Containers and houseplants in shade gardens

Red flower in a decorative pot surrounded by a white flowering shrub in a garden bed.
Shade plants in containers can be tucked under trees or shrubs like this begonia under the hydrangea. The container offers an interesting design element as well.

Containers add interesting art and structure to your shade garden. Stretch your creativity by mixing and matching annuals, perennials, bulbs, and even some edibles in your garden beds and containers.

  • Start with robust bedding plants from your local nursery or garden center. Don’t bother direct seeding shade annuals as our season is too short for most to ever bloom well.
  • Get creative! Combine annuals, bulbs, grasses, small shrubs and perennials in containers.
  • Set containers under trees and near shrubs to avoid combating tree and shrub roots.
  • If space allows, sink pots into the soil to conserve moisture.
  • Tall shrubs can provide shade for houseplants in pots
  • Replant containers each spring as these plants will most likely not survive the winter in containers.

Houseplants as part of a shade garden

Look for unusual items that can be reused as planting containers—pails, troughs, cans, wagons, ceramic crocks. Just about anything can hold a plant. Use a power drill to add drainage holes in most materials. If drainage holes are not possible, pot up your plant in a separate pot and set it in the container. Remove it from the outer container when you water and allow it to drain well before putting it back.

Incorporating your houseplants into shade gardens can add some exotic interest to your garden.

Many houseplants also benefit from being outdoors over the summer. However, a change in location can shock a plant, so it’s important to gradually get plants accustomed to new growing conditions or acclimate them.

  • Locate houseplants in dappled shade and under trees to protect them from the hot midday sun.
  • Hang plants from tree branches or from structures like a pergola.
  • Add lighting to highlight plants and create a great gathering space for summer evenings.
  • Take advantage of shaded patios and north sides of your house to hang plants on walls.

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