The pots on my front steps were looking tired by fall, as the tender plants and annuals that I planted in spring deteriorated. Back in the middle of September, I removed most of the plants and substituted some perky pansies. The fresh colours of ‘Matrix Morpheus’ in the planters cheer me up as I enter and exit my house.
I picked the cheery bi-coloured yellow and blue pansies, Viola x wittrockiana ‘Matrix Morpheus’, because they have a wonderfully soft spring look. The top petals are a deep blue, and the bottom petals are a lovely yellow, with strong blue lines radiating from the centre out through the yellow. The flowers are large, and have many blooms per plant.The blue and yellow colours partner well with the cobalt blue containers. The plants are only 20 cm (8 in) tall, but are very showy in a pot.
There weren’t enough of ‘Matrix Morpheus’ available, so I also added some solid purplish blue and solid yellow Matrix pansies in the fourth planter. Some of the lobelia were still looking good, so I left them in the one pot out front. The pretty blue lobelia flowers have already survived the first light frost, and they give the planter a more full look by tumbling down the sides. Since our summers don’t get too hot, this lobelia has done well right from spring to late fall.
The pansies have a lively look, and being super hardy, will tough out the fall frosts. Since they are on my porch, they are partially sheltered. I can move the containers back so they don’t get as much direct snow on them, and see how long the plants manage to survive. Pansies are frost tolerant, but not zone 3 tolerant. I might move the planters into my unheated garage when the severe cold comes, to avoid being a pansy meanie. They won’t look so sunny in -35° C ( -32° F).
I know that gardeners in warmer zones frequently put out pansies for their winter garden, but you rarely see pansies being offered here in fall, because we often go from a fall garden right to a blanket of white that covers everything. There are fall mums offered everywhere, but I wanted some cheery little pansy faces to greet me at the front door. They are fresh and spring-like, so I guess I am ignoring the seasons in between summer and spring.
What is better than one happy little pansy face? …
These tender plants and annuals do well in my shaded planters. Other than the lobelia, they will drop at the first frost, so they can only go outside in May. Depending on our fall weather, they will bloom until September, or up to October if we are lucky.
The Begonia ‘Ruffled White’ live up to their descriptive name, with plenty of rippled petals. They look like carnation flowers, but will have a much longer bloom period. I add begonias to most of my planters, because the large blooms with lots of petals are very showy, and bloom all summer. The begonias never complain about a shaded site, even on my front porch where there is really no direct light.
Begonia ‘Double Camellia Pink’ is very attractive with the lighter pink bud of petals in the middle. This is the first year I’ve tried it, and I’m pleased with how good the flowers look. I have the Begonia ‘Nonstop Pink’ as well, which put on a terrific display. This planter has some double flowering Impatiens in a light pink apple blossom colour to go with the dark and light pink begonias. You can see more begonias and shade plants in this previous article.
Begonia ‘Picotee Lace Pink’ is a frilly begonia, with slightly lighter tips to the petals. I grew this begonia last year, too. It is full of blooms, and keeps producing them all summer long. This one is competing for space with some cascading Lobelia erinus ‘Regatta Sky Blue’. The two flowers have the same colour intensity, so they work well in the same planter.
Most of the planters have Lobelia erinus ‘Regatta Sky Blue’ cascading down over them. This trailing lobelia has an abundance of pretty, blue flowers that don’t take up much room in the soil, but provide lots of blooms, half obscuring the sides of these dark blue pots. This flower is an expert at mingling and goes with just about any plant. It likes some extra water, like many of the other plants in these containers.
Lobelia erinus ‘Riviera Sky Blue’ is an upright mounding lobelia. I usually use it in my flowers beds, but I’ve planted some in the containers as well. These short plants are nestling back in, under some of the larger leaves. They add a splash of blue in contrast to the darker leaves. The lobelia are the hardiest of all of the plants in the containers. They can flower through some of the first light frosts, so you get a long bloom time from early season until October or so. In Edmonton our summers are fairly mild, so the lobelia performs very well.
This is a no-name Caladium with very eye-catching white and green markings. I like to know the exact variety or cultivar of a plant, so if I enjoy it, I can find it again. Unfortunately, this plant was not named or labelled. The lighter colour was appealing for the shade, in order to show up better against the shadows. There are some white begonias in this planter, but from this camera angle the large tropical Caladium leaves are obscuring them. You can just see a few white petals petals at the edges. This pot has green, white and blue colours in it.
This red patterned Caladium is colour matched by the red begonia. Then the red ladybug decided to accessorize the right planter. There is blue lobelia cascading down around the pot too.
I’ve planted Fuchsia ‘Swingtime’ for the last couple of seasons, as its flowers are exceptionally pretty. The darkest pink fat buds open to show the flaring white petals inside. It’s an eye-catching combination that looks fantastic swinging from the planters. In a warmer climate the Fuchsia would have a longer life, but here the tender plants gets a brief summer to flower.
I don’t even see a fuchsia flower when I look at this photo. All I see is a dancing pink octopus in a frilly white tutu. He’s mastered dancing en pointe.
This year I planted some Colocasia ‘Bikini Tini’ (elephant ears). The colouring on the leaves is fantastic, including a slight bluish cast. For the last three years I’ve planted Colocasia in my back planters that get a brief exposure of early morning light, and then dappled light through the willow leaves for the rest of the day. These plants do fantastic in this location, up until the cold weather.
Bikin Tini looks even better from behind. You can see the slight bluish-green glaucus cast of the leaf, and the darker ribs. Plus, you can see the intricate network of veins swirling across the leaf. I would definitely get this particular Colocasia again, as it is a knockout plant.
This Zantedescha (calla lily) has terrific speckled leaves, and fiery red flowers. I always look for the calla lilies with speckled leaves, as the pattern looks like sunlight is playing across them throughout the day. These plants get mostly dappled light, and a bit of early morning sun.
Here is a closeup of the wonderful speckles on the large Zantedescha leaf. I like some bold leaves in the planters around the back patio, otherwise the small flowers look a little lost against the garden background. This planter also has some blue lobelia and pink begonias.
The annual Schizanthus ‘Rose bicolor’ does very well in the medium part shade on my back patio, but not on the deeper shade of my front porch. I’ve tried schizanthus in the planters that receive no direct light and it dies, so I save it for a part shade location. It gets paired up with some white begonias, and of course the pushy lobelia plants squeezed their way in at the edges.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.