Dear Carol, What pretty plants are good to put in a container in front of a large metal entry gate? There is very little sunlight; it is very shady. I prefer something that thrives in these conditions and would add color to the area.
There are some wonderful plants that grow well in containers as well as in the shade. Before I provide a list of some of my favorites, let me tell you about a couple of my favorite practices for container gardening:
- Choose a variety of plants that include different textures and forms. I like to use an upright plant, something a little more spreading, and plants that will trail over the container’s sides all in the same container.
- Place the container in a location protected from strong winds, but that has plenty of air circulation. This will help with disease control.
- Leave enough space at the top of the container for a 1-2 inch layer of mulch. Mulch will help the soil stay cool, conserve moisture, and suppress weeds. Also, make sure there is still 3/4 to 1 inch of headspace between the mulch and the top of the container for growth and watering.
- Use low-volume irrigation where possible. Containers filled with lots of plants can use a lot of water. It is easy to forget the water, and if you have installed even a simple system attached to a hose bib with an inexpensive timer, your plants will have the water they need.
- Use sterile soil to prevent problems from insects, fungi, nematodes, insects, and weeds.
- Apply slow-release fertilizer regularly according to the label.
Here are a few of my favorite shade plants:
- Illicium floridanum or Florida Anise is a large native shrub that grows to 10 feet tall with interesting stinky red flowers and anise-scented foliage. This is a protected species, so be sure and secure from a reputable nursery.
- Loropetalum chinense is a spreading shrub that has become popular recently. There are several varieties, some with white blooms and many with pink, fuchsia, or red flowers and foliage. The shrub will grow to 12 feet tall and is spreading in form.
- Tabernaemontana divaricata or Crepe Jasmine is an evergreen shrub that reaches 6 to 10 feet tall and bears wonderful, fragrant white blossoms. It is fast-growing but loves the shade and flowers well in the shade.
- Coleus, though we grow coleus as an annual, in frost-free zones, coleus shows its true form, perennial; it tends to be long-lived if not overwatered. Many coleus cultivars vary widely in size and color. You cannot go wrong when using coleus in a shady container garden.
- Liriope species, AKA border grass, is a plant often planted in the sun. However, the best growth occurs in the shade. Liriope is a SHADE PLANT! It does not do well in the sun. When happy, Liriope has lovely lavender flowers borne on spikes above the leaves.
- Confederate Jasmine is a springtime blooming vine grown all over Florida and the southeast. It grows in the sun or shade but does best with a bit of partial shade. It has moderate salt tolerance and good drought tolerance, climbs by twining, has no support roots or disk, so it may need tying to start.
- Caladiums are pretty shade plants grown from tubers for their beautiful leaves. Plant Caladium bulbs 2 inches deep and 12-18 inches apart. Choose a partial shade to shady location for the traditional heart-shaped leaf types. Caladiums are planted from Feb-May in warm areas to enjoy the show through the fall.
These are just a few for your consideration. Visit some of my other favorite sites for a few more suggestions:
- Floridata: Plants for Shady Areas
- Florida Native Plant Society – Plant Search
- UF/IFAS Landscaping in the Shade
Thanks for your question and happy gardening,