Try one of these recommended shade-loving plants for your container gardening where you have partial to full sun like porches and under trees.
That container or pot in a shady corner on your terrace or under a pergola can be a little problem to fill with flowers…
Most plants bloom better in the Sun, in fact. Most amateurs would give up on growing flowers where light is scarce; many would just turn to foliage.
But Nature is very resourceful, and more varieties of potted shade flowers will bloom in partial or full shade.
So, don’t give up yet! If you want plant a container in that shady spot, there are shade loving plants that will fill it with light and colors.
Many of the places we call “shady” are actually in partial shade. “Full shade” means with less than 3 hours of light a day. “Partial shade” means the place receives 3 to 6 hours of light every day.
There are many colorful and easy care shade-loving container plants you can grow in these conditions. Some look tropical, like jack in the pulpit, some exotic, like plantain lily, some just like to grow under the thick canopy of trees, like cyclamens.
You will find which plants best fit that container in the shade by looking at the amazing pictures in this article, but also reading the descriptions and the “how to grow” tips for each shade loving flowering plant for pots.
And these are those that can grow in full shade… But read about them and that dark corner on your terrace, suddenly, won’t look the same ever again!
21 Shade-Loving Flowering Plants for containers
Here are the 21 shade tolerant plant with showy foliage and flowers perfect for your container gardening.
1. Begonia (Begonia Spp.)
Begonias have been used to brighten up dark corners for a long time. They are excellent shade-loving container plants with beautiful foliage and very colorful flowers.
Trailing begonias like the ‘Hanging Basket’ cultivars (available in apricot, salmon, white, pink, red and yellow) will create a cascade of vibrant flowers that lasts for months.
Most begonias like partial shade but will do well in full shade, maybe with slightly reduced blooms. However, varieties like ‘Garden Angel Silver’, ‘Gryphoon’ (cane begonia) and Bolivian begonias (Begonia boliviensis) will be as bountiful with their flowers in partial as in full shade.
Their blooms will usually start in late spring and keep bringing your containers to life with their flowers till the first frost. This makes them ideal for low maintenance gardens, especially traditional and informal gardens.
2. Roast-Beef Plant (Iris Foetidissima)
From a common container plant for shade to a lesser known flower: roast-beef plant. It is also called stinking iris, but don’t worry… It has an unpleasant smell only when you crush the leaves. If you do, they will smell of beef.
But in a container, on a terrace or patio, this iris is stunning! Like all irises it has standards (the top sepals) and falls (bottom sepals).
The standards of stinking iris are thin and upright. The falls are white with amazing purple veins, and the edges turn to light lavender violet.
Winner of the Award if Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society, this evergreen will also produce beautiful red seeds in pods that will last on the plant all through winter.
Roast-beef plant is excellent for informal settings, both in containers and in full soil, and it can grow and blossom in any light condition, including full shade!
3. Anemone (Anemone Spp.)
Anemone is a classic flower for part shade or full shade positions. Not all anemones will grow without lots of light though. For example, Anemone coronaria will need full Sun. but there is a wide choice of anemones you can grow in pots even where light is little…
For example, meadow anemone (Anemone canadensis) will fill your full shade corner with candid white flowers in spring and summer. The many varieties of Anemone blanda (Grecian windflower) can bring purple, magenta, blue or white to containers in partial shade. Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis) instead is better to fill your pots with brightly colored flowers later in the season.
If you want an enchanting early bloomer, try wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)… The ‘Robinsoniana’ variety has won the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural society thanks to is sea of pale lavender flowers… It is mostly grown in full soil, even as a carpeting flower, but it will adapt to containers too.
4. Camellia (Camellia Spp.)
If you have a large container, camellias are one of the most beautiful flowers to have. With their round, soft looking flowers and their romantic look they can turn even dark spots into small corners of paradise.
You can grow camellias in full soil, but in many cases containers are the only option. In fact, you will need to keep the soil pH acidic, which is easier to do in containers.
This is a plant that really loves shade, but it will fill it with beautiful large flowers and the color selection is good.
The classical ‘Alba Plena’ with more than 100 white petals and cultivated since 1797 has won the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society. ‘Desire’ is so romantic, with white petals in the middle and pink on the margins. ‘Les Jury’, on the other hand, offers you the brightest crimson flowers ever!
5. Clivia (Clivia Miniata)
Natal lily, or clivia, is a wonderful flower for your container in your shady spots. Its clusters of waxy, funnel shaped flowers, from bright red to white, will come regularly in winter and spring.
The leaves too have great decorative value; long, shiny and highly decorative, they will keep your pot interesting all year round, as this plant is evergreen. To make sure that this exotic plant brings back its tropical forest looking flowers every year, put it in a cool place for a month. The temperature in this period should be between 40 and 60oF, or 4 to 15oC.
6. Lily Of The Valley (Convallaria Majalis)
For a temperate forest look, the innocent look of the lily of the valley is just perfect. It looks wonderful in dappled shade under trees, with its white bell shaped flowers hanging from ling and arching stems…
The long and upright, ovate leaves of the lily of the valley are decorative enough… But when the white flowers appear, no other small plant conveys that sense of woodland serenity as this candid beauty.
You can recreate that “Little England” look also in pots and containers on your patio or terrace with this easy to grow plant.
7. Chinese Astilbe (Astilbe Chinensis)
If you want tour shady corner to come alive with a sea of brightly colored plumes, choose astible!
This very generous bloomer has massive inflorescences of small individual flowers that open in succession all through the summer months!
These hardy flowering perennials are very generous and energetic plants indeed. Their colors tend to be very intense and vivid.
So, they are ideal to perk up the energy levels of dark and dull balconies, terraces, patios and porches.
Available in all the shades from white to dark crimson and purple, via pink, astible is a perfect choice for a hassle free but vibrant container in the shade.
8. Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra Cucullaria)
Bleeding heart is well suited for pots in part shade, but if you want a variety that’s perfect for containers in full shade, choose Dutchman’s breeches. This species also has a very oddly shaped flower: it looks like two horns or, in the imagination of botanists, a pair of breeches upside down.
Snow white and with a sugary texture, the flower has small, yellow petals that open at the bottom. It is the flower you will want if you wish your poorly lit corner to look original, unconventional and fresh.
9. Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium Americanum)
Lilies want a lot of sunlight and heat… But this beautiful, bright yellow, purple, white or pink lily shaped flower does not! It has the typical lily anthers and shape, and the six tepals that turn backwards just like lilies. It is only smaller than its famous cousin. Each plant can produce quite a few flowers too, up to about a dozen.
The leaves of this bulbous plant too are quite a sight! Lanceolate and large, they are dark purple with large and round green spots on them!
As it is quite cold hardy, you can grow it in many colder regions too, like the Northern States and Canada, unlike most lilies!
10. Barrenwort (Epimedium Spp.)
The oddly shaped flowers of barrenwort grow numerous on long and thin horizontal stems. They hang head down and can look a bit like aquilegias, though sometimes the upper petals have pointed tips, which makes them look like creatures from another planet.
There is a fair selection of colors to choose from. Snowy barrenwort (Epidemium x youngianum ‘Niveum’) is white, of course; but there are bright yellow varieties (Epidemium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’), bronze orange (Epidemium x warleyense ‘Orange Queen’) or purple (Epidemium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’).
11. Impatiens (Impatiens Spp.)
Pots and containers even in full shade can become eye-catching and colorful mini-gardens if you grow one of the more than 100 species of impatiens. The choice of hues and shades goes from purple to white and on the way, you can have orange, red, pink and violet.
The flowers are very soft and sweet looking, with large but delicate petals. They are in fact so ephemeral looking that some varieties go by the name of touch-me-not. But these little beauties are very generous, and they will fill with flowers from spring all the way to the first frost.
They also have a great balance of rich foliage and abundant flowering, and the leaves are pretty too! They are pointed and shiny but dark green with purple veins inside grooves. They are very cold hardy, so you can grow them even in most parts of Canada.
12. Brazilian Plume (Justicia Carnea)
If you live in the southern states, West Coast, or East Coast South of New York, you can have an exotic beauty on your terrace and patio even with little light: Brazilian plume… But if you fall in love with it and you live in a colder climate, you can always take it in winter…
This is an evergreen plant with large leaves (10 inches long, or 25 cm) and a large plume of pink to purple tubular flowers that will stay with you from summer to fall.
There are also yellow and white varieties though, if you want to fill that dark corner with a lot of energy and light. It looks a bit like a flamingo, in fact, some varieties of Justicia are called “flamingo flower”.
Despite looking (and being) exotic, it likes poorly lit spots in sheltered forests in Nature, so it will do perfectly well in that problematic dark corner of your terrace.
13. Cappadocian Navelwort (Omphalodes Cappadocica)
If your pot or container in the shade is large and shallow, if you want to fill it with beautiful “blue eyes”, then choose Cappadocian navelwort. This celestial plant with lanceolate leaves and five petaled cornflower blue to azure blue flowers all through spring has the joy of children’s eyes…
This winner of the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society is common as groundcover, but you can easily grow it in pots too. It will bring the color of the sky to your shady spot and convey serenity and peace.
The ‘Starry Eyes’ variety is excellent if you want a more quirky and dynamic look. In fact, its petals are blue in the center and light lilac, almost white, at the edges. Its flowers look like blue stars indeed!
14. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Spp.)
If your window looks north and your window box gets little light, you can bring it to life growing wood sorrel in it. There are 570 species of this fairly hardy perennial, but most of them are very persistent bloomers. In fact, you will have many sweet looking flowers from spring till the first frost!
The flowers have five rounded petals at the end of a tubular base, and they come in many shades, from white to violet purple. Some varieties, like ‘Cottage Pink’ , and the purple leaved and white flowered ‘Charmed Wine’ have become favorites with gardeners. But you can have bright yellow flowers, lilac or violet blue as well.
15. Wishbone Flower (Torenia Fournieri)
I would like to introduce you to a lesser known but beautiful flower you can grow in a pot in full shade: wishbone flower. I trust you’ll find its trumpet shaped flowers very attractive. In fact, they are white at the base, but then the margins of the petals are of the deepest purple you have ever seen.
They look very classy, almost noble, you could say. The name comes from the two stamens inside the flower, which look like a wishbone. The bright oval leaves will fill with these beautiful flowers with strikingly contrasting colors from early summer till the first frost.
16. Primrose (Primula Vulgaris)
A flower synonymous with spring, primrose is an easy to grow perennial that can live well even in small pots, and in full shade too!
It is very generous with its blooms, and the choice of colors is really impressive. In fact, you can use a palette that goes from white all the way to dark purple and dark violet.
There are prize winning varieties too, like ‘Wanda’ an extremely deep and bright magenta flower which has won the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society. Another interesting variety is ‘Perle von Bottrop’ which offers vibrant violet flowers with a yellow center.
But if you want an originally looking variety, drumstick primrose (Primula denticulata) forms globe shaped inflorescences on top of long stems which can be blue, pale violet, lilac or rich purple. This too has won the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
17. Jack In The Pulpit (Arisaema Triphyllum)
The exotic and unique look of jack in the pulpit is excellent for an original container, even in full shade!
It looks like a jug with a lid, or the mouth of a snake… The spathe, or “hood”, is pointed at the top and it looks like a drinking vessel underneath and it has green and purple stripes.
Inside, there is the real flower, the spadix, which is an inflorescence of many dark purple flowers… It looks a bit like a surreal work of art: it is also very waxy, so, you will be excused to think that some ceramic artist actually made it…
It is a relative of the Japanese Cobra Lily (Arisaema thumbergii subsp. Urashima) which can grow in full shade too.
Other species too can grow in full shade, like Chinese cobra lily, which is light magenta pink with white stripes…
It was once grown mainly in full soil, but recently it has made the move to pots too. You do need to make sure to protect the container from frost and avoid terra-cotta, which may cause the tuber to rot.
18. Hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen Hederifolium, Cyclamen Coum And Cyclamen Cilicium)
Cyclamen is a flower that likes the dappled shade of temperate woods. You can recreate the right habitat, environment and ambience with well placed containers on your terrace or patio and grow this distinctive flower in them.
Just choose a spot that’s sheltered from strong direct sunlight, maybe grow the under the fronds of a shady tree, bush or vine, for example.
There are many species and varieties of cyclamen. For example, there are a few species that will adapt to full shade, and most hardy varieties will do. So, you can have a variety of leaf shapes, sizes and flower colors, from white to magenta.
19. Madeira Island Geranium (Geranium Maderense)
Admit it. You didn’t expect a geranium in this list! Geraniums are Sun loving flowers, in fact… True, but not all of them, and most cranesbills like partial shade. This particular one, with beautiful pink flowers with a darker, magenta center, actually likes full shade!
On top of the beautiful flowers from early spring to late summer, Madeira island geranium also gives you beautiful and huge leaves, up to 8 inches long (20 cm)!
This winner of the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society is perfect for containers and pots. So, you too can have that Alpine look on your terrace, even if it faces north and you miss the Sun that cottages in the Alps enjoy…
20. Plantain Lily (Hosta Spp.)
Plantain lily commonly known as hosta is famous for its beautiful foliage. The heart shaped, lance shaped or cupped leaves of many colors, from cream to blue via green and yellow have adorned many shady places in gardens all over the world.
But plantain lilies also have beautiful bell shaped flowers. These are often white, but they can also be pink, violet, lilac or purple. Very common as naturalized plants to grow under trees, they can grow very well even in fairly small containers.
21. Hellebore (Helleborus Spp.)
Hellebore is, in my opinion, one of the lesser known stars of the plant world. They are easy to grow and very undemanding container plant you can grow in full shade.
They bloom all through winter when flowers are rare. They have beautiful leaves and…
They have large, showy flowers of virtually all the colors of the rainbow! Just look at the purple and white ‘Blushing Bridsmaid’, the lime yellow Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius), the almost black purple ‘Midnight Ruffles’ or the classical white Christmas rose (Helleborus niger ‘Potter’s Wheel’).
Container Flowers to Bring Light to Shady Corners
Amazing, isn’t it? All these beautiful, colorful and sometimes even very showy flowers can grow well in full shade and in pots and containers.
That corner that looks a bit dull and colorless can cone to life with one (or more) of these blooming plants.
The choice of colors and shapes is quite large, isn’t it? And so is the range of looks: from exotic rainforest to temperate cold even cold mountain forest, your dark patio or terrace won’t be the same from now on…
It can, instead, become a corner of a faraway holiday destination!
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.