As the hectic pace of spring gives way to summer and the necessary routine jobs around the nursery of grooming plants, watering, and cleaning, it’s a real treat for us to be able to “play” and indulge our plantaholic ways. Truthfully, we do this as often as possible. First, because it’s just plain fun to try different combinations, and, if a planter stays long enough to grow out, you can see the end result and we can explain how we maintained it. It’s a win-win situation for everyone! So, here is a gallery of planting combinations for shade that we’ve put together recently. When combining plants it’s necessary to understand light and water requirements for compatibility. If you know this, the next goal is to pair plants with contrasting leaf shapes, color, and texture. Echoing or contrasting flower colors and shapes will also factor into the design.
The first planter for filtered or morning sun utilizes the big white leaves of ‘Garden White’ caladiums, the airy white blooms and leaves of a euphorbia, a ‘Babywing’ Pink begonia, the grassy foliage of Carex ‘Evergold’, and the dark shiny foliage of hemigraphis, or waffle plant. There’s also a touch of a selaginella for a lighter green, low-growing skirt at the edge of the planting. Maintaining this will involve cutting any seed pods from the caladiums, removing any unsightly leaves and watering regularly.
The next is a simple planting using only foliage for contrasting color and leaves. Grassy juncus, variegated Swedish ivy, a tough alternanthera with reddish purple foliage, and a chartreuse potato vine provide as much color as flowers…and don’t need any deadheading! This combination only needs occasional clipping if necessary and regular watering.
Caladiums and coleus should be go-to plants for continuous color and big, bold foliage. The dark leaved coleus in the very center of this planting will need to be cut back if it has overgrown its companions, and the caladiums will need seed pods removed to ensure the best leaf production. This planter is mostly caladiums and coleus, with the dainty white blooms of a euphorbia acting as a filler plant. Pothos, a common houseplant, will trail over the edge and add even more color to this shady composition. In fact, many houseplants work well in these types of shady container gardens.
Sometimes it’s fun to try a plant that’s more unusual as the centerpiece of a design. In this glazed pot the dark leaf of the Alocasia is a beautiful contrast to the coleus, grasslike juncus, maidenhair fern, trailing torenia, and creeping jenny.
Finally, here’s a simple planting for shade using a begonia and the contrasting leaf and brightness of carex ‘Evergold’, which will spill over the edge of the container. Simple, yet effective. The begonia will continue to bloom with a couple of cutbacks if it gets “leggy.”
Need help with container plantings in sunnier spots? The next post will highlight some of the plantings for sun that we’ve designed recently.