Container plants add interest even in shady spots

Urns, barrels or hanging baskets filled with greenery and flowers are a cheerful, nearly instant way to dress up a front porch, as savvy homeowners are well aware. The problem lies in the location itself. The area around an entry may get little to no direct sunlight.

The conventional solution for a dark porch is a shade-loving fern, and garden centers sell them by the thousands already planted in hanging baskets to go. Near the ferns, expect to find another traditional shade solution, English ivy, trailing from baskets or urns.

While both are lovely on any porch, ferns and ivy certainly aren’t the only plants for porches. On the foliage front, the book Container Gardening for Dummies and HGTV suggest other all-around winners that are easy to grow, do well in pots and don’t need much light, including:

  • Cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)
  • Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema)
  • Dracaena (D. marginata, D. massangeana, D. warneckii)
  • Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
  • “Evergold” carex (Carex oshimensis)

For color, the shade classics include impatiens, begonias and coleus, the foliage plant that proves you don’t need flowers for a multi-hued riot. Find the old favorite in variegated reds, pinks, purples, greens, yellows and white.

Looking for a less known but still colorful shade lover? HGTV.com lists several, including: “Autumnale” fuchsia, “Plum Pudding” heuchera, “Princess” series violas and primula in the “Gold-laced” group.

When buying any plant for a low-light location, check the specific variety to ensure that your space will meet its light requirements. Not all impatiens, for example, will grow equally well in deep shade. And one obvious caveat, regarding temperature: None of the above may survive a frigid winter outside.

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