11 Great Shade Plants for Container Gardens

Best Container Plants for Shade

 The Spruce 

This article is part of our Mulch Madness series. Mulch Madness is The Spruce's gardening "full court press"—a curation of our very best tips and product recommendations to help you create a truly trophy-worthy lawn and garden.

Flower gardening is always easiest when you have plenty of sun to work with, but this is not always possible. Especially in small landscapes or urban environments where homes are closely positioned, a deck or patio often experiences shade or semi-shade conditions that call for container gardening with plants suited for such environments. 

Most plants described as shade lovers actually are suitable for "part shade" locations. They will tolerate shade for most of the daylight hours, but they need some amount of sunlight each day in order to thrive. "Part shade" is defined by horticulturists as a location that offers 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight each day. Plants rated for "dense shade" or "deep shade" are the only ones recognized to thrive with the complete absence of sunlight. There are relatively few of these plants, but one, the Impatiens, is mentioned here. As for "part-shade" plants, if no direct sunlight is possible, try to provide them with a good amount of filtered sunlight, such as that found under the canopy of tall trees.

Containers are normally planted with annual flowers planted anew each season, but there are also some perennials that work well in container gardens. 

Here are 11 plants that work well for container plantings in shady locations.

  • 01 of 11

    Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides)

    coleus being planted in containers

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Coleus is one of the best-known of all shade plants, for good reason—almost everyone recognizes this plant when they see it. This is a plant grown for its unique and interesting leaf colors rather than its blooms. Coleus is one of the few plants that genuinely thrives in full shade. If you think of coleus as old-fashioned, it is worth another look, since new colors and leaf forms are being developed all the time. Some new varieties now thrive in partial shade and even in full sun.

    The colors of coleus are often so intense and complicated that you have to be a little careful when mixing them with other plants. Have some fun and try improbable color combinations—sometimes they work beautifully. Or plant them alone as specimen plants.

    Formerly categorized as Coleus blumei, this plant now carries the official name of Plectranthus scutellarioides.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; usually grown as an annual
    • Color Varieties: Multi-colored foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full shade to full sun depending on the variety
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 02 of 11

    Fuchsia (Fuchsia spp.)

    Fuchsia plant in pot with small pink and purple flowers and buds surrounded by leaves

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Fuchsias are readily identifiable by their drooping, brightly colored flowers that bloom virtually all season. The trailing habit makes this an excellent flowering plant for hanging baskets. There are about 100 species in the Fuchsia genus, all of which put on a great display even in full shade conditions. The reputation for fussiness is not really deserved, since Fuchsia plants can be quite easy to grow under the right conditions, though they do require lots of water and fertilizer.

    Fuchsias are classic in hanging baskets, but can also look awesome in mixed containers. They look great paired with either complementary or contrasting colors. Fuchsia will flower all summer, and, if you live in a cold climate, you can bring it indoors to overwinter.

    • USDA Growing Zones: typically 9 and warmer ; usually grown as an annual
    • Color Varieties: Reds, pinks, violets
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 03 of 11

    Torenia (Torenia fournieri)

    Torenia plant with small blue-purple and black flowers on thin stems with pink leaves

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Torenia, also known as wishbone flower, is an elegant and cheerful annual plant that will flower all summer even in full shade. It is heat tolerant and very easy to care for. This gem will thrive with regular watering and fertilizing until frost and you do not even have to deadhead it. 

    Wishbone flower is great in combinations, or, in the right container, it can be beautiful on its own. You can use it in hanging baskets, window boxes, or in any container with good drainage. It is relatively short, 6 to 18 inches, and will trail over the side of your container. In warm climates, Torenia will need protection from the heat.

    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; this is an annual or a houseplant in all climates
    • Color Varieties: Light to dark purple
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 04 of 11

    Coral Bells (Heuchera Species and Hybrids)


    The Spruce / Kara Riley 

    Coral bells are standard garden perennials, but they also work well for containers in the shade. Most commercial varieties are hybrids, bred from parent species that include Heuchera americana, H. sanguinea, H. americana, H. micrantha, H. villosa, or H. cylindrica. A few favorite varieties are 'Dolce Licorice', 'Dolce Key Lime Pie', and 'Dolce Creme Brulee'.   

    Coral bells are gorgeous and almost indestructible. Although they thrive in the shade, most coral bells will also tolerate some sun and are quite drought tolerant. The blooms on coral bells are rather small and often indistinct, but the foliage comes in many unusual colors, ranging from an almost black-purple to peach to bright key lime. Coral bells will attract hummingbirds and butterflies and some are hardy to a spectacular minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit, looking amazing right up until the snow flies. While deadheading is not necessary, remove flower stems after they have bloomed to keep your plant looking great.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Dark purple to bright yellow-green foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade (depending on variety)
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Begonias (Begonia Groups and Hybrids)

    begonias in a container

    The Spruce / Krystal Slagle 

    With more than 1,800 species in the genus, categorized in several broad groups, there are literally hundreds of begonias for gardeners to choose from. For container gardens, the most popular are the tuberous or rhizomatous begonias with their neon-bright flowers; or rex begonias, which have leaf colors, shapes, and textures that can border on the psychedelic.

    Many newly developed trailing, angel, and dragon wing begonias that will bloom like crazy all summer. Most begonias need great drainage and do not want to be too wet. Some will be happy in full shade while some prefer filtered shade. Almost all flowering begonias need to be fed regularly and generously with diluted fertilizer.       

    • USDA Growing Zones: typically 6 to 11, except for some hardy varieties
    • Color Varieties: White, orange, pink, red, and bicolors
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 06 of 11

    Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyeranus)

    Persian shield plant with dark green an light purple striped leaves in pot closeup

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyeranus) is a gorgeous foliage plant—a broadleaf evergreen perennial that generally is used as an annual. With blooms that combine purple and silver, it stands out in any container, where it serves a classic thriller plant, towering up to 3 or 4 feet high. Exceptionally easy to grow, Persian shield will add an exotic touch to your containers, as it is unusual and may be hard to find at garden centers. Buy it early, because it often will sell out. While Persian shield prefers a little bit of sun, you can easily grow it in part shade. Some pinching back of the stems will help keep it bushy and full.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; normally grown as an annual
    • Color Varieties: Purple and green/silver foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Bright light but not necessarily full sun
    • Soil Needs: Medium-moisture, well-drained soil
  • 07 of 11

    Oxalis (Oxalis spp.)


    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Oxalis is another large genus of plants which includes several species that are good performers for shady containers. Some species commonly used in containers include Oxalis versicolor, O. triangularis, and O. tetraphylla. Flower colors include white, peach, yellow, pink, and bicolors; some varieties (such as O. tetraphyalla) are grown mostly for their foliage.

    These plants have delicate shamrock-shaped leaves and tubular flowers that open and close as light exposure changes. This is an easy-to-grow plant that plays well with others or looks good all by itself in a beautiful pot. The flowers are pretty, but this plant is all about color and texture. It looks lovely combined with Fuchsia or Torenia. If in partial shade, it also looks great planted with Bacopa.

    If you are located in a cold climate area, you can bring your oxalis inside for the winter and turn it into a house plant.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 10, depending on species
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, yellow, peach, and bicolors
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, well-drained soil
  • 08 of 11

    Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)

    Impatiens plant with bright red and dark pink and white flowers in garden bed

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    The old standby, Impatiens walleriana, has been a shade favorite for many decades for good reason—it is one of the few bright-flowering plants that positively thrives in full shade. Impatiens are available in a wide spectrum of white pink, salmon, red, and purple hues, with both single and double-petal flowers. These mounding plants are great in mixed pots and hanging baskets. 

    The related New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) likes a bit more sun, but it will also do well in partial shade. 


    Impatiens can't be planted in the ground in many places in the United States due to Downy Mildew disease, which can cause fungal spores to infect soils wherever the wind blows it. The disease does not affect Impatiens planted in hanging baskets or containers with clean potting soil, however.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; normally grown as an annual
    • Color Varieties: Pink, red, lilac, purple, orange, white, and bi-colors
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil
    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Trailing Lobelia (Lobelia erinus var. Pendula)

    Trailing lobelia plant with small purple flowers in between leaves and small white flower clusters

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Lobelia is a very large genus of plants, with many species that prefer direct sun. But the trailing version (Lobelia erinus var. pendula) is an ideal plant for shady containers. L. erinus is commonly known as "edging lobelia," and the pendula variation puts out long, cascading shoots that are ideal in hanging baskets and pots. 

    Various cultivars are available in many different flower colors including blue, violet, purple, red, and pink.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 11; normally grown as an annual
    • Color Varieties: Blue/violet, red, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil
  • 10 of 11

    Dichondra (Dichondra Argentea)

    Dichondra plant in brown hanging basket with red flower stems and leaves hanging over

    The Spruce / Jayme Burrows

    Dichondra is a creeping, trailing evergreen perennial plant in warm climates, but it is commonly used as trailing spiller plant in containers. It is generally grown for its foliage, not its flowers. One popular cultivar, 'Silver Falls', has shimmering silvery foliage and stems. Dichondra grows only about 4 inches high but sends out shoots up to 4 feet long, making it ideal for hanging baskets, tall containers, and window boxes. Although a sun-lover, this plant tolerates partial shade and works well if it gets just an hour or two of sun each day. Although drought-tolerant in the garden, it should be kept well watered when grown in containers.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 12; normally grown as an annual
    • Color Varieties: Green or silver foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium-moisture soil
  • 11 of 11

    Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

    Creeping jenny plant in hanging planter with round lime-green leaves

    The Spruce / Candace Madonna

    Not all container plants need to be flowering plants. Creeping Jenny is a mat-forming perennial with round lime-green leaves that works well in tall containers or hanging baskets. It grows only 2 to 4 inches tall but sends out in shoots up to 2 feet long. It is a perfect spiller plant for the outside edges of containers or hanging baskets, where the light-green foliage can brighten shady areas. 

    This perennial plant is actually better suited for containers since it can be invasive if planted in the garden.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow flowers; but normally grown for its green or yellow leaves
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dalman, Nate. ColeusUniversity of Minnesota Extension, 2021,

  2. Lind, Jenna. Impatiens Downy MildewWisconsin Horticulture, 2013.