So many clients and customers of Detroit Garden Works are stymied by their shade. Shade containers don’t blare like a brass band. They are reserved. No doubt a shade container garden does not have dahlias, zinnias, geraniums or heliotrope on a to plant list. But shady conditions mean that lots of interesting and subtly colored plants will thrive. Is container gardening in the sun better than in the shade? Not in my opinion. Choosing plants for containers has a lot to do with lighting conditions. Every pot you might plant, no matter the light conditions, can be all you would hope it could be. Gorgeous, and satisfying, yes. The shade along the east side of our building is considerable. 18 year old lindens have grown up and in, cloistering that east wall in shade. We like how the shade helps keep the building cooler. This shady spot is a relief in the heat of the summer. The shade is a given. But by no means do we feel like we have no options for our window boxes and pots.
Shadow King begonias are perfect for a shady spot. One gray cultivar shown in the above picture is the color and texture of a galvanized bucket. Love that. Its companion is a striking combination of silver, green, pink, and black. This is a color palette much different than that presented by a Bengal Tiger canna, and Persian Queen geraniums. It is subtle, and subtly striking.
Any begonia, whether it is grown for its leaves or its flowers, requires a reluctant hand. By this I mean, they will not suffer too much sun, nor will they suffer over watering. Most begonias have fleshy leaves, and thick watery stems. Over water them, and they will collapse in a rotted heap. Give them the shade they want, and they dryish conditions they thrive on, they will grow like weeds. This container is an asymmetrical arrangement of shade loving plants. A black calocasia lords over all. A pink and green caladium repeats that calocasia leaf shape in a lighter and brighter color. The chocolate mint coleus barely showing now will grow, and help pull that calocasia down into the mix. The pepperomia with its pale green blooming wands provides a little sass. The silver King begonia has chocolate stems-so great with the coleus and the calocasia stems. The dark begonia at the center will have orange flowers-good. The pink polka dot plant will need trimming, given it is in the front of this container. But the work will be worth it. That pink, and the silver leaf of the begonia, are both key to a successful shade planting. Any plants that brings light to bear in a shady spot will shine.
Caladiums provide so much mass and luminosity in shade containers. White caladiums challenge the shade in a big way. This green caladium with a white center glows. The gray begonia is pebbly in surface and subtle in color. The watermelon peperomia will trail. A planting such as this gives me every bit as much pleasure as a color lively container in the sun. It is just different. Maybe a little reflective.
This window box was just planted a few days ago. The shade from the lindens is considerable, but each of these shade tolerant plants will grow, and get lush. Lush and luminous growth in the shade is just what a shade container asks for.