Tips for Growing Container Gardens in the Shade

You can grow beautiful container gardens even if you don't have any direct sun. Here are some tips for growing beautiful and successful shade container gardens.

  • 01 of 05

    Determine How Much Shade

    Container gardening picture of fuchsia hanging basket
    Fuchsia is a Great Flowering Plant for Shade.

    Kerry Michaels

    One of the most important parts of successful shade container gardening is to accurately figure out how much sun your pot will get. While you may think a certain spot in your yard, or on your deck or patio is in shade, it pays to take a close look at what kind of shade or sun an area gets. There are several different kinds of shade and determining the exposure of an area can make the difference in whether your containers thrive. To determine how much shade, and light levels in a certain area, you can use a sunlight meter or calculator or you can keep track, throughout the day, of how much light is hitting your spot. As the season's change and even in the course of a growing season, as the sun moves across the sky, those light levels can change so keep an eye on sun exposure, over time.

  • 02 of 05

    Choosing Appropriate Plants

    Container garden picture of flowering torenia or wishbone plant
    Torenia or Wishbone Plant.

    Kerry Michaels

    Choosing appropriate plants is perhaps the most important step in determining if your plants will thrive in your shady spot. You will want to choose plants that love shade and there are lots to choose from. There are great foliage plants as well as many flowering plants to choose from. If you don't know what you want when you go to buy plants, either ask a knowledgeable salesperson for suggestions or make sure to read the plant tags. Some nurseries will even have whole sections devoted to plants that thrive in shade. Also, make sure your plants have the same water requirements if you are planning to combine them in a pot. That said, don't be afraid of just using one type of plant in a container--some of the most beautiful pots have one plant like the torenias seen in the photo above.

  • 03 of 05

    Water Carefully

    Watering hanging flower basket
    Lauri Rotko/Folio Images / Getty Images

    Container gardens in the shade will take a lot less water than those in the blazing sun. Also, if there is high humidity, they will need less water too. To determine if your pot or hanging basket needs to be watered, feel the soil, and not just the surface. The surface can look or feel dry when there is actually enough moisture below, so you'll want to water carefully. You need to stick your finger into the soil, up to the second knuckle to see if your soil is dry by your fingertip. If it is, water until it drains out of the bottom of your pot. You want to make sure the moisture gets all the way to the bottom of your pot, where many of the roots may be.

  • 04 of 05

    Bright Plants

    Picture of key lime heuchera planted in a birch log
    Key Lime Heuchera is a Great Plant for Shade.

    Kerry Michaels

    It often is great to use bright plants and colorful pots in the shade. If you use golden-leaved plants, bright yellows or chartreuse greens, it can help lighten up an area of shade. Also, using plants with bright colored flowers and pots in light and bright colors can give the illusion of light to a dark area. Black or dark plants can fade away in shade, though sometimes in a combination, they can make the brighter plants pop even more.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Good Drainage

    Picture of shade container garden with Alligator Tears and Torrenia
    Shade Container With Alligator Tears and Torrenia.

    Kerry Michaels

    Pots in the shade don't have the sun to dry them out, so over-watering is often a problem. You want to make sure your pots have good drainage, which means large holes in the bottom of the pot, so the water can get out of the bottom. You don't want to use gravel in the bottom of your pot. It actually impedes drainage. If your pot has a large hole, simply cover it with plastic window screening or a coffee filter to keep the soil in and let the water out. Use a good quality, light potting mix, because most plants are happiest when the soil is moist, not wet and heavy potting soil can retain too much water. As with almost all container gardens, you do want to add a slow-release fertilizer to your soil and mix it in throughout the pot. Particularly important for shade gardens is not to have your pots sit in dishes full of water--as it can quickly drown a plant. Opt for pot feet, if you keep a dish or saucer under your plants to protect the surface they are sitting on.