Best flowers for pots in shade – 7 container gardening options that thrive in less sunny spots
These flowers all tolerate lower light levels, turning your shadowy spaces into vibrant displays of color
We all know that plants need sunlight to survive, but what if that's precisely the thing your backyard is lacking? The cheery sight of some bright and colorful potted flowers might just be the perfect remedy for a dim and shaded corner of your yard, but knowing which flowers are best suited to those conditions isn't quite so simple.
Container gardening is one of the easiest ways to introduce some greenery to your outdoor spaces, allowing you to add the desired number of flowers depending on the space you have available, be it a big garden or merely a balcony. Prioritizing those plants' needs, however, is crucial - and finding ones that are tolerant of shade can be a challenge.
The good news is there are actually plenty of options out there that prefer lower light levels, making them a great choice for those dark and dingy spots we mentioned. And, thanks to the help of some expert gardeners, we've cut out the guesswork for you.
'These plants are shade-tolerant mainly due to their natural habitats in the understory of forests, where they have adapted to grow in lower light levels,' explains garden expert and author Tony O'Neill of Simplify Gardening. 'Their biological makeup allows them to carry out photosynthesis efficiently, even in less-than-ideal light conditions.' Here's our pick of the seven best options to turn your shadowy spaces into a vibrant display of kaleidoscopic color.
For a burst of bright color, impatiens are a great choice for shadier spots. The flowers come in a variety of colors with popular favorites being orange, pink, and red, which are complemented by dark green foliage.
'Impatiens are one of the most popular choices for shade-loving flowers,' says Zahid Adnan, gardening expert at The Plant Bible. 'They thrive in moist, well-drained soil and require regular watering, and you should avoid direct sunlight as it can scorch the leaves.'
Like most shade-loving plants, impatiens still prefer a bit of indirect light during the day. For best results, place them in a spot in your backyard where they receive two to four hours of filtered sun during the day, or in an area where they receive less intense morning sun and afternoon shade.
Fuchsia's low-light tolerance is one of the reasons they're one of the best flowers for hanging baskets where plants tend to spend a lot of time shaded by the side of a building.
It's a visually striking flower, too. 'It produces delicate, bell-shaped flowers in shades of pink, purple, and white,' explains Richa Kedia, plant expert and blogger at The Nursery Lady. 'Fuchsia can tolerate lower light levels because it has adapted to grow in the shade of larger plants in its native habitat. It can also tolerate cooler temperatures, making it a good choice for shady areas.'
To style fuchsia plants in your backyard, Richa suggests a hanging basket for a dramatic display where the flowers cascade downwards. Just make sure your potted flowers receive enough water as this flower can be prone to drying out.
Without a doubt one of the best flowers for window boxes, begonias are versatile plants that come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, all of which thrive in partial shade and well-drained soil. 'They can however tolerate both sun and shade, making them versatile for any spot in your garden,' notes Tony O'Neill of Simplify Gardening. 'Water them when the top inch of soil is dry, and they'll reward you with blooms throughout the season.'
For the most impressive blooms, look out for varieties such as tuberous and fibrous (also known as 'wax') begonias. 'Styling these shade-loving flowers in your backyard can create a beautiful and lush oasis,' says Zahid. 'Place the containers strategically in shady corners, under trees, or along walkways to add pops of color and interest, and consider combining different flower varieties in complementary colors and textures to create eye-catching arrangements.'
Although technically not known as a flower, this hardy herbaceous perennial does produce purple or white blooms on tall stems every summer. The rest of the year, hostas' green foliage, which is often variegated, is favored by gardeners for its large spreading leaves used to pepper shadier flower beds, but they grow just as well in containers too.
'While they're known more for their foliage than their flowers, hostas provide a stunning green backdrop to any container arrangement,' notes Tony. 'They love moist, well-drained soil and prefer shady conditions, where their leaves won't scorch.' Use them amongst brighter shade-loving container-grown flowers to offer some contrast.
5. Bleeding Hearts
This unusual plant doesn't receive enough credit when it comes to landscaping with flowers. Also known as Dicentra, it gets its more common name of 'Bleeding Hearts' from its delicate heart-shaped pink and white flowers that hang from long stems, and it makes a visually striking addition to your shady container garden.
As well as plenty of shade, this plant prefers well-drained soil and requires regular watering, especially in dry periods. 'The fascinating shape of the flowers can add a touch of whimsy to your shaded garden areas,' says Tony. 'The shade also allows their colors and textures to stand out without the harshness of full sun.'
For a burst of colorful foliage in your shaded container garden, consider coleus plants. 'It comes in various colors and patterns from bright greens and yellows to deep purples and reds, making it a striking landscaping idea,' says Richa. 'Coleus can tolerate lower light levels because it has adapted to grow in the understory of forests, where it receives filtered sunlight. It can also tolerate a range of temperatures, too.'
Like many shade-loving plants, it's important to make sure coleus gets enough water as it can be prone to drying out, especially when grown in containers. As Zahid points out: 'This plant prefers well-drained soil and requires regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist.'
Another unusual flower on this list is the columbine. Known for its distinctive five-petaled flowers that have long backward-extending spurs which contain nectar, this hardy perennial wildflower is an American native that thrives in partial to full shade. If sunlight can't be avoided, place your container in a spot where it will receive early morning sun instead of the hot afternoon rays.
'Like others on this list, columbine requires well-drained soil and moderate watering,' explains Tony. 'Their unique, spurred blossoms and fern-like foliage can provide a lovely contrast in any container arrangement.' Place the flowers in the corner of your shady patio or up against the cool shelter of a wall for a colorful display of blooms throughout spring and summer.
Lilith Hudson is the Junior Writer on Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news articles for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration that you need in your home. She discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. Lilith now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London (a degree where she could combine both) and has previously worked at the Saturday Times Magazine, ES Magazine, DJ Mag and The Simple Things Magazine.
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