Northern Shade Gardening

Attractive Shade Plants for Pots

Sunday, July 3, 2011 Category: Annuals

Despite the cool June, the shade plants I’ve planted in pots have been blooming beautifully. I’ve chosen ones that produce lots of flowers all season long, or wonderfully large leaves for a tropical look. I especially like the tall Alocasia (elephant ear) or Zantedeschia (calla lily) for the centre of the planter. Their showy foliage adds height, while the other annuals provide lots of blooms. Technically some of these are not really annuals, but the tender perennials are treated as annuals in zone 3.

shade annuals in flower pot

shade annuals in flower pot

The pot above is in a mostly shady area, with some morning sun and then dappled light during the rest of the day. It sits on a ledge that runs around my patio. In the middle is an Alocasia x calidora (elephant ear), at the front a Begonia Solenia Light Pink, at the back some Impatiens walleriana (double impatiens), and tucked in around the sides some Lobelia erinus ‘Regatta Sky Blue’.

Alocasia x calidora elephant ear leaf

Alocasia x calidora elephant ear leaf

In the centre of the pot is an Alocasia x calidora (elephant ear) with heart shaped leaves and textured ribs. This hybrid has giant eye-catching foliage that add an exotic tropical look to the planter. These are growing a little slower than the Colacasia that I planted last year, and I think it is because our weather has been so cool for the past 6 weeks. We’ve had very few days that made it as high as 25º C (77º F). Still, they are wonderfully textured, with light green patterns and of course their size adds presence to a container.

Lobelia erinus 'Regatta Sky Blue' pretty flowers in pot

Lobelia erinus ‘Regatta Sky Blue’ pretty flowers in pot

Draped over the sides of the pot are some Lobelia erinus ‘Regatta Sky Blue’. These annuals with such generous light blue flowers might be a common plant for pots, but that’s because they look super as they sprawl over the sides of a container. I particularly enjoy the waterfall effect of their pretty sky blue colour, and the fact that they will flower past the first light frosts. Plus, they don’t mind a part shade siting. I use the trailing ‘Regatta’ in my pots, since it tumbles and drapes so nicely, and Riviera in my shade beds, as it is a more upright dwarf.

Begonia solenia light pink with dark leaves

Begonia solenia light pink with dark leaves

The double pink flowers in this planter are Begonia ‘Solenia Light Pink’. Although the Solenia are a tuberous begonia developed for the hotter and sunnier climates, they have been doing fantastic in this part shade area through the cooler weather. The double tuberous begonias are great for a pot, since they flower right up until the frost, and you get a lot of petals per plant. These are a  shorter begonia, so they work well under the taller foliage at the centre. Solenia Light Pink begonias have darker, almost wine coloured foliage, which looks good next to the other green leaves in the planter.

Impatiens walleriana' Fiesta White' double flowers in pot

Impatiens walleriana’ Fiesta White’ double flowers in pot

At the back are some Impatiens walleriana with pretty double flowered blooms. The flowers look like tiny roses, and are great in a pot, because the more petals the better. The white petals show up particularly well in a shady garden area. These are another plant that will bloom continuously right up until the first frosts.

Alocasia Fuchsia Lobelia Begonia Impatiens in shade pot

Alocasia Fuchsia Lobelia Begonia Impatiens in shade pot

Here is another pot that is very similar at the other end of my patio, getting the dappled light that is common for most of the day. It has the same Alocasia x calidora for a focus in the centre, and Lobelia erinus ‘Regatta Sky Blue’ billowing around the edges. The container also has a Begonia ‘Nonstop Pink’, a Fuchsia ‘Swingtime’, and Impatiens walleriana ‘Fiesta White’. I like the combination of giant leaves, surrounded by lots of double flowers. The fuchsia is very large and hangs down towards the right, so is mostly out of this shot, but I’ve got some more pictures of it down below. This container is loaded with flowers that extend almost 1 m (3 ft) across in a 45 cm (18 in ) pot, but they are all doing really well.

Begonia 'Nonstop Pink' flowers in pot

Begonia ‘Nonstop Pink’ flowers in pot

This double tuberous begonia is ‘Nonstop Pink’.The flowers are very generous, and especially showy. Like Solenia it is a shorter Begonia, so it works well under the elephant ear plant. As with other double tuberous begonia, your get a maximum number of pretty petals per plant.

Fuchsia 'Swingtime' with red and whiteflowers dangling

Fuchsia ‘Swingtime’ with red and white flowers dangling

In the photo above you can see how gorgeous the  fuchsia ‘Swingtime’ double flowers look. This is a fairly large plant, and it shows well as it dangles over the front of the pot, since it is on a raised ledge around the patio. ‘Swingtime’ has red sepals at the top of each flower, and the corolla of white petals inside. The lantern shaped buds are bright red, and attractive in their own right. The long stigmas are suspended below each flower. These are very appealing flowers, and are terrific draped over the front of a pot.

Fuchsia 'Swingtime' with red and white petals

Fuchsia ‘Swingtime’ with red and white petals

I’m very pleased with the pink, white and blue colours together. The multitude of pretty flowers protected by the giant leaves makes an engaging miniature scene.

flower pot with annuals in shade

flower pot with annuals in shade

You can see that I carried a similar theme with this third pot on the patio, except there is a calla lily in the centre. There is a small Fuchsia ‘Swingtime’, a Begonia ‘Nonstop Pink’, some Impatiens wallerina with double pink flowers, and the ubiquitous Lobelia making itself comfortable around the edges of the planter.

Zantedeschia 'Fire Glow' calla lily with Begonia and Lobelia

Zantedeschia ‘Fire Glow’ calla lily with Begonia and Lobelia

The plant with the nice long leaves that appear speckled in silver with pink tubular flowers is Zantedeschia ‘Fire Glow’ (calla lily). You can see one of the flowers at the front of the picture above. It has a pink spathe shaped like a funnel,  with a yellow spadix in the centre. Although this plant is really for a sunnier site, it actually does fairly well in shade with dappled light. It has about 4 or 5 flowers on it, but mostly I added it for the long tall leaves, which it has produced in abundance. I especially like calla lilies with silver spots on the green foliage, as they add some interest in the dappled shade. While gardeners in warmer zones get to grow these as a perennial, here we have to treat them as annuals, or overwinter them indoors.

shade annuals in pot with calla lily begonia lobelia and impatiens

shade annuals in pot with calla lily begonia lobelia and impatiens

This fourth  pot is sited on my front porch, but got its picture taken when I was planting it near my front spruce. It is more lush now, with lots of the requisite lobelia cascading down, and more double begonia flowers. In the centre is a Zantedeschia ‘Golden Chalice’ (calla lily). Since it is situated in total shade on my front porch, the calla lily doesn’t have any flowers, but I planted it for those tall, speckled, arrow-shaped leaves. I wanted to show you this early shot, before the begonia flowers developed, so you can see the foliage of the Begonia ‘Solenia Light Pink’ better. It is very attractive in dark burgundy with green veins, and makes a nice contrast with the other green leaves. Although the Solenia begonias are supposed to be tolerant of  a hot, sunny location, this has done very well in total shade. As it has matured, there are a lot more of the double pink flowers than the leaves now. This pot also has a Fuchsia ‘Swingtime’ at the back.

Begonia rose pink with picotee petals

Begonia rose pink with picotee petals

Here is the flower of a tall begonia from a fifth pot on my front porch. It is a pink picotee, so the petals are light pink with a dark rose pink edging. This begonia is very tall, and forms the centre focal point to the pot, which is in complete shade. It has many of the usual suspects planted with it.

pot with double begonia and other shade annuals

pot with double begonia and other shade annuals

This sixth planter has a pink begonia, but in the evening light of this photo it appears almost red. It wasn’t identified when I bought it, but is your basic tall begonia. It has grown a great deal in the last two months, and is now 60 cm (2 ft) tall. The underplantings have been squeezed to the sides, but get to send out some flowers around the edges.

Begonia 'Nonstop White' with Lobelia 'Regatta Sky Blue'

Begonia ‘Nonstop White’ with Lobelia ‘Regatta Sky Blue’

This is a smaller pot, about 30 cm (1 foot) across, that is situated on my front steps just down from a larger container. In the middle is a Begonia ‘Nonstop White’, and of course the pushy Lobelia erinus ‘Regatta Sky Blue’ insisted on climbing into this pot, too. On the other side is a Lobelia erinus ‘Regatta Blue Splash’ with white and blue flowers. On the right side is an Impatiens ‘Fiesta Stardust Pink’ with double pink flowers, that have a bit of white in them. The little Fuchsia flower on the upper right is actually hanging down from the pot on the step above.

We’ve had such a rainy June, that I haven’t had to water the containers in the open since I planted them over 6 weeks ago, so they’ve been very low maintenance. All I’ve had to do is remove the odd spent bloom, and the Fire Glow calla lily needed staking.

Those are my annual pots for this year. You can see photos of last year’s flower containers and shade planters in these posts. They are a lot of fun to plant, and make an appealing show when heaped with flowers. I carried many similar plants and colours through the planters, with a few variations in each one. The sweet colours of pink, blue and white brighten up the shady areas, while the bold foliage gives them heft.

5 Responses to “Attractive Shade Plants for Pots” »

  1. Shady Gardener :
    July 3, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    YOU are truly creative and have presented some lovely arrangements!! :-)

  2. Calgary Sandbox :
    July 3, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Beautiful garden! I did my pots with nonstop orange begonias and cambridge blue lobelia so I am on your track but I neeed to add some drama …. So nice to find your blog after a day of weeding and mulching in the Calgary wind …thanks for writing it and taking all the great pictures

  3. Northern Shade :
    July 3, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Shady Gardener, thanks, it is like making a mini garden when you plant containers.

    Calgary Sandbox, Lobelia Cambridge Blue is my favourite, but I don’t see it around as much now. The blue would make your orange begonias really pop in the containers.

  4. Rebecca @ In The Garden :
    July 4, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Beautiful combinations for the shade, I really like your use of Elephant Ears as a canopy. My lobelia are also quite pushy, and make there way into all sorts of pots. :)

  5. Northern Shade :
    July 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Rebecca, the pots with the large leaves, like elephant ears, are great at the edge of a patio, because small pots tend to get lost. The elephant ears make the whole pot larger and they fit the rest of the garden.

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