14 shade-loving plants for pots that are perfect for brightening up dark garden corners

These shade loving plants for pots will add colour and interest to even the darkest corners of your garden

Narrow courtyard garden with potted plants
(Image credit: Future Plc)

Whether it is for a patio, north-facing flower bed or secluded garden corner, shade-loving plants for pots can bring the darkest gardens out of the shadows.

Knowing which plants prefer cool, dark environments is essential for brightening up any garden corner shade ideas. Much like bedding plants for shade, certain plant species planted in container garden ideas and positioned out of direct sunlight will flourish and bloom, meaning covered courtyard or north-facing gardens can be as gorgeous as any south garden.

Shade loving plants for pots

If you are looking for north-facing garden ideas for your outdoor plot they may not benefit from receiving all-day sun, but luckily we are spoilt for choice when it comes to plants that prefer staying under cover. So, it is possible to transform a gloomy garden with limited sunlight into an atmospheric space with plenty of texture and foliage. 

'There are many plants to choose from if you have a shady spot. Some plants prefer full sun and can tolerate partial shade, but others love it,' says Kelly Dyer, Plant Doctor and Lead Horticulturalist at Patch Plants

These shade-loving plants for pots are all recommended by experts. We promise they're guaranteed to turn even the gloomiest garden into a luscious oasis that lasts. 

1. Ivy

Pot of trailing ivy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ivy may have a bad reputation as an invasive plant that can get so out of hand you may eventually need to know how to kill ivy on a fence. But, growing the trailing plant in a container means ivy garden ideas will be kept under control and are most successful in shaded spots.

Grown in pots ivy will look green and structurally trained as topiary,  in winter foliage displays or trailing from hanging baskets all year round. 

Where to buy Ivy

2. Tree ferns

White paved path with outdoor armchair and firepit below a fern palm tree

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you are looking for a shade-loving plant that will thrive in a pot and add that wow factor, consider planting a tree fern as they make incredible features in the shade. 

Tree ferns aren't trees but their twisted ariel roots that grow above soil are trunk-like and they can grow very tall when in large containers. 

The slow-growing plants look incredible in urban gardens with lush green throngs sprouting from their heads.  Pot them in large containers full of damp neutral to acid soil. Place them in cool areas out of direct sunlight. 

Where to buy tree ferns

  • Patch Plants: Tam will love nothing more than settling into a cool, protected spot. 
  • Suttons: An Australian Tree Fern will slowly become a showstopper.
  • The Palm Tree Company: Start big with this impressive pot-grown DICKSONIA ANTARCTICA.

3. Ferns

Narrow courtyard garden with potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Paul Massey)

From delicate shields to striking the shuttlecock, ferns are an excellent choice for filling up shady garden spots in the garden. 

'With their lush, green fronds, ferns are a classic choice for shaded areas', says Jane Dobbs Gardening Team Lead at Allans Gardeners

It's well known that low-maintenance ferns for shade make a fabulous choice for woodland garden ideas. But fewer are aware they work well and look striking in pots. 

'For the plants to thrive, they require high humidity and well-drained soil, which makes them suitable for both indoor and outdoor container gardens,' continues Jane.

Where to buy ferns

expert image shot of Jane Dobbs, Allans Gardeners
Jane Dobbs

Jane Dobbs is a London-based gardener with 10 years of experience. She's currently serving as the gardening department leader of Allan's Gardeners. When she's not running the busy team of gardening professionals, Jane enjoys cultivating her own little flower oasis on her London balcony.

4. Fatsias

Fatsias leaves close-up

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fatsia japonica, or Japanese aralia is an evergreen shrub with large, rich green, shiny leaves. 

'Tolerant of sun or shade, Fatsias are one of the best evergreen plants around. Their large fanned leaves create a lush, tropical feel,' explains Kelly Dyer.

Where to buy Fatsias

5. Hostas

Raised flower bed with hosta, peony and rose

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

With so many beautiful colours hostas are an ideal shading loving plant for pots. If you want to know how to grow hostas, you'll need to know how to get rid of slugs and snails as they absolutely love munching away on a hotas delicious leaves. Garlic spray is one natural remedy. 

'The downside of plants in shadier spots is that slugs and snails like these cooler spots too. It’s advisable to take a preventative approach to slug control, rather than waiting until they’ve decimated half of your plants before trying to get rid of them,' agrees, Kelly Dyer. 

For the hostas to thrive, they require high humidity and well-drained soil.

Where to buy hostas

6. Hydrangeas

Close up of pale pink hydrangeas and ferns. Garden redesign of a small city garden in London, owned by Rosie Money-Coutts.

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme Photography Ltd/Future Publishing Ltd)

Once you know how to grow hydrangeas in pots your garden will literally bloom with fragrant colour and beauty. The wonder about hydrangeas is that they thrive in both sunny and shaded environments; their ideal resting place is to have roots buried deep in cool shaded earth while their heads bathe in sunlight. 

Before you rush off to the garden centre, be sure to plant only shrub hydrangeas in containers as climbing hydrangeas need more room to spread their roots to grow up. 

Where to buy hydrangeas

7. Heuchera or Coral Bells

Coral bells in a blue pot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Carol bells are a fun shade loving plant for pots as they come in various shades and are a beginner gardener's dream. The maintenance is minimal and they provide year-long colour. 

Place these hardy perennials in bright or dappled shade and watch them bloom from spring to mid-summer. 

Where to buy heucheras

8. Foxgloves

White foxgloves and smaller orange flowers

(Image credit: Future PLC/Heather Young)

Cottage-garden favourites, foxgloves aren't a natural choice when potting up but they can make a beautiful inclusion to a container garden display in spring. 

The tall stems with tubular flowers will add valuable height and do well in both sunny and shady spots. 

Where to buy foxgloves

9. Caladiums

Caladiums in grey pots

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Native to South America, these shade-worshiping plants can look striking in pots as their heart-shaped leaves look as though they've been painted with bright and beautiful colour combinations. 

'Any shaded area can be brightened by the colourful leaves of caladiums. Warm conditions and moist soil are essential to their growth, and they thrive in pots that can be moved to ideal spots,' says Jane Dobbs.

Where to buy caladiums

10. Impatiens or Busy Lizzies

Purple busy lizzies in terracotta pot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pretty Busy Lizzies are a garden classic. These hardy plants are small and mighty. Their small, colourful flowers bloom in vibrant shades of red, pink, orange and purple, as well as white and softer tones. 

There are two types to choose from, the ‘busy lizzie’, impatiens walleriana, which you probably remember from your grandma's garden became scarce a few years ago due to a mildew disease. But thanks to clever plant breeders, they are back with disease-resistant power.  

The other type of impatiens is New Guinea impatiens, Impatiens hawkeri. These are larger in every sense. Both thrive in sheltered partial shade. 

'Known for their bright, cheerful flowers, impatiens - widely known as busy lizzies are exceptionally resistant to downy mildew and are therefore a great choice for giving brightness and contrast in darker locations,' says Chris Bonnett from Gardening Express

Where to buy busy lizzies

11. Begonias

Red begonias planted in hanging baskets

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Begonias love the container life and even more so when in shady spots. They only require low light conditions to bloom and have large showy flowers. 

'If you want to add some colour to your potted plant display, it's definitely worth considering planning impatiens or begonias. These plants bloom in shades ranging from white to vibrant pink and red, meaning you can usually choose one that matches the colour scheme of your outdoor area' advises, Josh Novell, plant expert and director of Polhill.

Josh Novell expert at pohill
Josh Novell

 Josh has over six years' worth of experience in the horticulture industry. He began his career as a strategy manager before working his way up to become a director and is now a key part of the day-to-day running of Polhill Garden Centre.

Where to buy begonias

12. Fuchsias

Fuschia plant in pot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fuchsias are a stand out flower that blooms from June right through to November with surprisingly very little care needed. The distinctive tropical-style flower heads fall in bell-like fashion with bright two-toned petals.

Fuchsias will happily show off their status in full sun or shade. Learn how to prune fuchsias and the hardy shrubs will brighten your darkest garden corners year after year.

'Fuchsias are known for their unique, pendulous flowers. To thrive, they require consistent moisture and a cool, shady environment,' says Kelly Dryer.

Where to buy fuchias

13. Discentra or Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding heart flowers close up

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dicentra or bleeding heart is a perennial that can look particularly pretty planted in containers. It produces dainty heart-shaped pink and white flowers that hang in rows from long stems. 

'It should be grown in soil that is moist and ideally has a neutral pH. As the flowers are delicate, bleeding heart may need some protection from the wind. Ensure that you are wearing gloves whenever you are handling bleeding heart, and ensure it is kept out of reach as it is toxic to people and pets' advises Graham Smith, a gardening expert from LBS Horticulture,

Where to buy dicentra 

14. Shade tolerant roses

Small pink roses in bloom in a terracotta pot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you are considering knowing how to grow perfect roses, have you considered cultivating the classic in shady spots? 

'While the majority of roses prefer to bask in warmth and sunshine, some varieties can tolerate partial shade and be safely planted in pots to climb up cool walls or areas of the garden that do not get full sun,' says Ian Limmer, Nursery Manager at Peter Beales.

Peter Beales Roses recommends the Oxford Physic Rose, a pink, classic shrub rose. Or, the Mme. Isaac Pereire produces huge shaggy blooms in mauvy crimson that exude an intense perfume. The large bush is ideal for brightening dark areas and can be trained up a pillar or obelisk.

Where to buy roses for shade 


What plants are good for pots in the shade? 

Most of the plants we've listed above will thrive in potted containers just as they would be planted in shady flower beds. When choosing hydrangeas for shade ensure you select shrubs rather than climbers as these need plenty of space to spread roots. Plants that are ideal for pots in the shade are Ferns, Hostas and Coral Bells. 

What container plants flower in full shade? 

Depending on their variety, hostas will flower tall purple blooms between May and September in full shade. Although grown for its foliage, heucheras will also flower in full shade during summer months. 

These shade-loving plants for pots will inject foliage and colour into even the darkest corners of your garden plot. That being said, even the easiest plants to grow in shady containers need a touch of TLC, so it's wise to do your research first.


Rachel Homer has been in the interiors publishing industry for over 15 years. Starting as a Style Assistant on Inspirations Magazine, she has since worked for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines and websites. After starting a family, she moved from being a content editor at Idealhome.co.uk to be a digital freelancer and hasn’t looked back.