Most flowers require from six to eight hours of sunlight to bloom. Sometimes the perfect spot for a planter on a patio, porch or balcony doesn't get any sun at all. There are different levels of shade. Some shade, like under a bush, is dense and nothing will grow. Other shade, like that under a tree, is dappled. There are flowers that will bloom with no direct sun.
Bulbs have the flowers and leaves stored inside them in the embryonic stage. They don't need any direct sun to grow and bloom for the upcoming season. They do need indirect light or dappled shade. Spring bulbs include daffodils, narcissus, tulips, crocuses and hyacinths. Amaryllis, also known as Bella Donna lily, is mostly sold at Christmas time. They are available year-round through catalogs and online stores. Don't expect these bulbs to bloom again the next spring or summer. Without direct sunlight, they won't. They will put on a great show the first year.
Begonias are fleshy leaved plants that have small flowers. The leaves can be bronze, bright green or dark green. The flowers come in pink, white and purple. Tuberous begonias have flowers the size of golf balls and arrow-shaped dark green leaves. Both begonias do well in shade. Other flowers for shaded containers include monkshood, dwarf columbine, lily of the valley, impatiens, violets and pansies.
Many tropical flowers will bloom without direct sunlight and that makes sense. In the tropics, the tall trees provide a green canopy that blocks quite a bit of direct sunlight. Flowers have developed that do just fine in the shade. Orchids are one of those flowers.
Contrary to what many think, orchids are not fussy flowers. They have a few requirements that must be met. One of those is that they will not tolerate wet soil. Most orchids are grown in a bark mixture rather than potting soil. Keep the orchids in their original pot and place the pot in the planter.
Ginger, bird of paradise, Mexican bird of paradise, golden torch and skyflower are other flowers from the tropics that would work.