Growing Plants in Containers in the Shade, Part III-Annuals, Biennials and Bulbs

Sweet peas can do well in the shade
Please share this with friends and family

In this final part of the series of plants that can be grown in containers in the shade, the annual, biennials and bulbs that can be used will be discussed. In previous parts shrubs, trees and perennials have been discussed.

Sweet peas can do well in the shade
Sweet Peas can do well in the shade

You will note that more shrubs and perennials will grow in deep shade than annuals. You are more limited in what annuals will grow, and so less selection can be made. Most annuals will take light shade but will suffer in heavy shade. Annuals tend to prefer full sun in order to produce their colourful blooms because in the shade, these blooms will look lacklustre. In dark shade begonias, fuchsia and impatiens are preferred for summer display.

In this final part, the annual, biennials and bulbs that do not mind growing in heavy shade will be enclosed. Do not forget you can use a mixture of annuals, perennials, and shrubs in your container display. Use small plants at the front and the taller plants at the back, in a staggered formation.



This annual does not mind growing in the sun or deep shade. It is a bushy annual, with lance-shaped, aromatic, green leaves. During spring to autumn, single or double, yellow or orange flowers are produced.

It is one of the easiest annuals to grow from seeds. It is best to sow seeds directly in multipurpose compost, where the plants grow up to 60cm in height. An added bonus is that the plant leaves and flowers are edible, and will make an interesting addition to summer salads.

CYCLAMEN COUM (Eastern Cyclamen)

Cyclamen coum
Cyclamen Coum

This dwarf perennial bulb has round, dark green leaves, with silver marbling. In late winter, deep pink flowers with purple blotches appear from the base or each twisted, swept back petal. It prefers growing in a gritty soil-based compost, where it will grow up to 10cm in height.


Cyclamen hederifolium

This is another dwarf perennial cyclamen that has silvery green patterned ivy-shaped leaves. The flowers appear first in autumn, with its pink, swept back flower petals that are a darker shade at its mouth.

The leaves appear after flowering. These small plants grow up to 10 cm in height in its preferred growing media of gritty soil-based compost.



This flower which often heralds that spring is just around the corner. It is a perennial bulb that has grass-like, green leaves. From late winter, nodding white flowers appear.

It grows up to 15cm when planted in a soil-based compost. Snowdrops are best when mixed with other early flowering bulbs or primulas, especially in pots or window boxes.


Sweet Peas
Sweet Peas

This sweet smelling climbing annual is both home in sunny and shady areas. Sweet pea climbs through its tendrils, where its small green pea-like leaves are produced along its stem.

The scented flowers are pink, blue, purple or white in colour, and are produced from summer to early autumn, Plant it in a large pot of multipurpose compost against a wall, fence or a support framework, where it will grow up to 3m in length. Deadhead to encourage more blooms.

LOBELIA ERINUS (Trailing Lobelia)

Trailing lobelia
Trailing Lobelia

This short (20cm in height) annual produces branching stems of small dark green leaves. In summer to autumn tiny blue, pink, or white flowers are produced en masse. It can either be trailing or bushy, depending on your preference. Lobelia can be grown in hanging baskets, window boxes or pots in multipurpose compost.


Grape Hyacinth
Grape hyacinth

This spring flowering perennial bulb has narrow, green grassy leaves, where it grows up to 20cm in height. From the leaves, short spikes of small fragrant, blue, bell-shaped flowers emerge in a cone-shaped cluster.

Use a gritty soil-based compost, where it can be mixed with other bulbs suggested in this article.

NARCISSUS (Daffodil) ‘Hawera’

Daffodil 'Hawera'
Daffodil ‘Hawera’

This upright perennial bulb grows up to 15cm in height. The green, strap-like leaves from which a small, nodding yellow flowers held on upright stems emerges. It flowers in mid-spring.

The plant will not tolerate total shade but will do well in dappled shade. Plant in multipurpose compost in pots and window boxes.

NARCISSUS (Daffodil) ‘Jack Snipe’

Narcissus 'Jack Snipe'
Narcissus ‘Jack Snipe’

This dwarf perennial bulb has narrow, green leaves. It will grow up to 25cm tall that produces stems of creamy white flowers, with short, yellow cups. Plant it with other bulbs in containers and window boxes filled with multipurpose compost.

NARCISSUS ‘Tete a Tete’

Narcissus 'Tete a Tete'
Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’

This early spring perennial bulb has green grass-like leaves, where it will grow up to 30cm in height. It produces short stems, bearing flowers of bright golden yellow blooms. Best planted in window boxes, hanging baskets or pots in multipurpose compost.


Nemophila maculata

This small fast-growing annual is spreading by nature. It has lobed leaves and small bowl-shaped white flowers, with purple spots on the petals, are produced. Five Spot Baby flowers throughout the summer months if it is watered well.

It is best to use it as an edging plant along with other shade-loving annuals in a multipurpose compost. It will grow up to 30cm in height.

NICOTIANA ‘Domino Series’ (Tobacco Plant)

Nicotiana 'Domino Series'
Nicotiana ‘Domino Series

This 45cm tall annual has long sticky mid-green leaves from which white, long, tubular flower heads appear in summer. The plant flower stems will need supporting in a large pot of multipurpose compost. Place it near the front door as the evening scent is divine.


Phlox drumondii
Phlox drumondii

This is a bushy annual with short green leaves that grow up to 45cm in height, Phlox produces small pink, red, purple, blue and white flowers, which appear throughout the summer months.

Looks stunning with other annuals in containers filled with multipurpose compost.


Torenia fournieri
Torenia fournieri

This short bushy annual grows up to 30cm in height. It has serrated, light green leaves from which exotic looking blooms of pale lilac/blue-purple petals, with white and yellow throats, appear in the summer months. Use in pots or window boxes full of multipurpose compost.


In this article, annuals, biennials or bulbs that can be grown in containers in the shade has been discussed. The range of plants is not as extensive as those found in full sun, but there is still plenty of choices to make an interesting selection. There are bulbs and annuals covering all shade of colours, and should provide a focal point in any container garden.

As ever if you have any questions or comments that you would like to make, please leave them in the comment box below.



8 thoughts on “Growing Plants in Containers in the Shade, Part III-Annuals, Biennials and Bulbs”

  1. Thank you much for this comprehensive article. I was surprised at the number of plants that grow well in shade. I shared the post with my wife, she will be delighted with this information and we will be select a variety of the plants from your list. We will be planting in the ground under a large Live Oak tree. Should we make any adjustment to compensate for the fact that we are not planting in containers. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.    

    1. Hi Tom

      Thank you very much for those kind words and I hope your wife enjoys it. The beauty of gardening is that you can adapt the technique to your surrounding. Yes you can plant under trees, just make sure that you feed and water them more, and they will flourish.

      Kind Regards


  2. I really enjoyed reading this!

    I normally grow bean sprouts for eating and am practicing growing parsley on the windowsill.  I know that you are very much into growing flowers, so I must admit calendula is of interest to me as it is edible.

    It also seems easy to grow, so I will buy some seeds and practice.  I am not green fingered and my downfall is not watering plants regularly.  I will do my best though as I really want to see what calendula flowers taste like!

    1. Hi Stella

      Pot marigold are delicious in salads, and are very easy to grow. Just throw some seeds in the container and they will grow. Look out for a future article where I talk about edible flowers in containers. You may be interested in my articles of growing vegetables in containers.

      Thank you


  3. Thank you for such an informative article makes me want to rush out and get them all. They are so beautiful. I didn’t know the difference in perennials and annuals but I have that figured out now, thanks

    I love the snowdrops and daffodils best, and I now know right where to plant them too. Do you have a favorite place to order them or do you get them locally?



    1. Hi Lynda

      Thank you for those kind words. Perennials are plants that come back every year, whilst annuals only lasts one growing season. For plants I recommend garden centres or you can click any links on my sidebar and they will take you to the place where you can search for the plants that I recommend.

      Kind Regards


  4. Hello Antonio,

    This post is exactly what my sister needs and I’m going to send it to her because she loves flowers. Your post is really an amazing post on flowers. When I read your post then I see I am reading the Third part of this post. I feel so sad for I miss your Frist and second part of this post. In your post, you describe how can we grow flowers. I have a little knowledge of flowers but my sister has a huge knowledge of it. I think this post is really helpful for her to more care of her flowers. If you can give her some more tips about how she cares and grow more flower?

    Thanks for such a wonderful and helpful post. 

    1. Hi Khobayer

      I hope your sister enjoys the article. For looking after plants I recommend the following article. She will get more information from that.

      Kind Regards


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *