Suggestions for shade loving plants for containers. Includes annuals such as new guinea impatiens, sweet potato vine, ferns, ivy, and more.
It’s porch season. The leaves are coming out on the trees, the days are getting longer, and it’s time to add comfortable seating and plants to our covered porch spaces. Everything I have learned about gardening has been a result of trial and error, and one of the biggest lessons learned has been to carefully choose plants according to how much sun they need. A covered porch, deck, or patio is the perfect spot for a garden made up of pots and containers filled with shade-loving plants.
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I’ve been growing shade loving plants for as long as I can remember. Our house on Sutton Place was in a wooded neighborhood, so there were no areas that got full sun. I had the most success growing hosta plants, bleeding hearts, and daylilies. I love the ease of container gardening, and it’s very simple to design porch pots that thrive in shade or part shade.
What Can I Plant in Pots in the Shade?
Here are recommendations for shade loving plants for containers, which are perfect for a covered porch or patio area. They are broken down into two categories, and the lists contain both annuals and perennials. These plants can be planted in late spring, and will continue to grow through late summer. Some even provide beautiful fall color.
Shade Loving Plants That Thrive In Part Shade
The happy blue flowers that appear on a lobelia plant add amazing curb appeal to your front door area. They are delicate little blossoms that prefer cooler weather, and attract hummingbirds. Lobelia is perfect for window boxes and large planters, and can take a bit of morning sun. Lobelias are technically a perennial, but they are grown as annuals in most U.S. zones.
Lobelia plants like to be moist, but avoid over-watering. As spring turns into summer, the warmer temps may cause your lobelia plants to become dried out and leggy. If this happens, cut them back, give them a shot of fertilizer, and some extra water. This will encourage more of those lovely little blossoms to make an appearance.
Sweet Potato Vine
Sweet potato vine is very low maintenance, and features large leaves that trail gracefully down the side of a container. The leaves range in color from deep green, to chartreuse, to yellow. They grow quickly, so that by mid summer, your plants will display showy and lush greenery. It’s a good idea to prune and shape your plants to keep them under control. They can take some direct sunlight, but will need extra water to stay healthy. Sweet potato vine can be grown in all zones, they are drought-tolerant, and deer-resistant.
Impatiens (Single + Double)
It’s very simple to grow impatiens from seed, but I always begin with bedding plants from the garden center. The small plants are very young, but once planted, they grow quickly. Make sure to wait until there is no chance of frost, and then plant your impatiens in good quality potting soil.
Impatiens can be placed very close together, so don’t be afraid to pack them into a container. Once they begin to grow, the roots will combine, and the result is a colorful and full batch of blooms. The best thing about impatiens is that there is literally no maintenance except watering. There is no need to deadhead, because the blooms naturally fall off when they are spent.
Although there are many good qualities about impatiens, the one thing that may stop you from using them in a container is the fact that they attract rabbits. Most gardening websites claim that impatiens are rabbit-resistant, but in my experience, they are not! Rabbits would not normally venture onto a porch, but if you use impatiens on a covered deck or patio, you may find that they have been completely chewed away.
More ideas for Part Shade Plants
- Sweet alyssum
- Heucheras (Coral Bells)
- Violets (grown from seed in containers)
- Flowering shrubs that thrive in partial shade: azaleas, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons.
- Evergreens that thrive in partial shade: boxwood and Japanese yew.
What is a Full Shade Plant?
When a plant is referred to as “full shade,” it means that in order for it to thrive, it needs no exposure to the sun. Woodland areas, as well as covered porches or decks, provide protection from the sun, and are the perfect place to plant a shade garden…either in the ground, or in containers.
Shade Loving Plants That Thrive In Full Shade
New Guinea Impatiens
Pictured below are some beautiful new guinea impatiens I picked up at my local Lowe’s a few summers ago. If you want showy blooms with lush foliage on your porch or a shaded area, this plant is for you. Believe it or not, these plants really did originate on the island of New Guinea. They have a tropical look, they feature sturdy stems, and dark green leaves. In Hawaii and the most southern tip of Florida, new guinea impatiens are considered perennials. They like to be watered at the roots, and will be even lovelier if you pinch off the spent blooms. With the proper care, new guinea impatiens will bloom and thrive for the entire summer season.
Ferns are very easy to maintain, and their hardiness is legendary. They can be neglected for days, but once watered, their foliage bounces right back. Of course, regular watering is best! Fern leaves, or fronds, have the prettiest texture, and multiply quickly. For extra nutrients, it’s helpful to use a water-soluble fertilizer once a month.
Boston ferns are the most popular choice for hanging baskets and porch planters. Boston fern fronds are soft and flexible, and tend to droop naturally over the sides of a planter. Another good choice would be a Kimberly Queen fern. These ferns have fronds that are more upright, and are perfect for smaller spaces. Another very good choice is a Dallas fern, which has ruffled fronds and is smaller than a Boston fern. Dallas ferns are perfect for tabletops, side tables, or anyplace a small plant is needed.
More Ideas for Full Shade Plants
- Wax Begonias
- Astilbe (early spring blooms)
- Bleeding hearts (early spring blooms that attract hummingbirds)
The Easiest Front Porch Planters Ever!
A super simple idea to dress up your front door area. Transform your porch from drab to amazing! Includes tips for placing the ferns in your containers the easy way.
If you love to garden, but want a simpler process with less work, container gardening is for you. Containers and pots come in all sizes, and all price ranges. Determine how much sun your space gets, and select the appropriate plants. Good potting soil that contains a timed-release fertilizer is an excellent choice, and will set you on the path to success. Make sure your containers have adequate drainage, then sit back and enjoy your lovely plants!