Containers for the Shade

As I’ve confessed before, container planting isn’t my strong suit. Occasionally I get a burst of inspiration, but more often I consult my colleague Kripa here at Landscape Projects, who is a genius when it comes to putting together gorgeous pots. Here’s a sample, for a shady garden, which she created recently primarily using annuals we already had on hand.

shade planter, shade planting combinations, white gardens, Landscape Projects Inc.

I could look at this all day. I wish it were in my garden.

I love the simplicity and elegance of this design, created for a client who prefers only white flowers (with a touch of blue permitted – see the next photo).  The backdrop is a Boston fern from a ten-inch hanging basket (not hardy in the garden but gorgeous for summer), accented by Caladium ‘Ghost’ in front. White Scaevola and chartreuse Ipomaea ‘Sweet Marguerite’ (sweet potato vine) round out the composition. All the plants are shade-tolerant.  In a matching container not far from this one, white begonias joined the party, but I didn’t get a good shot of that one – it was in a sunnier area and the light wasn’t good. But trust me, it was just as beautiful.

In another part of the garden, Kripa played a variation on the white and green theme, adding just a touch of blue Lobelia.

shade containers, shade plant combinations, Landscape Projects

After only about two weeks, this is filling out nicely.

In addition to the Lobelia, she used Caladium ‘Candidum,’ Swedish ivy, white impatiens, some golden creeping Jenny, and Ipomaea ‘Blackie.’ Oh yes, and another Boston fern (smaller this time). The client was thrilled – instant elegance and beauty, and all she has to do is water!

Of course, you can bring color into your shady area containers or back yard with annuals like coleus. Last summer I had a container on my deck where I took that approach, which I wrote about here. Of course, these were in the sun, but they would have worked in the shade as well with maybe just a few adjustments to the coleus I used.

This year, my own containers have been mixed – I now have so much sun in the front yard that I need to re-think my front step containers. But I did manage to create one back-yard container about a month ago that is working well so far. It began with a trip to Home Depot, where I was looking for light bulbs but instead had the great good fortune to find some unusual looking caladiums. I added a self-seeded ‘Lady in Red’ fern (Athyrium felix-femina ‘Lady in Red’) from one part of the garden, stole some variegated Carex (sedge grass) from another part of the yard, and voila:

shade containers, shade plant combinations, Landscape Projects Inc.

The shade planter at the foot of my deck. The white flower hanging down over it is from a Ligustrum shrub.

What’s that lovely caladium named, I’m sure many of you want to know? So do I. The plant tag just said, “Shade plant.” On my way to my car two other gardeners stopped me and wanted to know its name and where I’d gotten it, but I had bought the only two on the shelf. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there when you’re decorating a shade garden. I may not have Kripa’s talent, but I think I made up for it in sheer luck.

Update: Jen’s comment below prompted me to do some Internet research. The full Latin name of a caladium is apparently Caladium x hortulanum, but with a little sleuthing I discovered my find is a variety called ‘Cranberry Star.’ My thanks to Jen, for spurring me to work a little harder. Now if I can only replicate my luck next year!

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7 Comments on “Containers for the Shade”


  1. I’ve never been great with pots either, but these are inspiring. I’m going to try harder. Thanks!

  2. jen weibel Says:

    Just found the plant tag for the caladium in your beautiful pot which I also bought. It’s Caladium X Hortulanum/Caladium bicolor. Love it and bought mine at Hollandia.

    • Melissa Says:

      Dear Jen, see my update above. I think ‘Caladium x hortulanum’ is the Latin name for any caladium, but this variety is ‘Cranberry Star.’ Thanks for prompting me to dig a little deeper!

  3. Astrid Says:

    Hello Melissa
    I follow your blog on a regular basis and think it’s fabulous and “lovely”, therefore I nominate you for the One Lovely Blog award!! Congratulations! You can find the rules on my site http://astridsgardendesign.blogspot.com.
    If you feel you cannot comply with the rules of the award, please accept this nomination in the sincere spirit in which it is offered.
    Astrid


  4. […] Containers for the Shade Sep15 Reblogged from Garden Shoots: […]

  5. SoundEagle Says:

    Hi Melissa,

    Here in the southern hemisphere, our caladium plants are still dormant in the subtropical, temperate and cool regions. They are greatly missed.

    Happy September gardening and landscaping to you!


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