Best Plants for Container Shade Gardening

Updated: Nov. 16, 2023

Fill your containers and hanging baskets with these colorful plants and flowers perfect for shade gardening.

The wonderful thing about container gardening is that it allows you to have a garden just about anywhere, including balconies, porches, and patios. Those small space gardens may not always have as much sun as you might like, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fill those areas with plenty of color. Try these eight tried-and-true shade gardening favorites in your containers this year!

Here’s how to plant a hanging flower basket in 5 easy steps.

Begonia. Begonias are the champs of container shade gardening. Though they’re usually grown as annuals outdoors, these are actually perennials when protected from frost and freezes. Bring your containers indoors in the winter and grow these for years! The reds, pinks, and whites of yesteryear are being supplemented with brilliant yellows and oranges in today’s market. Try the Surefire series for easy-care blooms all season. (Annual, perennial zones 8-11)

Check out more pretty perennial container garden ideas.

Container Shade Gardening BegoniaJill Staake
Jill Staake Begonia

Coleus. Coleus, sometimes called Painted Nettle, is usually grown for its colorful foliage, though it does produce small flowers. You’ll find it available in an amazing mix of hues, from neon green to deep burgandy, and everything in between. Mix it with other blooms in containers, or let it shine on its own. If it gets too tall, pinch it back to about 6 inches and it will reward you with bushy new growth. (Annual, perennial zones 10-11)

Container Shade Gardening Coleus National Garden BureauNational Garden Bureau
National Garden Bureau Coleus

Torenia. Often called Wishbone Flower, torenia has been becoming more popular in recent years as gardeners realize its value for shade gardening. Once found mainly in blue and pink, torenia is now available in yellow, orange, and multi-colored blooms too. Torenia doesn’t tolerate being dry, so plan to give it plenty of water during the hot months. Try the Summer Wave series in hanging baskets for a real wow factor. (Annual)

Container Shade Gardening ToreniaJill Staake
Jill Staake Torenia

Impatiens. If you want brilliant color in the shade, impatiens are your go-to flower. Long beloved for their ability to provide interest under trees and in hidden corners, impatiens are easy to grow as long as you keep them well-watered and well-shaded. There’s no need to dead-head, but you can cut them back if they get “leggy” to allow for fuller growth. Think impatiens are boring? Look for the newer bi-color and tri-color varieties like ‘Patchwork Cosmic Orange’ – they’ll change your mind! (Annual, perennial zones 10-11)

Container Shade Gardening Impatiens Rameshng WikipediaRameshng via Wikipedia
Rameshng via Wikipedia Impatiens

Vinca (Catharanthus roseus). Since impatiens can be somewhat intolerant of high humidity in the summer, gardeners in the Deep South have turned to Vinca for reliable color in the shade. The flowers are similar, but Vinca has deep green glossy foliage that sets off the colors of the blooms. Vinca can also handle some sun, and is perfect in the dappled shade beneath trees. (Annual, perennial zones 9-11)

Container Shade Gardening Vinca Kristen GilpinKristen Gilpin
Kristen Gilpin Vinca

Fuchsia. A hanging basket of fuchsia belongs on any shady front porch! The blooms are like works of art all on their own, with the added benefit of drawing hummingbirds like a magnet. Water them well, but make sure the pot has good drainage to avoid root rot. Fuchsia is worth bringing indoors for the winter, were you can give it a little more sunlight if kept in a cool room. The pink-and-purple variety is most common, but seek out ‘Velvet Crush’ for its deep burgandy and cream blooms. (Annual, perennial zones 10-11)

Container Shade Gardening FuchsiaJill Staake
Jill Staake Fuchsia

Monkey Flower (Mimulus). These trumpet-shaped flowers are native to the U.S., and often have interesting blotchy coloration on their petals. Like many plants suited to shade gardening, they require plenty of water. In cooler climates, they’ll flower best with a little sun – try putting them where they’ll catch a few hours of morning rays. The ‘Magic Blotch’ series is easy to grow from seed and comes in a variety of colors.  (Annual)

Container Shade Gardening Mimulus hugo.arg wikipediahugo.arg via Wikipedia
hugo.arg via Wikipedia Monkey Flower (Mimulus)

Trailing Bacopa (Sutera cordata). Another winner in hanging baskets, trailing bacopa boasts hundreds of tiny blooms long into the fall when others have stopped blooming. The white-flowered versions are great mixed with other colorful annuals, while the purplish-blue and newer pink varieties look lovely on their own. The latest introduction, ‘Boutique Tie-Dye’ offers unique yellow, purple, and white blooms sure to catch the eye. (Annual, perennial zones 9-10)

Container Shade Gardening Trailing BacopaJill Staake
Jill Staake Trailing Bacopa

New to container gardening? Learn how to plant a successful container here.