A well-planted container is the perfect way to brighten up a shady patio corner, which can bring light and colour to an otherwise gloomy spot. For the longest and most cost-effective display, use a mixture of shade-loving perennials, which you can then plant into the garden after the display is past its best.
Browse our pick of the best plants for shade, for colour, scent and foliage, below.
This clever design technique shows how to create impact by using the same plant in several different containers. Here, hostas are the filler of choice (ideal for a shady spot) with a selection of terracotta pots completing the scene. This display will last all summer. You could also try other dramatic shade-lovers, including ferns like Dryopteris wallichiana.
- Buy hostas from Sarah Raven
Lysimachia, false shamrock and begonias
A reclaimed metal container is softened with the dark, dramatic foliage of Lysimachia ‘Midnight Sun’ and Oxalis triangularis, along with the vibrant blooms of Begonia sutherlandii. These plants thrive in dappled shade, putting on more growth as the summer progresses – they’ll perform until the first frosts, too.
Begonias, bleeding heart and heuchera
Classic begonias including Begonia Botanica Mix and Begonia semperflorens combine with perennial bleeding heart, here Lamprocapnos ‘King of Hearts’, to create a display that’s full of colour, texture and interest. Mix blooms and leaves of complementary shades to create a modern, designer style for summer-long impact. We also used Heuchera ‘Cappuccino’ to complement the other plants used. Here's how to pot it up.
Madagascar periwinkles, lilyturf and anemones
Create late-summer interest with a container crammed with the blooms of Catharanthus roseus, Liriope muscari and Anemone ‘Pretty Lady’ that perform at the end of the season. Everything in this pot will still look good after September, with the added bonus of thriving in a shady location. Stipa tenuissima is planted at the back to give this container some movement.
Carex, heucheras and heucherellas
Fill a rustic crate with striking foliage plants including Carex comans bronze-leaved, Heuchera ‘Blackout’ and Heucherella ‘Gold Strike’ to create a display that will come back every year. Combine contrasting colours and add an ornamental grass for movement. Rehome plants in the garden if they outgrow the crate.
- Buy heucheras from Sarah Raven
Salvias, begonias, dahlias and coleus
A mix of lush foliage and glamorous blooms creates a display with a tropical vibe. Most of the plants come into their own in late summer, with an impressive show well into the autumn. A white-glazed container brightens the overall look. We used Salvia ‘Painted Lady’, Begonia ‘Surefire’, Dahlia ‘Happy Single Flame’, Coleus ‘Dipped in Wine’.
- Buy dahlias from Sarah Raven
Astilbe, hosta and milium
This bold display combines the shade-loving perennials Astilbe ‘Sprite’, Hosta ‘Wide Brim’, Milium effusum ‘Aureum’, in a galvanised container for a stylish, contemporary look. While the foliage will perform all year, the flowers will appear in mid-summer, and come back the following year. Here are our instructions for planting it.
Dryopteris, verbena, false heather and blue daisies
Mix ferns like Dryopteris affinis and other perennials with summer bedding plants to create a container that can be given a different look year-on-year (just swap the bedding). A decorative box adds interest – perfect for making the most of a bare wall. The other plants used were Verbena ‘Blue Violet’, Cuphea ignea, Felicia amelloides ‘Variegata’ and Glechoma hederacea ‘Variegata’.
- Buy verbenas from Sarah Raven
Dryopteris, ivy and geraniums
Simplicity is key here, with three container plants for shade used. Dryopteris affinis and Hedera helix ‘Sagittifolia’ provide the ideal foil for delicate geranium flowers, here Geranium ‘Wargrave Pink’. This container has a woodland feel, with the barrel adding to the rustic look. Cut back the geranium after flowering to encourage more blooms.
- Buy geraniums from Sarah Raven
Looking to fill sunny areas with colour and fragrance? Take a look at our feature on container plants for full sun.