Dryopteris, epimedium and muehlenbeckia container for shade

Shade-loving pot display

Brighten up a shady corner with this foliage-packed container display.

For this container display, we’ve picked a mix of shade-loving plants with contrasting leaf shapes and colours, which we planted in an etched brass container that will reflect light and enhance the green of the foliage. Don’t forget, if the container you’ve picked doesn’t already have holes for drainage, drill these in yourself. Most plants struggle in waterlogged soils.


More container gardening advice:

Find out more about how we planted up this shady container display and how to care for it, below.

The plants we used

Dryopteris dilitata ‘Lepidota Cristata’

Dryopteris dilitata ‘Lepidota Cristata’
Dryopteris ‘Lepidota Cristata’

‘Lepidota Cristata’ is a lovely cultivar of the broad buckler fern, Dryopteris dilitata. The semi-evergreen foliage has a lacy appearance. Alternatives to consider include the common polypody and holly fern.

Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niveum’

Epimedium x youngianum 'Niveum'
Epimedium ‘Niveum’

Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niveum’ is one of many lovely epimediums to grow. This herbaceous variety has heart-shaped leaves that are flushed with bronze in spring and autumn. In April and May it produces lots of small, white, bell-shaped flowers that show up well in shade. There are lots of other epimediums to include, such as ‘Lilac Seedling’ and ‘Pink Champagne’.

Muehlenbeckia complexa

Maidenhair vine, Muehlenbeckia complexa
Maidenhair vine, Muehlenbeckia complexa

The maidenhair vine, Muehlenbeckia complexa is a popular houseplant but it’s frost hardy so can be grown outdoors all year in many locations. Alternatives to consider include ivy ‘Halebob’ or small ferns and dwarf hostas like Asplenium trichomanes or ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’.

Care and maintenance

Once you have planted up your pot, place the container in a shady area of the garden. When the top few centimetres of the compost have dried out, soak the compost thoroughly and allow to drain.

We mixed in slow-release fertiliser when planting up this container, which should provide the plants with enough nutrients for the growing season. However, if you don’t use this simply feed the plants in the container with a liquid seaweed feed every week or so, while the plants are in active growth.

Deadhead the epimedium flower stems as they fade – they’ll soon be replaced by new blooms. Remove tatty leaves as they appear. Muehlenbeckia is a fast-growing plant, so cut it back if it starts encroaching on growing space of the other plants.


Planted in spring, this container will look its best until autumn. This container is best kept in place for one growing season. After this time, all of the plants can be potted up separately or planted in the ground.