How to plant a pot for shade

How to plant up pots for shade

Follow this foolproof formula when planting up pot and container displays for shade.

Do it:

All year round

Takes just:

15 minutes

Creating containers for shade can feel like a challenge, but with some clever plant choices it's easy to make a potted display that will shine out in shade.

For ideas and inspiration, check out these 10 container ideas for shade.

The secret to shady containers is to pick plants that will enjoy the conditions – hardy perennial plants are ideal, as well as tender bedding plants like begonias, which can take some shade. By doing this, you'll also find there's a varied palette of spring performers to choose from, including plants with pretty flowers, striking foliage and interesting texture. 

Perennials may cost a little bit more than one-hit bedding, but since they can be moved into the garden once your potted display is past its best, they offer good value for money in the long run.

Whichever plants you choose, this foolproof formula for planting pots for shade will ensure your container display looks good. 

You will need

  • Multi-purpose compost with added organic matter or well-rotted leaf mould
  • Small bark chippings
  • Slow-release fertiliser


Half fill your pot with multi-purpose compost with added organic matter or well-rotted leaf mould, for shade lovers (see our list of suggestions at the bottom of this page). Break up large lumps as you go to make sure no air pockets form. 
Mix in a measure of slow-release fertiliser. This will keep plants healthy, providing the nutrients they need for the growing season. 
Position the plants one at a time, placing the tallest at the back or centre. Take care not to damage any flowers as you plant.
The secret to shady containers is to pick hardy perennial plants rather than tender bedding plants.
Add the shorter plants to the pot, putting them close together so the display looks good straight away. Fill gaps with compost.
Initially water the pot well to settle the compost around the roots. Then water regularly to ensure the pot doesn't dry out. 


Compost for shade lovers

Many shade-loving plants thrive naturally in woodland settings, so it makes sense to replicate the growing medium found in these locations when planting your pots. Start with multi-purpose compost and boost it with humus-rich organic matter, such as well-rotted leaf mould – this is similar to the decomposed leaf litter that accumulates on a woodland floor. Incorporate small bark chippings to open up the soil and create a rich, free-draining planting medium.

Discover more ideas and inspiration

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