When growing plants in the shade, vivid flower and foliage color often stand out best in the limited light. Golden Hakone Grass lights up a patio container with its striped gold foliage, while Kanjiro Camellia has bright pink blooms with yellow centers that stand out from afar. In shady containers, the texture and form of plants are as important as flowers. The holly-like leaf shape of Holly Fern makes passersby stop for a second look, while the trailing form of Dalmatian Bellflower softens the edges of pots with its cascading foliage and blooms.
Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum ‘Rochfordianum’) adds a unique effect to shady container plantings because while it has the form of a fern, its texture is more holly-like. The fronds arch gracefully over the edge of a container and the foliage is bold enough to stand alone in a container without companions.
Holly Fern grows well in USDA Zones 5 to 9, grows to 2 to 3 feet tall, prefers regular water and thrives in shade.
Golden Hakone Grass
Golden Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) was chosen as the 2009 Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year, and with good reason. The loosely draping foliage looks fantastic spilling over the sides of a container, yet the plant is tall enough to balance the proportions of the container. The bright foliage is striped golden and green, and the plant thrives in shade.
Golden Hakone Grass thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 9, prefers regular water, and the only maintenance needed is to cut back the dead foliage come winter.
Dalmatian Bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana) is a sweet little purple-blooming perennial that flowers from spring through fall. The flowers are bell-shaped, and cascade in a profuse tangle over the sides of containers.
Dalmatian Bellflower thrives in USDA zones 4 to 7, prefers part shade and regular water.
Japanese Skimmia (Skimmia japonica) is a slow-growing evergreen shrub with delightful fragrance in winter and red berries in spring, if both a male and female plants are present. In the limited space of a container, many gardeners plant both a male and female in one container and let them grow together to allow for pollination.
Japanese Skimmia thrives in USDA zones 7 to 9, in shade, and needs composty soil with regular watering.
Kanjiro Camellia (Camellia sasanqua ‘Kanjiro’) is an upright shrub with bright pink blooms that provides strong evergreen structure and a focal point in container groupings. In the ground it grows to 9 feet tall and wide, but in a container it grows more slowly and can be kept to a reasonable size through pruning the roots every other year and repotting in fresh soil.
Kanjiro Camellia can be grown in USDA zones 7 to 10, prefers filtered sun (shade with speckles of light), and blooms from fall through winter.