Late summer containers – made for shade

Protect plants from harsh summer sun by growing them on a porch where they receive bright, indirect light. All images by Diane Morey Sitton.

It’s late summer…time to move from open decks and sunny lawns to breezy porches, covered patios, and shady spots in the landscape. And there’s no better way to brighten these shady retreats than with containers overflowing with colorful flowers and lush foliage–containers filled with plants that tolerate or prefer partially-shaded or shady sites.

Dragon Wing begonia rarely disappoints.

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To simplify the task of creating show-stopping, shade-loving containers follow The National Garden Bureau’s “one plant, two plants, three plants” approach.

Sometimes all it takes to make a statement is one beautiful plant.

“One for shade”: Choose a single variety with colorful flowers, showy foliage or both. Begonia fits the bill with selections ranging from the reliable red-, pink-, and white-blooming types, to Rex begonia with its showy foliage, to the long-blooming angel wing and Dragon Wing types. Coleus offers unique leaf colors and patterns. Coral bells (Heuchera), another foliage rock star, boasts both variegated and frilly foliage in colors ranging from chartreuse to peach to purplish-black.

Beautify a shady spot under a tree by filling a large white container with spider plant, fern and impatiens.

“Two for shade”: Pick your favorite foliage plant (a boldly-hued croton, a verdant fern, a wispy grass) as a backdrop and add a layer of color with impatiens, wishbone flower, or other shade-tolerant bloomer.

Color, texture, drama…these patio pots have it all!

“Three for shade”: Create rich color and texture with three varieties of the same plant or follow the “thriller, filler, spiller” rule of design. This easy-to-remember formula suggests starting with an attention-grabbing thriller such as elephant’s ear, ornamental grass, or Dragon Wing begonia. Next, anchor the thriller by planting a low-growing filler—oxalis, impatiens, or fern, to name a few possibilities. Complete the design with a spiller that cascades from the pot. Dichondra, creeping Jenny, or ivy are popular choices.

Ferns have a cooling effect on their surroundings.

Whether you adhere to the “one plant, two plants, three plants” approach or create your own unique plant combinations, remember that containers look their best when they are comfortably full, that is, each plant should have enough room to develop its natural shape. Keep plants healthy by feeding them with a mild solution of liquid fertilizer with each watering and by providing good drainage. Frequent deadheading keeps the container looking fresh.

Decorative wall planters filled with coleus and other selections steal the show on this covered patio.

Late summer: no sweat. With containers it’s always the right season for colorful flowers and eye-catching foliage.

Wax begonia is a reliable old-fashioned favorite. These identical pots sit next to a shady patio.

Shade plants for containers
Coral bells (Heuchera)
Creeping Jenny
Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’
Elephant’s ear
Ornamental grass
Persian shield
Pothos varieties
Spider plant
Stromanthe ‘Triostar’
Wishbone flower

Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
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