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What Are the Best Container-Garden Plants for Shade?

By: Jessie Keith

Impatiens are classic potted flowers for shade!

“I’m in a complex where we can only plant in containers outside…and there’s a lot of shade to complicate matters…any idea for some plants that would do well contained without a lot of sun?  Thank you…also someone told me the ivy I did plant in a pot can be brought inside for a houseplant when it gets too cold outside true or not?” Question from Kim of Orangeburg, New York

Answer: There are lots and lots of wonderful annuals that thrive in shady locations. The perennial vine, English Ivy (Hedera helix), can grow in pots inside or out, and it will take shade, but there are many better options for shade containers. Here are some of my favorite shade-loving annual garden flowers for summer potted gardens.

Annuals for Shady Container Gardens

Begonias: You can’t go wrong with begonias, as long as you provide them with good moisture, especially through the hottest summer days. Two showy high performers are Bossa Nova® Red  Begonia and Illumination® Golden Picotee tuberous begonia. Classic wax begonias that you can purchase in flats at every garden center are also inexpensive and excellent.

Bush Violets (Browallia hybrids.): These annuals are nonstop summer flowers. Try the true-blue Endless Illumination Bush Violet.

Coleus (Solenostemon hybrids): There are hundreds of different types of coleus available with the most colorful, beautiful foliage imaginable. Click here for a wonderful coleus online nursery! (Click here to learn how to take coleus cuttings to generate new plants for free!)

Classic Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana): Pick up a flat of colorful impatiens at your favorite garden center, and plant them in shady pots for summer-long color. (Impatiens are also easy to start from seed! Click here to learn more.)

New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hybrids): These impatiens are generally taller and tolerant of a little more sun than classic impatiens. the tangerine-orange Infinity® Orange is especially pretty as is the crimson-pink and pale pink Infinity® Blushing Crimson.

Torenia (Torenia hybrids): You cannot go wrong with any of the spreading torenia in the Summer Wave Series. They spread and bloom all summer long. Summer Wave® Large Blue is really lovely.

For more ideas, try the Proven Winners Container Garden Recipe search. It is a great resource for gardeners just learning how to create spectacular potted gardens. Just be sure to choose “Full Shade or Part Shade” for the sun-exposure dropdown. I also recommend clicking here to learn more about growing perennials in containers.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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