Inside: More than 25 plant ideas for containers for the front porch, covered patio, or screened-in patio that love the shaded porch life! ➡
I love an iconic Southern porch.
Swaying porch swings, slowly rotating ceiling fans, and large pots dripping with lush green plants so happy they can’t be contained in their containers.
Unless you live in the perfect conditions where your house faces just the right direction, the temperature is warm but not too warm, and the humidity frizzes your hair, the reality is a bit different. (I’m convinced that any porch in Charleston is an exception.)
I was over the moon with all the bucket-list Southern porches and screened patios I’d been blessed with when we bought our fixer-upper.
But sadly, they aren’t in those magical conditions that every plant flourishes in. They sit in the brutal heat of Texas.
I should apologize to every plant as I bring it home from the nursery. It’s gonna have a hard life—and there’s a good chance it won’t even live to see the frost.
And when I’m shopping for all these shaded patios, I have to pass by most of the showy flowers at the garden center because they only bloom in the sun.
That being said, I’ve learned through the sacrifice of many plants’ lives, that some do better than others. I have my favorite plants for North Texas, and many of them thrive throughout the hot climates of summer in the southern states.
So from my experience and research, I’ve gathered this helpful list of good plants for shade containers for covered front porches, shaded outdoor areas, and screened patios that actually like less light.
These are warm weather options—if you live in cooler climates, your list might look quite different. And if you live where the warm weather is a little more temperate or moist, you’re open to even more possibilities!
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Questions to ask before choosing plants for shaded areas.
Before you go shopping from this list that works for my shade conditions, you’ll need to take into consideration the following information from the plant tag when buying porch plants:
- Will it live in your planting zone? Find your zone number here: USDA plant hardiness zones
- What are its watering requirements and will you realistically be able to commit to it?
- Will it get any direct sunlight at any part of the day and if so, can it handle it?
- Does it need any direct sun to bloom?
Plants perfect for covered porches and screened in patios.
Let’s start with the quintessential and best plant for a Southern porch—the fern!
My hands-down favorite ferns that flank my front door most of the year are Kimberly Queen ferns. They make a statement and can take full shade and partial sun. They also don’t shed leaves as badly as the Boston fern.
Here are just a few other ideas both large and small for good ferns for containers in shady spots:
Next, let’s cover some shade-loving plants that add color to undercover porch planters…
Caladiums add color to shady areas with their heart-shaped leaves in a variety of red, pink, white, green, and combos of all four.
The colorful foliage of the coleus ranges from burgundies to bright greens with beautiful leaf patterns.
Green or pretty purple oxalis, aka shamrock plants can live on a dappled shade porch.
The spiky colorful flowers and leaves of the bromeliad are a definite “wow” factor. These will happily live on a bright totally covered patio or screen porch as long as they’re kept wet.
7. Cast iron plant.
Let’s point out a couple of “thrillers” for shady garden pot plant combinations…
The shadier the better for the cast iron plant. This one loves deep shade, and its tall green leaves can add interest to a container with no sun.
8. Elephant’s ear.
Elephant ears are big tropical plants that can add drama to large pots, and like to be in moist, well-drained soil and partial shade.
9. Creeping Jenny.
Now let’s move down to some “spillers” or trailing plants…
The small yellow-green foliage of the Creeping Jenny stands out nicely tumbling down shade containers.
10. Sweet potato vine.
The showy sweet potato vine does love sunny areas, but will also stretch out in the shade for a bright green or deep purple pop of color.
11. Variegated vinca vine.
I have this vinca vine ground cover trailing out of several shade pots and it comes back and even spreads every year! Its variegated green and cream leaves add some lightness, contrast, and interest to the rest of the plants in a container.
12. English ivy.
I adore the classic look of English ivy trailing out of a garden pot, in both green and variegated varieties.
13. Pothos ivy.
Pothos ivy is back from the seventies and eighties with a trendy vengeance. This tropical grows quickly and gets loooooonnnng.
14. Wandering Jew.
I try to include Wandering Jew in a shade pot somewhere every year with its lovely purple, green, and silver foliage. And it’s so easy to break off a tiny piece, stick it into the soil in another pot, and soon I have a whole new plant!
15. Silver nickel vine.
Dichondra “Silver Falls” has a stunning silver appearance and can tolerate shade, but needs partial sun part of the day to thrive and maintain its color.
A tropical plant from indoors will usually live in a completely shaded outdoor space with frequent watering. It’s my go-to for my screened in patio most of the year.
These are some of my favorites:
Hostas are amazing full shade garden bed plants with their wide variety of beautiful leaves, and putting one in a container would really allow it to shine.
18. Soft Caress Mahonia.
The soft caress mahonia doesn’t get as large as other types, so it’s a nice choice for containers.
19. Persian shield.
Persian shield has lovely dramatic purple color with silver and green veining. It does need part sun for a few hours a day but can tolerate full shade after that.
20. Coral bells (Heuchera).
Coral bells produce a few tiny bell-shaped blooms, but this bright shade lover is all about the colors and patterns of its foliage.
21. Stromanthe ‘Triostar’
The Triostar is a striking shade plant with dark pink, cream, and green leaves. Keep in mind it needs to stay moist and can’t take the sun.
22. Torenia “Wishbone Flower”.
The Torenia has beautiful little flowers that will bloom in the shade. This one also needs moist soil.
These next few flower options will live in shade but need some partial sun or dappled light to bloom…
Impatiens add mounds of color when they’re happy, in coral, pink, purple, and white.
Plumbago with its peaceful blue flowers, is typically a sun tolerant plant. But it’s done well for me in mostly shade because it’s not that drought tolerant, and appreciates some shade in our intense heat.
I chose Plumbago as a front porch plant this year to match the blue and yellow color scheme inside for early summer. You can see the summer porch tour here and the summer kitchen and family room tour here.
Just after ferns, hydrangeas may be the container plants most identified with a gracious Southern porch. Given plenty of water and just a little dappled shade, these are a beautiful option for front porch plants, but the further north you are, the more likely they are to make it through summer.
Even though the cold weather months are my gardening break (except for a few pansies) I still want to keep my front porch curb appeal!
Once the frost has killed back the ferns in the urns (why does this make me sing “the boots with the fur” in my head??), I pop in some faux bushes that’ll still look good from the street.
The ones I currently use are boxwood topiaries I got from Ikea, but I also really like these artificial cedar topiaries on Amazon.
I hope you’ve found a few plants in this list that stand a fighting chance in covered conditions to beautify your shady spaces. If I missed any good ones, share them with us in the comments!
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