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Shade Loving Plants for Containers

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.

The most frequently asked question from OSP readers:

What is the paint color
on your front door?

Shade Loving Plants That Thrive In Part Shade

Lobelia

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.

shade loving plants ivy impatiens sweet potato vine

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.

white impatiens in pots on front porch 2022

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.

white impatiens in black planters on porch 2022

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

  • Salvia
  • Sweet alyssum
  • Begonia
  • 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.

new guinea impatiens in white bucket on porch

Ferns

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.

shade loving fern in blue planter

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

  • Impatiens
  • Wax Begonias
  • Coleus
  • Fuchsia
  • Hostas
  • Astilbe (early spring blooms)
  • Bleeding hearts (early spring blooms that attract hummingbirds)
container gardening

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!

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28 Comments

  1. Nancy Pharr says:

    Sweet potato vine, Lobelia, salvia, and sweet alyssum are all sun love plants.

  2. I just made the Oatmeal Cake Recipe. It was delicious and so easy. We enjoyed it right out of the oven. Thanks for this quick and easy recipe.

  3. The color combination is just
    striking.
    Thank you fir sharing your ideas!

  4. After reading this blog I went out to my local nursery and bought some white new guinea impations, some blue wave torenia, and some asparagus fern for my shade containers on my front porch. Just hope they look as pretty as your planters .Thanks for the idea for this year.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me this. It completely made my day. I know your porch will be beautiful!

  5. Ann, I love your porch. So pretty and Springy!! Could you tell me what color paint you have on your front door, please. It looks like the shade of blue I have been looking for. Thank you so much!!

  6. Mary Huddleston says:

    Peonies: you know the saying about new or moved plants.
    “The first year they sleep, The second year they creep, The third year they leap!” Expect to be amazed!

  7. Shirley Graham says:

    Thanks Ann! I’m ready for plants on the deck. Every thing is blooming for Mother’s Day ! Enjoy!

  8. Is the brick on your home red or more orange red? I have a similar color scheme and I like how you have incorporated grey and white with it.

  9. Lorri Rauscher says:

    Hi Ann,
    Your porch looks lovely…as usual…I always love looking at your ideas.💗
    My question is…When I put out my lanterns I get rust spots on my concrete. Do you put something under the lanterns so they dont make rust marks? Has this happened to you? Your garden looks lovely as well. Love yr rock border.😊

  10. Barbara Macey says:

    Ann,
    For some reason I had lost you for a long time & one morning when I opened my computer, Taa Daa, there you were. Hooray.
    My question:
    I am in love with the nautical looking purse hanging over the newel post. Did you buy it or make it. Love it.
    Thank you ever so much.
    Barbara

  11. Stephanie @ Casa Watkins Living says:

    It rained all last week for me. I’m so thrilled to see a beautiful summer porch! Gorgeous styling!

  12. MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!) says:

    Ann, your front porch is beautiful! Just love all your flowers! Hope you and your hubby get time to just sit and relax in your lovely rocking chairs! Thanks, too, for your info on the shade plants. This is so helpful. Have a nice MOTHER’S DAY! Blessings!

  13. I so wish I had a porch, but have to make do with just a covered landing at the top of the front steps. I am always inspired by your creative arrangements!

    I’d like to comment on your sweet alyssum suggestion. I made liberal use of them on my back deck last year as they bloom for such a long time into the fall, and are so reliable. I’d used them before, but never so many. BIG mistake! By mid July the flies on the deck were driving us mad and getting into the house every time the screen opened. Apparently alyssum attracts flies. Who knew? I will stick them in the garden beds across the yard this year, but never again close to the house. I hope this might prevent someone else from making the same mistake. This year, only fly repelling herbs will be planted near the door.

    I always look forward to your posts Anne. Thanks!

  14. Jennifer Lifford says:

    Beautiful! I just love your patio and the flowers make the perfect addition! That blue basket is adorable too.

  15. I love your porch & wish I could have the beautiful plants (even fakes) that you have, but the squirrels have already made short work of every pot on my porch. So, this year it will be empty pots for me. 😢

  16. Jo-Anna Rooney says:

    My front porch is also in the shade, so I’m always looking for planting ideas for this space. I love your planters full of the lobelia…they make such a nice statement!

  17. Robin Gregg says:

    Very beautiful and a clean look. Just needs some people sitting in those chairs.

  18. I also have shade in the front of the house and love using impatiens and ferns. Beautiful photographs, Ann xx

  19. Love the porch, the blue and white is so refreshing. Something different and original, and a class act, as usual Anne! Thank you for the list of shade plants too. I appreciate the effort you put into your posts to make your ideas practical for us.

  20. Laurie@VinyetEtc says:

    I’ve pinned and scheduled this for my next trip to the nursery, thanks so much for sharing that breakdown, so handy! Your porch is beautiful, I love the blue and white colour combo, it’s so fresh and clean! <3

  21. Your front porch looks so pretty! Love the blue and white decor and the planters are gorgeous. Well done!

  22. When I lived in New Jersey,I used lots of geraniums and hostas around my house.Now that I am living in Florida,it’s very difficult to have anything that flowers.The deer and other animals eat everything.I have taken to spraying the plants with repellent, seems to help.Right now I have an hibiscus tree and fern on my front porch.Your porch looks so cute and summery, love it.

  23. Lory at Designthusiasm says:

    Ann, this is so timely! I was just looking at little blue plants like the lobelia yesterday and wondering what they are. And here they are on your lovely porch today!! How lovely and restful this spot looks… :-) Thanks so much for sharing this info!

  24. Kathy Menold says:

    Just bought two rockers for porch and my husband and I love to sit out there in the morning and evening with our two dogs.This time of year is so beautiful. I use Hostas, Ferns and coral bells in my planters on either side of the front door with Begonias and Impatience for color in smaller pots.It is pretty and low maintenance. Hung a wind chime for music and a hummingbird feeder in the nearby garden for entertainment and it’s a little bit of heaven., Thanks Ann for all your ideas for decor.

  25. Thanks so much, Ann, for your inspirational ideas using planters at the front door! I started using your idea last fall after my annuals in the urns finished their summer season. I used fall wreaths with pumpkins, Christmas wreaths with red lanterns and during this long transitional time of winter in upstate NY, I have been using artifial boxwreaths with a large sphere in each urn. And now I will be finishing the cycle with annuals once again. I never used to keep the urns out all year. My front door has changed from drab to fab! Thank you!

  26. Donna Marie says:

    As always, a lovely porch!!!