25 Colorful Container Garden Recipes for Shade That Are Easy to Grow

white Caladium, orange New Guinea Impatiens, coleus
Photo: David Goldberg

Containers offer a quick and easy way to brighten up a shady yard. All you need are the right shade-loving plants to fill your pots. Use these recipes to create the best shade container combinations that have similar moisture and light requirements.

01 of 25

Create Architectural Interest

container garden for shade letters
Peter Krumhardt

Use plant forms to create architectural interest when designing your landscape. Here, a full-moon maple makes a wonderful contrast against mounding plants and its square container.

A. Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'): 3

B. Full-moon maple (Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'): 1

C. Oxalis 'Zinfandel': 1

D. Foamflower (Tiarella 'Pink Brushes'): 1

02 of 25

Make a Statement the Simple Way

shade container garden of coleus and Caladium letters
Peter Krumhardt

This is a simple yet dramatic pairing for a shady spot—with just two plants (each with two leaf colors). The dark coleus contrasts with the bright caladium that lights up the center of the pot.

A. Caladium 'Gingerland': 1

B. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Inky Fingers'): 1

03 of 25

Look Up

container garden for shade letters
Peter Krumhardt

When selecting a container for your potted plants, good drainage and the right size for your plant's root system are the two most important considerations, followed by the container material itself. Here, sleek, shiny pots draw your eye up to a bonanza of color and texture.

A. Caladium 'Florida Elise': 2

B. Perilla 'Gage's Shadow': 1

C. Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Myersii'): 1

D. New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens 'Sonic Cherry'): 1

E. Oxalis 'Zinfandel': 1

04 of 25

Look for Fun Containers

container garden for shade letters
Peter Krumhardt

Repurpose an ordinary household item into a one-of-a-kind container. This dramatic yet simple design relies upon foliage size and color contrasts for impact—all in a simple, salvaged bucket.

A. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Sedona'): 1

B. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Caroline Bronze'): 2

C. Elephant Ears (Colocasia 'Red Stem Rhubarb'): 1

05 of 25

Play Off Your Container

container garden selection for shade letters
Peter Krumhardt

If you're not sure how to start designing your container, look at your container's color and then decide if you want to complement it or contrast it with your plants' color. Here, the black pots look great against bold, bright colors.

A. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Daffy'): 1

B. Sedge (Carex hachijoensis): 1

C. Caladium 'Florida Beauty': 1

D. Coleus (Solenostemon 'JoDonna'): 1

06 of 25

Employ Powerful Foliage

Potted Geranium, Nandina, Bowles, Cerex letters
David McDonald

Enjoy a beautiful container garden without flowers by choosing plants with dramatic foliage. Plant varieties with textured leaves for added interest.

A. Golden sedge (Carex elata 'Aurea'): 1

B. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Dolly Varden'): 1

C. Elephant ears (Colocasia 'Black Magic'): 1

D. Heavenly bamboo (Nandina 'Sienna Sunrise'): 1

07 of 25

Grow Colorful Foliage

concrete paver planters letters
Peter Krumhardt

This collection of troughs and pots relies on various foliage shapes, sizes, and contrast for impact. If you don't want to grow tropical plants like these elephant's ears, grow easy houseplants in the shade instead.

A. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Inky Fingers'): 1

B. Elephant's ear (Alocasia amazonica ): 1

C. Elephant's ear (Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic'): 1

D. Hosta 'Pot of Gold': 1

E. Sedge (Carex 'Beatlemania'): 1

08 of 25

Keep It Simple

container garden featuring variegated Hosta
Mike Jensen

You can have a beautiful container garden even with one kind of plant. Here, a single hosta in a classic container makes a statement all its own. The best hosta varieties offer different colors, sizes, leaf shapes and textures, and flowers, so choose the perfect one to fit into your garden's design.

A. Hosta 'Aureomarginata': 1

09 of 25

Try Repetition

Plants rosemary topiary with dragon wing begonias letters
Kim Cornelison

Repetition is one of the elements of good garden design that is used by many gardeners. You can do the same thing with your container gardens. Here, bright begonias enliven a pot of herbs for the kitchen and create repeated points of color.

A. Begonia 'Dragon Wing Red': 4

B. Golden sage (Salvia officinalis 'Aurea'): 2

C. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): 1

10 of 25

Add Color Anywhere

pink double impatiens in wire moss basket at garden letters
Ed Gohlich

This half wall-basket lined with sphagnum moss exudes old-world charm. You can create a vertical garden like this anywhere—from a wall to a gate or even a doorway.

A. Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima): 2

B. Double impatiens (Impatiens 'Fiesta Sparkler Hot Pink'): 3

11 of 25

Create an Explosion of Color

Potted plants reiger begonias with fern and fuchsia letters
Kim Cornelison

Similar pots in different sizes planted to echo each other present a clean and elegant display. Grouped containers can turn an ordinary outdoor space into a lush patio garden. Here, a fern is used to add height and extra interest.

A. Reiger begonia (Begonia 'Charisma Pink'): 6

B. Fuchsia 'Hidcote Beauty': 3

C. Wood fern (Dryopteris clintoniana): 1

12 of 25

Select Easy Plants

striped planter purple oxalis pink begonia letters
Richard Felber

This unusual pairing of easy-growing but striking plants makes a statement in partial shade. Each container complements its contents perfectly.

A. Begonia 'Dragon Wing Red': 3

B. Oxalis regnellii: 5

13 of 25

Pick a Specimen Plant

Container garden with Perilla 'Magilla' letters
Ed Gohlich

Dramatic enough to stand alone, this wildly colored perilla punctuates a corner of the landscape all on its own. Also known by its Japanese name, shiso, this plant's leaves are a wonderful addition to a salad. Try growing your own salad greens in containers.

A. Perilla 'Magilla': 1

14 of 25

Create Summer Cheer

Container garden of Yellow Begonia, Pink Impatients letters
Mark Kane

A colorful combination of easy-flowering plants that will remain attractive all summer long for a bright way to add interest to any shaded area of your garden.

A. Tuberous begonia (Begonia 'Scentiment Blush'): 1

B. Impatiens 'Accent Watermelon': 3

15 of 25

Create a Tower of Color

large container of red impatiens and begonias letters
Dean Schoeppner

Tough, vigorous plants meet in a bold, colorful container garden that looks good all the way to frost.

A. Begonia 'Dragon Wing Pink': 3

B. Impatiens 'Showstopper Tropical Punch': 3

16 of 25

Choose Fun Containers

White Impatiens In Garden Ornament Antique Top letters
King Au

Easy-to-grow plants combine here to brighten a dull fence. The metal container is unusual enough that it needs little embellishment, so white flowers are a perfect addition.

A. Impatiens 'Dazzler White': 2

B. Asparagus fern (Asparagus sprengeri): 1

17 of 25

Create a Rustic Mood

flowers in rustic container letters
Bryan E. McCay

This rustic container is complemented by the simple plantings to create a perfect vignette for a shady woodland or country-style garden.

A. Browallia speciosa 'Blue Bells': 3

B. Asparagus fern (Asparagus sprengeri): 2

C. Begonia 'Prelude White': 2

D. Begonia 'Prelude Rose': 2

E. Variegated ivy (Hedera helix 'Gold Child'): 3

18 of 25

Use Layers for Impact

Candidum and flowers in pot letters
Jay Wilde

Two layers of plants create extra interest in this container. The bright caladium leaves are a perfect contrast to bold impatiens and vinca blooms. Add even more interest to your container by including plantings that attract butterflies.

A. Caladium 'Candidum': 1

B. Vinca (Catharanthus 'Titan Punch'): 3

C. Vinca (Catharanthus 'Titan Rose'): 3

D. Impatiens 'Jungle Gold': 3

19 of 25

Use Powerful Contrasts

white Caladium, orange New Guinea Impatiens, coleus letters
David Goldberg

Usually, the best annuals to plant together come from the same color family. Here, this grouping stands out with its repetition of reds from the coleus and impatiens that are contrasted with a white-variegated caladium.

A. Impatiens 'Petticoat Fire': 1

B. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Atlas'): 1

C. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Kingwood Torch'): 1

D. Caladium 'Candidum': 1

20 of 25

Grow a Mixed Planting

Container plants with green and pink variety letters
Emily Followill

This container offers a little of everything: annuals, perennials, and tropical vines. Mix and match different plant types for high-impact combinations that are perfect for creating an easy cottage garden look.

A. Hosta plantaginea: 1

B. Mandevilla 'Alice du Pont': 1

C. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Margarita'): 1

D. Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare): 2

E. Algerian ivy (Hedera algeriensis): 2

F. Verbena 'Superbena Burgundy': 3

21 of 25

Try Long-Blooming Perennials in Pots

Container shade garden with Corydalis lutea letters
Bert Klassen

Pots aren't just for annuals. Perennial container gardens look great with their gorgeous autumn colors. Here, a yellow corydalis will continue to bloom from spring to the first fall frost.

A. (Corydalis lutea): 2

22 of 25

Go with Groups

flowers in multiple planters letters
Peter Krumhardt

One pot by itself looks great—but more is better! Arrange several containers together and follow recipes for beautiful container gardens, such as a mix of colorful annuals and perennials or a monochromatic look created with flowers and foliage. This pink, white, and blue collection is set off by the solid green foliage of the fern behind.

A. Impatiens 'Accent Bright Eyed': 1

B. Wax begonia (Begonia 'Senator White'): 1

C. Browallia speciosa 'Blue Bells': 3

D. Pentas lanceolata 'New Look Pink': 1

23 of 25

Use Bright Colors

garden with caladium, cosmos, lamium, begonias letters
Kritsada Panichgul

Light, bright colors show best in shade. In fact, you can grow colorful plants anywhere. The latest shade garden design ideas are filled with gorgeous plant varieties. This planting relies on shimmering white with a touch of pink to stand out from its surroundings.

A. Caladium 'Candidum': 3

B. Petunia 'Supertunia Mini-Silver': 3

C. Cosmos bipinnatus 'White Sonata': 2

D. Reiger begonia (Begonia 'Charisma Pink'): 3

E. Lamium galeobdolon 'Herman's Pride': 3

F. Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus): 2

24 of 25

Look for Unused Space

3 Begonia Baskets On Wall letters
Peter Krumhardt

Just because your garden beds are full doesn't mean you don't have room for more plants. Vertical gardening adds another dimension to your outdoor growing space. This collection of baskets is a great way to add an extra dose of color to a garage.

A. Tuberous begonia (Begonia 'Nonstop Apricot'): 2

B. Tuberous begonia (B. 'Nonstop Bright Red'): 2

C. Tuberous begonia (B. 'Nonstop Yellow'): 2

25 of 25

Create a Festive Feel

container garden with Caladium, Begonia, ivy letters
Peter Krumhardt

This pleasing arrangement of easy-to-find plants could decorate a shaded summer deck or patio for several months. If you're going to grow multiple plants in one container, keep in mind that they'll need to have similar sun, water, and soil requirements in order to thrive.

A. Caladium 'Frieda Hemple': 1

B. Begonia 'Victory Green Leaf White': 2

C. Ivy (Hedera helix 'Duckfoot'): 3

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