves, place hostas where snow tends to pile up.

What is the best hosta to grow in a container? ›

Steps to Plant Hosta in Containers. Small varieties of hostas work excellent in containers. Whirlwind works great, but there are other varieties as well. Some popular options are Blue Mouse Ears, Tiny Tears, or Cracker Crumbs.

How deep should a container be for hostas? ›

You want a pot that provides about three inches between the base of the plant and the side of the container. Hostas prefer for their roots to be cool, so don't pick a black or metal container.

Is Epsom salt good for hostas? ›

Can I use Epsom Salt on hostas? Yes! Epsom Salt is full of magnesium. It will give your hostas a great boost if applied to the ground or the leaves.

What can I put on my hostas to make them grow bigger? ›

Supplement your soil with organic matter.

Put a few inches of finished compost around your plants at least once per year. Spring is the preferable time to do this. Even better, add compost twice a year. Once in Spring, once in Fall.

Can hostas have too much shade? ›

A. Hostas are great plants for a low-maintenance garden, with many varieties to choose from. Though they are considered shade-tolerant plants, most will not thrive if grown in deep shade. Many hostas are more vigorous and will show best colors when given some exposure to sun, such as morning sun with afternoon shade.

What outdoor plants are best for full sun for pots? ›

When you're looking for full sun flowers for pots, consider summer snapdragons, lantana, mandevilla vines and portulaca. This planter of full sun flowers includes 'Akila Lavender Shades' osteospermums (also known as African or Cape Daisies), 'Cool Wave Frost' spreading pansies and 'Clear Crystal' white alyssum.

Will hostas survive winter in pots? ›

Hostas are easy to overwinter in containers. Herbaceous perennials in pots — plants that die back and are dormant in winter — that have been part of your summer container displays need to be protected over the winter if they're going to survive and bloom again next year.

What flower pots won't crack in winter? ›

Fiberglass, lead, iron, heavy plastic, and stone are the best weather-resistant containers to use; terra-cotta will eventually expand and crack with repeated freezing and thawing.

What is a good winter flower? ›

SNOWDROPS (Galanthus nivalis)

True to their name, these early-blooming bulbs often emerge while snow is still on the ground to provide a breath of fresh air for winter-weary gardeners. In mild winters, snowdrops can flower as early as late January, but February or March is more common.

What plants do well in heat and shade? ›

Click image to view details.
  • Alyssum (Snow Princess, Sweet Alyssum) Annual, Heat tolerant, full sun to partial shade, constant bloom. ...
  • Angelonia (Summer Snapdragon) ...
  • Aspidistra (Cast Iron Plant) ...
  • Begonia. ...
  • Big Blue Liriope. ...
  • Black-eyed Susan. ...
  • Caladiums. ...
  • Coleus.

What plants don't like heat? ›

Cool-Weather Crops

These plants don't tolerate hot weather. In the vegetable garden, it's the cool weather crops — lettuce, spinach, arugula, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, peas, cilantro — that suffer in hot weather.


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