Best Shrubs For Containers

Try letting your shrubs go solo in a container instead of filling large pots with a variety of flowers. This method is a great way to grow your favorite shrubs in small space. There is a shrub that will work for every taste and situation, whether you struggle with deer, shade, or lack space for a large conifer but want that evergreen presence in your garden.

Fragrant Shrubs

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Perfect partners for a sunny spot, Lo & Behold ‘Blue Chip Jr.’ butterfly bush and Lil Miss Sunshine bluebeard offer fragrance from spring until fall. The felted foliage of the dwarf, sterile butterfly bush is a silvery-green—an excellent foil for the scented purple flowers that bloom for many months. In contrast, it is the golden leaves of the bluebeard that emit an herbal smell when crushed, although it is covered with sky blue flowers in late summer. As a bonus, both shrubs are deer-resistant.

Plan a fragrant garden with these plant varieties.

Sunny-Spot Shrubs

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The ‘Double Play Blue Kazoo’ spirea is truly a five-star shrub for the softblue foliage alone, especially with the burgundy flush on the new growth and intense red color in fall. Clusters of fuzzy white flowers in spring attract bees and butterflies, but deer mercifully leave it alone. A splendid companion plant, the ruffled pink flowers of this Sugar Tip rose of Sharon are reminiscent of a party dress. Set against the soft green and creamy white variegated leaves, the effect is magical. This can be trained as a small tree or kept smaller by pruning.

Shrubs For Shade

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Add sunshine to the shade with the bold foliage of ‘Little Honey’ hydrangea. Large white flowers are a bonus; this plant is all about the leaves, which transition from yellow to rich burgundy in autumn. This oakleaf variety has huge chartreuse leaves that won’t blend away in a shady spot.

Check out our top trees and shrubs for fall color here.

Shrubs With Multi-Season Color

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Cluster these three shrubs and you have it all—flowers, berries, and a blaze of color in fall. Brandywine viburnum provides glossy green leaves that belie the intense red fall color to come. It also boasts white spring flowers that are followed by multicolor berries. Matching it for size but exceeding in flower power is ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangea. Stout red stems echo the pink tones that flush the white blooms in fall. In contrast, ‘Blues Festival’ St. John’s wort is much daintier, with soft blue-tone foliage that becomes almost hidden by flowers in summer and fall.

Explore more colorful shrub options for your garden here.

Pollinator-Friendly Shrubs

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Deep-purple wavy leaves on a wide-spreading shrub make ‘Spilled Wine’ weigela a dramatic addition to a container vignette. Hot-pink flowers in spring and early summer are also a big attraction for hummingbirds. This particular variety of weigela prefers full sun.

Deer-Resistant Shrubs

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Tiers of feathery ‘Lemony Lace’ elderberry foliage are studded with clusters of white flowers in spring followed by red fall berries. In contrast, the ‘Sunjoy Tangelo’ barberry sports vibrant orange leaves that turn red in fall. These shrubs make a statement in solitude, but can also be placed together for a big statement.

Use these tips for choosing shrubs for your yard.

Shrubs For Small Spaces

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These shrubs might be small in size but they are big on personality, especially when placed together. This new dwarf ninebark (‘Tiny Wine’) is compact, bushy, and mildew-resistant. Its bronze foliage sets off the constellation of delicate flowers in spring beautifully. The sculpted chartreuse foliage of ‘Anna’s Magic Ball’ arborvitae is a standout year-round.

Learn how to care for potted shrubs in winter here.

  • By Karen Chapman; Photos by Laurie Black

As ever the summer bedding has hung on a little longer than intended. Or maybe you just didn’t get around to emptying those pots and replanting with winter bedding or spring flowering bulbs? This twice a year ritual can be rather tedious, and for those of us that have suffered a long, cool, wet summer and autumn the motivation to make outdoor pots beautiful can be sadly lacking!

All is not lost. How about planting with shrubs that, with a little care, will look good year after year? The initial outlay may be greater, but in the long run shrubs in pots offer far better value because they last! Of course the ideal scenario is to have the best of both worlds: some pots planted with shrubs, and some that you replant with seasonal subjects such as summer and autumn bedding, and spring and summer flowering bulbs. That way you create a changing picture, but with the benefit of permanent structure. But what works? If you read the labels many shrubs seem to grow too large for pots on the patio? What happens when you need to re-pot them? What soil do you use?

These concerns put many gardeners off planting shrubs in pots, and they stick to safe bets like fuchsias and geraniums for summer, and pansies and primroses for autumn, winter and spring. In reality you can grow just about anything in a pot providing you use a generously sized container and a good quality specially formulated growing medium. If in doubt just remember the art of bonsai; potentially huge forest trees are tamed and restricted in pots and grow in small volumes of soil for many years. That isn’t to say you will be restricting the development of your plants by growing them in pots. If you choose plants and pots wisely you can grow smaller shrubs to their true potential in pots.

So here are my Top Ten Shrubs for pots that will look good throughout the year; even in winter.

1. Pieris ‘Katsura’ A fabulous variety with long lily-of-the-valley-like sprays of pink flowers in early spring, followed by mahogany red new growth on the tips of all the shoots. In a pot it will make a bushy plant up to 80cm (2.5ft) in height in a few seasons. Grown in lime-free compost Pieris do very well in containers in shade or semi-shade.

2. Rhododendron ‘Nancy Evans’ A compact hybrid rhododendron with neat, dark green foliage, orange-red buds and creamy, waxy waved flowers. Dwarf and compact rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas are excellent in pots in semi-shade, again if you grow them in lime-free ericaceous compost.

3. Leucothoe ‘Lovita’ A low-growing evergreen with shining, pointed, emerald-green leaves that colour deep scarlet in winter. Again it needs lime-free compost and will tolerate shade, although the colour is more intense where it gets some direct sunlight

4. Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus Pulchellus’ This shrub couldn’t be easier to grow. It is a compact evergreen with upright stems carrying deep green small leaves suffused with gold. It is a drought tolerant plant; good in sun or shade and a great choice for coastal gardens as it doesn’t mind salt-laden air.

5. Camellia japonica ‘Jury’s Yellow’ A good choice for those craving flowers from a shrub in a pot. The gorgeous blooms of this variety are the colour of clotted cream, and are filled with delicately waved petals. ‘Jury’s Yellow’ is a compact, upright variety with dark green glossy foliage that is suitable for a small garden or courtyard. Pot in lime free compost.

6. Buxus sempervirens ‘Elegantissima’ Box is a good subject for pots, and is tolerant of shade and dry soil. The plain green-leaved varieties do have a tendency to go bronze in containers, especially when starved. ‘Elegantissima’ is a slow growing shrub with delightful cream and green variegated leaves. It is less susceptible to discolouration and is an excellent long-term subject for a pot in sun or shade.

7.Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’ I’m sneaking this one in; yes I know it’s a conifer but that counts as a dwarf shrub. This one has steely blue-grey, curly foliage and a gently waved waved habit. It offers a contrasting foliage form, and can look really stunning in a grey-green glazed pot. Few shrubs look more striking in the winter.

8. Photinia ‘Little Red Robin’ This is not the large growing evergreen shrub with bright red new growth that we are all so familiar with. This is the dwarf form that grows to 90cm (3ft). It has smaller, darker green leaves than its big brother, and deep scarlet new growth. The more it is snipped, the more new growth it produces, so the more colourful it is! It retains the red new growth right through winter.

9. Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ Another dwarf form of a large growing shrub; this one has deep purple-black foliage that is particularly striking in winter. As the days get shorter and colder the colour intensifies. It is a broad, stocky plant in stature, so choose a nice big container.

10. Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’ This is the best of the skimmias in my opinion. A domed shaped shrub with emerald green foliage and pale yellow-green buds that open to creamy yellow flowers in spring. The fragrance is simply delicious: pure lily-of-the-valley. Lovely for cutting too which can keep the shrub in shape.

For general planting I always recommend using a loam-based compost for permanent planting in pots. Remember to use a lime-free formula for ericaceous, lime-hating subjects such as rhododendrons and camellias. Always choose a nice large, good-quality pot at the outset; that way repotting should not be necessary for a few years. All you need to remember each spring is to scrape off the top two or three centimetres of compost, add a handful of controlled release fertiliser and top up with fresh compost.

When choosing your container, a traditional flowerpot shape, in other words wider at the top than the bottom and without an incurved rim is the best bet. A pot which narrows at the neck makes it difficult to extract an established plant when you do have to repot.

So what are your top recommendations for shrubs for pots? I would love to know what’s done well for you, and so would other readers.

Junipers are a tough and tolerant evergreen for containers. They adapt quite easily to a variety of conditions but require full sun and well drained soil. Many junipers are especially cold hardy and can withstand more exposed sites. Most junipers also take to pruning well. The variety of shapes and color available as well as excellent growth form make junipers a popular selection for containers.

  • ‘Shore’ Juniperus conferta has blue green needles. The spreading branches will trail over the edge of your container and reach about 3 or 4 feet long.

  • ‘Shimpaku’ Juniperus chinensis is a gray green dwarf that grows to about 3 feet high and 4 feet wide with a vase shaped form.

  • ‘Compressa’ Juniperus communis is a miniature with a tall thin form, reaching only 3 or 4 feet at 10 years maturity. A perfect little column for the centerpiece of a large container. Grows about 2 inches per year.

  • ‘Blue Star’ Juniperus squamata is a dwarf, like all squamata. This is perhpas the best of the blues with steely blue foliage. It grows to about 3 feet and will spread wide as it matures. Puts up with adverse conditions well.


  • Juniperus squamata (all are dwarf)

  • ‘Pyramidalis’ Juniperus chinensis

  • ‘Blue Pacific’ Juniperus conferta

  • ‘Expansa Aureospicata’ Juniperus davurica

  • ‘Expansa Variegata’ Juniperus davurica

  • ‘Nana’ Juniperus procumbens

  • ‘Blue Arrow’ Juniperus scopolorum

  • ‘Blue Carpet’ Juniperus squamata

Pinus, Pine

Pines in general tend to grow quite large and outgrow a container. But there are certain cultivars and dwarfs that can remain with the bounds of the container for many years. Pines will adapt quite well to container growing and withstand exposed sites. Some of the smaller pines are hardy to zone 2 or 3, those that are will overwinter well up to zone 4 or 5.

  • ‘Nana’ Pinus cembra is a dwarf pyramid pine with long, soft, blue green needles. ‘Nana’ is a dwarf of an enormous tree so this is not a tiny dwarf. In ten to fifteen years it will be 10 feet tall with a spread of 5 or 6 feet. Eventually it will be 20 feet tall.

  • ‘Alice Verkade’ Pinus densiflora is a globe shaped with a slightly flattened top and bright green needles. At 10 years maturity it may be 2 to 2 1/2 feet tall.

  • ‘Schmidtii’ Pinus leucodermis is a slow growing compact shrub with a rounded form. Needles are very dark green. At ten years maturity it will be about 2 feet tall and wide.

  • ‘Osmaston Compact’ Pinus densiflora is a bright rounded shrub with long needles. At 10 years maturity it reaches 40 inches.

  • ‘Coney Island’ Pinus strobus has a compact spreading form, slightly mounded. With bright blue green needles and cone production when very young it is a lovely specimen. At 10 years maturity it will be 4 feet high with a spread of 5 feet. Hardy to zone 3.

  • ‘Compact Gem’ Pinus leucodermis has dark green long needles and grows to a broad pyramid form as it matures. Reaches 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide at 10 years maturity. Hardy to zone 4.

Pinus Mugo, Mugho Pines are also known as Swiss Mountain Pine, do very well in containers if you make sure they receive regular water. It is especially important that they have sufficient water going into winter. Water on a regular schedule right up until the soil freezes. If the weather gets warm enough in winter to thaw the soil it is critical that you water. In spring begin your watering schedule as soon as the soil first begins to thaw.

  • ‘Gnome’ Pinus mugo has dark green needles with a roughly rounded form. At 10 years maturity it will be 4 feet tall and spread to 5 feet. Hardy to zone 2, so it will easily over winter to zone 4.

  • ‘Honeycomb’ Pinus mugo has bright emerald needles that turn golden near winter and a rounded form. At ten years maturity it will reach 4 feet. Hardy to zone 3.

  • ‘Paul’s Dwarf’ Pinus mugo has very short 1 inch needles that are medium green. It will grow 2 to 3 inches per year and reach 2 or 3 feet at 10 years maturity. Hardy to zone 2.

  • ‘Pot O’ Gold’ or ‘Amber Gold’ Pinus mugo is a slow growing mounded dwarf that turns bright golden yellow to orange in winter.

Abies, Fir

The Balsam fir are wonderful for containers with their pleasant “Christmas Tree” scent. They are slow growing If you are trying to keep a living Christmas Tree alive in a container, But it will probably decline in health quickly after about a year. These are just too large to thrive in a container. There are several varieties in the fir family that have suitable selections, but in particular the Korean Firs are very well suited to containers with many small and dwarf cultivars. Firs prefer moist soil but well drained, and many of them tolerate or even prefer part shade.

  • ‘Nana’ Abies balsamea only grows about 1 to 3 inches per year. The dark green foliage forms a neat and compact mound. At 10 years maturity it reaches 3 feet tall and wide. ‘Nana’ likes part shade and is hardy to zone 3 so it is easily over wintered outside to zone 5.

  • ‘Piccolo’ Dwarf Abies balsamea is a miniature even smaller than ‘Nana’, reaching 2 to 3 feet in 10 years.. Roughly globe shaped, the branches are nearly vertical. Excellent choice for a container and hardy to zone 3.

  • ‘Piccolo’ Dwarf Abies koreana is a very low growing, almost mat forming mound. The branches spread and are reflexed, almost weeping. At ten years maturity it will be 1 foot high and 4 feet wide. It likes full sun and is hardy to zone 4.

  • ‘Blue Cloak’ Abies concolor is a weeping form of White Fir. The needles are a beautiful powdery blue. It will grow 9 to 12 inches per year and reach 3 or 4 feet at 10 years maturity. Ultimately it can grow as tall as 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

  • ‘Meyers Dwarf’ Abies cephalonica is an attention getter with bright green needles in summer. It will grow 3 to 6 inches per year, but in ideal conditions perhaps as much as 6 to 12 inches per year in a prostrate form, so it will spill over the edges of your container. At 10 years maturity it will reach 18” high and 2 to 3 feet wide, it is hardy to zone 5.

  • ‘Blauer Eskimo’ Dwarf Abies koreana is a blue green miniature Korean Fir. It grows slowly and develops a pyramid form of about 1 foot high.

  • ‘Cis’ Dwyarf Abies koreana is a minature with a very nice compact globe form It grows very slowly, reaching 2 to 3 feet at 10 years maturity. Hardy to zone 4.

  • ‘Silberkugel’ Miniature Abies koreana has unusual needles for a very interesting container plant. The needles twis just slightly to expose a bit of silver underside. it grows an inch or less per year and should remain under 10 inches by 15 inches. The ‘Silberperle’ produces purple cones in fall and the ‘Silberlocke’ is pyramid form and only a foot or two tall.

  • ‘Golden Spreader’ Dwarf Abies normanniana is an unusual dwarf with golden yellow foliage. The leaves curve to show a paler underside. ‘Golden Spreader’ does not like hot sun and should be protected from direct sunlight midday. A shrubby form grows slowly, only an inch or two per year and reaches a foot or two high.


  • ‘Holden Arboretume’ Dwarf Abies alba

  • ‘Spreading Star’ Dwarf Abies amabilis

  • ‘Jamy’ Miniature Abies balsamea

  • ‘Blauer Pfiff’ Abies koreana

  • ‘Fliegender Untertass’ Dwarf Abies koreana

  • ‘Green Carpet’ Dwarf Abies koreana

  • ‘Kristall Kugel’ Miniature Abies koreana

  • ‘Starker’s Dwarf’ Abies koreana

  • ‘Duflon’ Dwarf Abies lasiocarpa

  • ‘Heddergott’ Dwarf Abies veitchii

Picea, Spruce

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When we think of shade plants, we often picture lush plants with deep green foliage and very few flowers.

The truth is: there are some very showy, colorful and easy care shade loving plants that will add much needed vibrant colors and cheerfulness to a dark shady spot, such as a covered patio, or the north side of your house.

Here are 30+ stunning shade plant garden combinations, with complete plant lists for each of them, and designer tips! Just write down your favorite ones and have fun plant shopping! 🙂

If you have a sunny location, here are 30+ stunning planting lists of sun loving plants!

30+ stunning planting lists of sun loving plants!

If you plant a colorful container, tag us on instagram @apieceofrainbow. We always love seeing what you create! =)

1 & 2. So many beautiful colorful shade plants!

All the plants in both of these containers below are perfect for full shade ( in hot sunny climates like California ) and partial shade ( in less sunny places like Pacific Northwest ).

Plant List 1: Start from top – Pink Fuchsia,Pink Begonia, Coleus mixed varieties , green Sweet Potato Vine

Plant List 2: Cordyline fruticosa / Hawaiian Ti plant , Caladium ‘Rosebud’, Dragon Wing Begonia, Lobelia ‘Techno Blue’ ( Source: 1 | 2 )

3 & 4. Choose the best shade plants for your locations

Look at the color of the wall and surrounding environment. For example, red foliage would not be as showy in front of a red brick wall as green foliage.

Plant List 3: Boston Fern, Maranta leuconeura / Prayer Plant, Heuchera ‘Key Lime Pie’, Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ / English Ivy ( from the beautiful portfolio of Laura Berman at Green Fuse Photos )

Plant List 4: Coleus mixed varieties , green Sweet Potato Vine, purple Sweet Potato Vine ( Source )

5 – 8. Planting design: secrets of three

Choose a combination of shade plants so you have dramatic focal point, fillers, and trailers. You will see these 3 design elements used in many of the planters here!

Plant List 5: Colocasia esculenta /Elephant Ears, Purple Plectranthus, Orange Impatiens, Red Stem Pilea

Plant List 6: Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum / Peace Lily, orange Kalanchoe, Croton, Tradescantia zebrina / Wandering Jew, Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ / English Ivy ( Source: 5 | 6 )

Plant List 7: Diffenbachia / Leopard Lily, Actaea racemosa, Caryopteris ‘White Surprise’, Red Begonia tuberosa, Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ / English Ivy, Lysimachia ‘Goldilocks’ / Creeping Jenny (via Deborah Silver)

Plant List 8: Myer’s Asparagus Fern, Imaptiens, Pathos ( Source )

9 & 10. White looks great in shade!

Some shade plants have white foliage or highlights, which can really brighten up a shade location.

Plant List 9: Caladium ‘White Christmas’, Boston Fern, Red Begonia tuberosa, Lysimachia ‘Goldilocks’ / Creeping Jenny ( The Garden Diaries )

Plant List 10: Boston Fern, green Sweet Potato Vine, White Petunia, White Daisies ( Botanical Blitz )

11 – 18. Foliage as colorful as flowers

Lots of shade plants have showy foliage with bright colors While flowers may last a few weeks these colorful leaves last year round!

You will find foliage colors ranging from hot pink, red, chartreuse, to orange, deep purple, and more!

Plant List 11: Cordyline fruticosa / Hawaiian Ti plant , Coleus ‘Rustic Orange’ ( viola nursery )

Plant List 12: Caladium, Pink Impatiens, green Sweet Potato Vine ( decor chick )

Plant List 13: Petunia mixed varieties , Coleus mixed varieties , green Sweet Potato Vine

Plant List 14: Cordyline fruticosa / Hawaiian Ti plant , pink Begonia tuberosa, Coleus, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ / Golden Japanese forest grass, Lysimachia ‘Goldilocks’ / Creeping Jenny ( Source: 13 | 14 )

Plant List 15: Aspidistra elatior / Cast-iron plant, green Coleus, red Caladium, Asparagus Fern, Hedera helix ‘Variegata’ / Variegated English Ivy ( Source )

Plant List 16: Coleus mixed varieties , green Sweet Potato Vine, purple Sweet Potato Vine ( Source )

Plant List 17: Coleus ‘Rustic Orange’, orange Impatiens, yellow Calibrachoa

Plant List 18: Japanese Maple, Gartenmeister Fuchsia, green Sweet Potato Vine ( Source: 17 | 18 )

Plant List 19 – 34: You can see 16 more beautiful and easy care shade loving plant containers and plant lists here –

See more plant containers and plant lists here !

If you have a sunny location, here are 30+ stunning planting lists of sun loving plants!

30+ stunning planting lists of sun loving plants!

Happy garden planning! See you in a week!

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Use these container gardening ideas for shade as inspiration for your own planting schemes in areas where you have partial to full sun like porches and under trees.

Do you have shady areas that could use a bit of color or interest? A porch that could use some curb appeal? A north-facing patio? Or even an area under a tree that has a hard time growing plants in the soil?

Containers are the answer to your problem. They really can do so much to brighten shadowy areas. I’ve known this for years, but I had another problem it took me awhile to figure out:

What grows well shade containers?

I used to think there were only 3 choices: fuchsias, begonias, and impatiens. And I would just buy some, stick them in a pot and call it good. While that’s not bad (they are pretty after all), I was certainly missing out on how beautiful I could make shade-loving containers.

Adding just a few more plants that thrive in shade like coleus, lamium, ferns, and especially trailing plants, my pots could’ve literally glowed in the shade (if you’ve seen bright green sweet potato vine growing like this, you know what I’m talking about).

When I finally realized what I was missing and added some of these plants I learned how fun it is to create something so pretty that keeps on growing, changing, and giving joy throughout the gardening season – and sometimes beyond as it the case with ivy and creeping jenny.

I doubt I’m alone in my misconceptions about the kind of planters you can successfully grow in shade, so I rounded up 12 container gardening ideas for you – one of my own planter recipes and eleven from bloggers and websites you can click through to visit. This was SO fun to put together – I found some amazing planters that I look forward to creating and I hope you do, too!

Container Gardening Ideas for Shade

One of my favorite container gardening ‘recipes’ for shady areas: upright fuchsia, impatiens, lobelia, and vinca minor. Get the exact flowers and how-to video here.

Pink & peach box for north-facing windows + window box planting tutorial at An Extraordinary Day.

Elephant ears, coleus, diascia, and sweet potato vine at Nourish and Nestle.

A simple but stunning combo of caladiums, wishbone flower, creeping jenny at Southern Living.

Begonia, coleus, lamium, and creeping charlie at Flower Patch Farmhouse.

Lobelia, sweet potato vine, creeping jenny and an orange tuberous begonia at Garden Therapy.

Bleeding heart, variegated ground ivy and impatiens at BHG

A window box of tuberous begonia and miniature ivy at Empress of Dirt.

Tiered planter of impatiens, coleus, and creeping jenny at Our Fairfield Home.

Begonia, English ivy, lamium, alyssum, and asparagus fern porch container at Lost and Found Decor.

Begonia, heliotrope, coleus, ivy, and lobelia hanging basket at Martha Stewart.

Hydrangeas in apple-crate-wheel-barrow at Designing Wilder.

Creating containers for shady areas can be challenging, but as these pots show, it’s doable and they can be just as beautiful as sunny flower pots!

Check out these articles if you’d like some more container tips & ideas:

  • Tips for planting flower pots that last all season
  • Super easy vacation watering tip for your containers
  • Flower pot recipe for sun using basic garden center plants
  • 15 simple planter ideas for sun

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Container plants for shade

If you’re looking to plant up a container for shade, a cleverly planted pot might be just the solution you need.


These pot and container ideas for shade are perfect for brightening gloomy spots – especially handy if you’ve got a north-facing garden or are surrounded by high walls.

Containers are also perfect for areas with higher-than-average rainfall, as you can plant a pot that’s suited to your conditions.

Related content:

  • How to plant up pots for shade
  • 20 plants for dry shade
  • Five tips for planting in shade

Discover beautiful container plants for shade, for colour, scent and foliage, below.


This clever design technique shows how to create impact by using the same plant in several different containers. Here, hostas are the filler of choice (ideal for a shady spot) with a selection of terracotta pots completing the scene. This display will last all summer. You could also try other dramatic shade-lovers, including ferns like Dryopteris wallichiana.

Lysimachia, false shamrock and begonias

A reclaimed metal container is softened with the dark, dramatic foliage of Lysimachia ‘Midnight Sun’ and Oxalis triangularis, along with the vibrant blooms of Begonia sutherlandii. These plants thrive in dappled shade, putting on more growth as the summer progresses – they’ll perform until the first frosts, too. Here’s our step-by-step guide to creating it.

Begonias, bleeding heart and heuchera

Classic begonias including Begonia Botanica Mix and Begonia semperflorens combine with perennial bleeding heart, here Lamprocapnos ‘King of Hearts’, to create a display that’s full of colour, texture and interest. Mix blooms and leaves of complementary shades to create a modern, designer style for summer-long impact. We also used Heuchera ‘Cappuccino’ to complement the other plants used. Here’s how to pot it up.

Madagascar periwinkles, lilyturf and anemones

Create late-summer interest with a container crammed with the blooms of Catharanthus roseus, Liriope muscari and Anemone ‘Pretty Lady’ that perform at the end of the season. Everything in this pot will still look good after September, with the added bonus of thriving in a shady location. Stipa tenuissima is planted at the back to give this container some movement.

Carex, heucheras and heucherellas

Fill a rustic crate with striking foliage plants including Carex comans bronze-leaved, Heuchera ‘Blackout’ and Heucherella ‘Gold Strike’ to create a display that will come back every year. Combine contrasting colours and add an ornamental grass for movement. Rehome plants in the garden if they outgrow the crate.

Salvias, begonias, dahlias and coleus

A mix of lush foliage and glamorous blooms creates a display with a tropical vibe. Most of the plants come into their own in late summer, with an impressive show well into the autumn. A white-glazed container brightens the overall look. We used Salvia ‘Painted Lady’, Begonia ‘Surefire’, Dahlia ‘Happy Single Flame’, Coleus ‘Dipped in Wine’.

Astilbe, hosta and milium

This bold display combines the shade-loving perennials Astilbe ‘Sprite’, Hosta ‘Wide Brim’, Milium effusum ‘Aureum’, in a galvanised container for a stylish, contemporary look. While the foliage will perform all year, the flowers will appear in mid-summer, and come back the following year. Here are our instructions for planting it.

Dryopteris, verbena, false heather and blue daisies

Mix ferns like Dryopteris affinis and other perennials with summer bedding plants to create a container that can be given a different look year-on-year (just swap the bedding). A decorative box adds interest – perfect for making the most of a bare wall. The other plants used were Verbena ‘Blue Violet’, Cuphea ignea, Felicia amelloides ‘Variegata’ and Glechoma hederacea ‘Variegata’.

Dryopteris, ivy and geraniums

Simplicity is key here, with three container plants for shade used. Dryopteris affinis and Hedera helix ‘Sagittifolia’ provide the ideal foil for delicate geranium flowers, here Geranium ‘Wargrave Pink’. This container has a woodland feel, with the barrel adding to the rustic look. Cut back the geranium after flowering to encourage more blooms.


Looking to fill sunny areas with colour and fragrance? Take a look at our feature on container plants for full sun.

Shade Container Garden: Plants For Creating Shade Containers

Container gardens are a fantastic way to add color and beauty to tough spots. A container garden for the shade can brighten up the dark, difficult corners of your yard.

Plants for Creating Shade Containers

If you are trying to think of ideas for a shade container garden, this means that you will need shade plants for containers. A few annuals that are good ideas for a shade container garden are:

  • Coleus
  • Impatiens
  • Begonias
  • Caladiums
  • Fuchsia
  • Wishbone flower

Some perennial shade plants for containers are:

  • Bleeding heart
  • Ferns
  • Forget-me-not
  • Hosta
  • Hardy geraniums

Ideas for Shade Container Garden

When assembling your container garden for the shade, it is best to keep in mind a few standard tips for containers.

  1. The plants for creating shade containers should be three heights: tall, middle and low. The tall plant, such as a fern, should go in the center. Around that, the middle plants, such as fuchsia and hosta, and the low plants, such as impatiens and forget me not, should be placed. This will add visual interest.
  2. Use at least three shade plants for containers in one container to add visual interest.
  3. In your container garden for the shade, put plants with similar water needs in the same container.

Some other ideas for a shade container garden include:

  1. Fuchsia (the color) and white help make the colors of other plants for shade container gardens look brighter. Use one of these colors at least once in your shade container.
  2. Shade containers are often located under large trees and structures, which means that rainfall may not make it to them. Be sure to check if your container garden for the shade is getting enough water, even if it has rained recently.
  3. Also, a container garden for the shade is more susceptible to over watering as they are not in the direct line of the drying sun. Be sure to check if your shade plants for containers and their need for water before giving them water.
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Sometimes shade can be tricky in the garden. Here are some great planters filled with shade loving plants you can easily find at your local nursery or online. Shade loving plants in containers makes them easy to care for and move if you need to.

Do you have a shady patio or porch? Want to fill it with containers full of color? I have some beautiful ideas for you of shade loving plants in containers.

We all know about sunny loving plants for containers like these window boxes overflowing with petunias all along the deck rails.

or these hanging baskets that are lush and spilling.

Do you love painting in bright colors?

But sometimes what we need are great examples of eye catching color that thrive in lower light and shade.

Shade loving plants with colorful foliage

Beautiful coleus, Rex Begonias, Caladiums, and Creeping charlie provide colorful foliage that makes flowers seem superfluous.

Get hayracks to place under windows on shaded porches. Fill them with all the foliage and tuck in some impatiens and fuchsias for a few blooms.

Shade loving spiller plants

The Creeping Charlie, Sweet Potato Vine, Creeping Jenny and Vinca make some some great spillers.

These are packed so tightly you will need to give them plenty of liquid food to keep them all happy. Worm casting tea with each watering would do the trick.

Stack them for height in your shade garden.

You have to love the bright greens and vibrant reds playing nice to together in tiered planters. This planter has lamium in it too. The leaves have a silvery sheen.

There are so many brightly colored foliage plants that you rarely miss the flowers.

But then there are also many shade loving flowers.

Some of these I have growing as ground cover and just need to dig up and plop into pots and display them on the porch. That bright red begonia is on my list to buy again this year. I had one last year but failed to over winter it in a warm spot and it didn’t make it but it was well worth the $4 bucks I paid for it as it was gorgeous all summer long.

What do you like to grow in shade spots?
Here is a video of more shade plants you may like.
Until next time!

More you Will Enjoy!

Gorgeous Groundcovers I Grow
Ten Rose Care Garden Myths Debunked!
Favorite Shade Loving Plants for the Porch

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Top 10 Plants For Patios

Top 10 Plants for Patios

Our patios, decks and outdoor spaces are more and more becoming an extension of our homes, and just like indoors, we like to decorate the areas we spend a lot of time in so that they look good and feel inviting. A really great way to do this on a patio is with larger potted plants, such as evergreen shrubs, standards and even hardy perennials that will look spectacular throughout the year.

We’ve put together a list of our top ten plants that will grow really well in patio pots and containers, a variety of shapes and sizes to suit all areas and budgets too.

1. Skimmia ‘Rubella’

This compact, evergreen shrub is a popular choice for borders and patio containers, where plants will provide colour and interest all year round. The evergreen foliage is punctuated by red buds through the winter, with an explosion of potent, fragrant white blossoms appearing by spring. This trouble free shrub is tough and long-lasting making it ideal for beginners and those with less experience in gardening. Much loved for an early burst of nectar too Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ will be greatly appreciated by bees!

2. Euonymus ‘Emerald and Gold’

A well known RHS AGM variety, this attractive evergreen shrub makes a useful and reliable addition to any garden. The golden yellow variegated foliage brings a bright splash of year round colour, turning to shades of pinkish red during periods of cold weather. Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ is tough and versatile, thriving in almost any position, providing structure to borders and making superb ground cover. A must have plant for low maintenance gardens!

3. Patio Standards

There’s something quite stately and formal about standard shrubs, a lot of effort goes into growing them into this particular shape and so they instantly have a quality appearance. Often seen standing sentry on either side of a doorway or the entrance to a formal garden, standards such as Laurus nobilis (Bay) certainly add elegance, other like the stunning Anisodontea elgans ‘Elegans Princess’ add bright and cheerful colours and some are smaller and more subtle, such as Azalea ‘Japanese Red’ which make interesting and striking focal points.

4. Agapanthus

Some plants thrive in patio pots and Agapanthus is definitely one of them! As the plant grows and the roots become more constricted, the plant puts up more and more flowers, making for a fantastic display! There are more and more varieties to choose from now as this plant is becoming a firm favourite in many of the UK’s gardens, from pure white to deepest blue and every shade in between, the African lily is a wonderful sight to behold in the summer months. Try Agapanthus ‘Twister’ for an unusual two tone flower, or the ‘Ever Sapphire’ and ‘Ever White’ varieties for pure single colours.

5. Alstroemeria ‘Summer Breeze’

If you love cut flowers in your house and enjoy warm summery colours then you are going to absolutely adore Alstroemeria ‘Summer Breeze’! Lush foliage sets off the glorious oranges and yellows of the blooms above. A fine border plant which will flower for about 5 months of the year, these hardy Peruvian Lilies are compact with an upright habit, ensuring that stems are still a good length for cutting. The perfect perennial for patio containers where it will flower continuously from June to November.

6. Callistemon ‘Hot Pink’

The bottlebrush plant is one of our more unusual varieties to grow in patio pots, We all like to grow something a bit different, and this plant is a real beauty. A native of Australia that is a hardy shrub and will happily grow in our climate, Callistemon ‘Hot Pink’ loves a sheltered corner and is early to flower, with frothy blooms in a warm shade of pink which attract plenty of bees and butterflies. Cut stems are happy indoors and make a change from run-of-the-mill cut flowers.

7. Hebe ‘High Voltage’

Hebes are incredibly easy to grow hardy shrubs that come in a range of shapes, sizes and colours. Hebe ‘High Voltage’ is a perfect container specimen; its size lends itself to being grown in a patio pot quite happily. The summer flowers appear in short spikes which will completely envelop the shrub, each spike starting an electric blue and then slowly transforming to a pure white, all whilst being a magnet for butterflies and bees! If the temperatures drop below freezing during the winter months, the foliage will also change colour from a deep green to a delectable bronze hue!

8. Buddleja ‘Buzz® 3 in 1’

The dwarf butterfly bush! A new twist on a much-loved garden favourite, Our colour series of Buddeja ‘Buzz’ is the world’s first patio buddleja! These attractive, compact plants are loved by bees and butterflies, but won’t take over your garden. Now for the first time you can give pollinators a treat with a compact Buddleja plant that gives them 3 flower colours to choose from, seemingly on the same plant! Supplied as 3 plants in 1 single pot, each will grow in harmony and produce a compact bush with fragrant, indigo, ivory and candy pink flower spikes! All colours varieties in the Buddleja ‘Buzz™’ series are garden friendly; staying compact and flowering for a long summer period without setting seed, meaning the flowers just keep on coming without risk of rogue plants popping up all over the garden, as is normal with standard varieties.

9. Lavatera ‘Barnsley Baby’

Another dwarf version of a cottage garden favourite! Compact and floriferous, Lavatera ‘Barnsley Baby’ is perfect for patio containers and small gardens. The well branched habit and racemes of saucer-shaped, soft pink blooms will certainly draw the attention of your neighbours during the summer months where it can happily be positioned to take centre stage on your patio! The bees and butterflies in your garden will love the open flowers too, making nectar easy to reach! Once established this tough little mallow needs little maintenance and will even tolerate short periods of drought.

10. Lilac ‘Flowerfest Pink’

The dwarf lilac that gives you the best possible performance! Most lilacs tend to only flower in late spring and then it’s all over, ‘Flowerfest Pink’ will continue into summer and then again produce a second flush of fragrant flower clusters later in the season, through until the first frosts occur. Its neat and compact growing habit will suit small gardens and also makes it ideal for growing in patio pots too. Also much enjoyed by butterflies – another great reason to have it in your garden!

Trees and Shrubs to Grow in Containers

By Bill Marken, Suzanne DeJohn, The Editors of the National Gardening Association

Many hardy trees and shrubs are suitable for container growing. When choosing trees and shrubs to grow in pots, remember that the hardiness zones given are for plants growing in the ground, and that plants growing in containers may need protection from extreme cold. Common deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs are listed here:

  • Deciduous: These plants drop their leaves in fall, go dormant in the winter, and begin growing again in spring.

    • Cotoneaster: Creeping cotoneaster (C. adpressus) and bearberry (C. dammeri) can spill from pots and hanging baskets, producing bright berries. They’re small (less than a foot tall). Most are hardy in zones 6 to 9.

    • Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica): Plant full-size varieties in large containers to grow as single-trunk or multitrunk trees, 8 or 10 feet tall. The bark develops an interesting combination of scaliness and smoothness, and summer flowers come in rich pinks, reds, and purples. Crape myrtle is hardy in zones 7 to 9.

    • Flowering cherry, crabapple, or plum trees: These trees aren’t for beginners, but their beautiful spring blossoms may tempt you to give growing them a try. Some produce fruit.

    • Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana Contorta): This plant’s contorted branches and shiny brown bark are shown off best when the plant is leafless in winter. In a container, expect a height of about 4 to 6 feet. Harry Lauder’s walking stick is hardy in zones 4 to 9.

    • Hydrangea: Huge flowers and bold foliage make Hydrangea macrophylla a summer show-off in 18-inch or bigger containers. Flowers in clusters a foot or more wide come in blue, pink, red, or white. Plants grow 4 feet tall and larger. Hydrangea macrophylla is hardy in zones 6 to.

    • Japanese maple (Acer palmatum): Japanese maple is just plain beautiful, whether spring green or fall red. And they’re the right scale for patio container plants. Japanese maples are hardy in zones 5 to 9.

    • Rose: There are thousands of roses, and theoretically you can grow all of them in containers. But some varieties are much better suited to container life than others. Rose hardiness depends on variety.

  • Evergreen: These hardy trees and shrubs hang onto their foliage year-round, making them good candidates for background plantings, for privacy screens, or to shield an unsightly view:

    • Aucuba: Aucuba japonica is grown for its bright red berries in fall and big, shiny leaves. Aucuba is hardy in zones 7 to 10.

    • Azaleas and rhododendrons: Consider yourself lucky if you live in an area where you can grow these magnificent, spring-flowering shrubs. Rhododendrons and azaleas are closely related. Check with local nurseries for varieties that do well in your area.

    • Boxwood: Boxwood is a shiny, dark green evergreen that lends itself to shearing in geometric shapes: globes, rectangles, and so on. Boxwood is hardy in zones 6 to 8.

    • Camellia: Grow camellias for their glossy, evergreen leaves and their beautiful flowers. Plants are handsome year-round, and in containers can grow slowly to 5 or 6 — or even 12 — feet. Camellias are hardy in zones 7 to 9.

    • Conifers: Conifers are available in a remarkable array of colors, forms, and sizes. Foliage may be green, blue-green, gray-green, chartreuse, gold, or silvery blue, depending on the species and variety. Look for dwarf or small-statured varieties and check hardiness ratings.

    • Daphne (Daphne burkwoodii): This evergreen shrub is easy to grow and reliable. Growing 3- or 4-feet tall, it produces sweet flowers in spring. Daphne is hardy in zones 5 to 8.

    • English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus): English laurel in a container makes a dense, glossy evergreen screen or backdrop for shady spots. Plants typically grow up to 6 feet tall, but compact types, such as Zabeliana, stay lower. English laurel is hardy in zones 6 or 7 to 9.

    • Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica): Not a real bamboo, nandina is a graceful, erect-growing evergreen shrub that performs solidly in all seasons. Clusters of small, white flowers bloom in spring and summer; red berries and crimson foliage follow in fall and winter. It’s hardy in zones 6 or 7 to 9.

    • Holly: Hollies can grow well in containers if they’re suited to your climate, you satisfy their rather demanding needs, and have enough patience to grow the plants for at least several years. Hardiness varies. In the United States, English holly is really reliable only in the Pacific Northwest and northern California.

    • India hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis): This dependable, versatile landscape plant provides glossy leaves year-round and bright pink flowers in spring. Plants form rounded mounds up to 4 feet tall. India hawthorn is hardy in zones 7 or 8 to 10.

    • Lily of the valley shrub (Pieris japonica): Lily of the valley shrubs always look nice. Their foliage is handsome year-round, tinged with red in spring. Little bell-shaped, white flowers are charming in spring. Lily of the valley is hardy in zones 6 to 8.

20 of the Best Container Shrubs

All gardeners enjoy the delightful task of potting up spring containers or stretching our summer and spring colour displays by changing out fresh combinations. For the most part, this is small pot gardening. But, one of the most valuable ways in which to use containers is to see them as part of the landscape rather than as isolated decorative items. This is especially useful when planting into the ground is not an option, for it encourages us to plant them up with trees and shrubs as permanent fixtures. Long-time reader, Clive, set us on the path in search of shrubs and trees for patio containers, and, after filtering out many species, we found a list that covered a few essential pointers for successful containment.

Where to use them:

  • Place them to filter the wind

  • Provide privacy around the patio

  • A row of shrubs in containers can create a wall or boundary.

  • Group an evergreen with other containers of flowers or foliage, or group several of those evergreens together to create a corner or define a space.

  • Their air cooling and cleaning impact are greater too than would be a few small, low-growing arrangements.

Plant choices:

Not all plants will grow well in containers; shrubs often stay smaller in a pot than their ground-grown counterparts, though this depends on the plant, climate, and container.


  • Non-invasive roots

  • Can establish roots in a limited amount of soil.

  • Compact growth

  • Easy to prune – look to multi-stemmed species

  • Have moderate water needs; place those in need of frequent watering close to the house.

Choosing your container:

  • Plan to re-pot them every other year, allowing for a gradual increase in pot size to accommodate root growth. Repot sooner if you notice roots escaping from the drainage holes.

  • Avoid planting into a narrow-necked pot as it is difficult to get a plant out once its roots have spread.

  • A tall, narrow pot is less stable than a squat, low one.

  • Plant tall, narrow plants in wide-based or heavy containers to prevent them being blown over.

  • Drainage is critical; add extra holes to ensure good drainage.

  • Never reuse a pot without sanitising it first.

Healthy plants should be transplanted from nursery pots to containers that are a few inches wider and deeper.

Potting soil:

For a plant, life in a container is much different than one in the ground, and, while containers hold the growing medium and provide necessary drainage, the plants depend on you for ongoing water and nutrients. Keep a space of around 3 cm between the soil and the container rim for watering.

Put some quality potting soil in your container. Garden soil is unsuitable as it doesn’t drain well in containers and could be more prone to weeds, insects and diseases. For shrubs, use a soil based potting mix rather than a soil-free mix because it is heavier and will help anchor a bigger plant and its root system. It also helps provide a sturdier base for the container in the wind.


Feeding: Contained shrubs need monthly feeding with a balanced fertiliser during the growing seasons of spring and summer. Keep plants well mulched, and top up regularly.

Watering: a couple of times a week in summer, especially on hot, windy days when they will dry out faster.

Shaping: Pruning not only shapes the plant it also helps limit or slow down root growth which is important for container plants. Keep trimming away long branches. Use a slanted cut just above an outward facing node. Cut off any dead or dying stems or branches or growth that spoils the shape; keeping only the strongest and straightest lets the plant use its energy for healthy growth and flowers.

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