How to Plant in a Large Container for Shade


Put a shady area of your landscape to good use with a container full of plants. Containing plants relieves them of the problem of competing with tree roots that dominate shady spaces under trees. Place containers in shady corners near buildings and in spaces under upper level balconies. Fill containers with a broad variety of plants that come in a host of colors, shapes, sizes and textures.

Step 1

Assess the quality of your shade. Determine if you are working with dappled light, deep shade or partial shade. Take into account what times of day yield the most light and what times the least. Combine the shade information with an analysis of the relative warmth and humidity of the location to determine the best plants to grow in your container. For example, for warm, humid and dappled light conditions, choose plants from tropical climates. For cool, partial shade conditions, choose woodland plants.

Step 2

Choose a large container. Use clay pots, wooden barrels, plastic or metal tubs or something offbeat, such as a disused bathtub as a container. Punch drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Alternatively, if you cannot add holes in the bottom, add a generous layer of sand and gravel to the bottom of the container, place weed cloth between the soil and the gravel to drain excess water away from the plants' roots. In all instances, monitor the moisture level in the container throughout the growing season. Place the empty container in its final location.

Step 3

Add soil. Create a soil mix of equal parts loam, conditioner and lightener. Loam combines sand, silt and clay particles. Loam is a productive growing medium for most plants. Conditioners include the elements that provide nutrients for the plant and include, leafmold and compost. Lighteners are additives, such as perlite or vermiculite. They are very lightweight materials that reduce soil compaction and help to hold nutrients for plants to use.

Step 4

Arrange plants in the container. Create a multi-tiered effect within the container. Place draping plants, such as ornamental raspberry (Rubus calycinoides), near the container's outer edge. Place taller plants, such as elephant ears (Colocasia) near the center of the container. Fill the rest of the container with a variety of mid-size plants, such as coleus (Solenostemon hybrids), caladiums (Caladium bicolor) or wax begonias (Begonia x semperflorens).

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid placing the container where it will harm tree roots.

Things You'll Need

  • Large container
  • Loamy soil
  • Perlite or vemiculite
  • Compost


  • University of Connecticut: Integrated Pest Management : Container Gardening
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Gardening in the Shade
  • Iowa State University Extension: Horticulture and Home Pest News : Annuals for Shade

Who Can Help

  • Fine Gardening: Container Plantings in the Shade Yield a Spectacular Garden
Keywords: container shade plants, shade gardening, shade container gardening

About this Author

Lee Roberts has written professionally in different capacities throughout her career. She has written for not-for-profit and commercial entities since she received her B.A in sociology from the University of Michigan in 1986. She has been published on She is currently writing an extensive work of fiction.