Container gardening is a way to have a successful shade garden because shade-loving potted plants will not be forced to compete with tree roots. It is also an option for those with a shaded balcony in urban areas. Containers do not need watering as often as pots left in the sun. Growing shaded potted plants is also cost-effective; once your initial outlay is past for pots and potting soil, cultivation and feeding are minimal.
Not all shade is created equal. Evaluating your shaded spot before selecting the plants to grow in it is important. Bright shade gets up to six hours of east-facing morning sun or may pick up reflections from surrounding walls or structures; this is adequate shade for plants whose listing includes partial shade. Dappled shade is broken by some filtering light, such as through the branches and leaves of deciduous trees; again, partial shade plants thrive here. Dense shade sees no sunlight throughout the day because of tall buildings or thick evergreen surroundings.
While you may think you prefer something more cutting-edge, you cannot go wrong with impatiens and begonias. These shade-loving flowers not only thrive in pots, but prefer a shady location and do not withstand the heat from the summer sun well. Begonias come in numerous varieties and flower types from smooth-petalled and plain to ruffled double blooms. Impatiens sport the same selection of variety; the New Guinea impatien, or Impatien hawkerii is popular for its showy, season-long blooming habit and large, dark, waxy foliage.
Balance out your shade-loving pots with combinations of coloured foliage. Plants to use include coleus, hostas and ivy. While not variegated, ferns add elegance to a potted plant arrangement, and thrive in deep shade. Some species of begonia, like Exotica, have multi-toned leaves. Look for blood leaf, Iresine lindenii, to also perk up a flower pot. A few succulents will tolerate a shady pot, as well. These include American aloe, (Agave Americana) and mescal (Agave parryi).
It is always fun to experiment with your potting choice. Sometime, plants that you would not otherwise think capable of thriving in shaded pots may surprise you. Some to try are Canna lily, angel's trumpets, petunia hybrids and lavenders, even though they are typically plants that prefer the sun. The trick is to experiment and see what works for you in your container shade garden.