Sun Containers vs. Shade Containers: A Simple Guide to Choosing the Right Plants

Creating beautiful container gardens can be a fun and rewarding activity. The key to success is knowing which plants thrive in the sun and which ones prefer the shade. Here’s a simple guide to help you pick the right plants for your containers.



Thrillers are the stars of your container garden. They are usually tall and add height and drama to your pots. Place them in the back or middle of your container.


Sun Containers:

- Cannas: Bold and colorful.

- Caladiums: Bright and cheerful leaves.

- Asparagus Ferns: Soft and feathery.

- Miniature Roses: Delicate and fragrant.

- Lemon Grass: Tall and grassy.

- Papyrus: Unique and striking.

- Dracaena (Spike): Adds height.


Shade Containers:

- Upright ferns: Add lots of texture

- Caladiums: Bright leaves, do well in both sun and shade.

- Fuchsia: Dangling, vibrant flowers.

- Cordyline: Adds spiky texture

- Dracaena: Adds height.

- Coleus: Colorful foliage.



Fillers are the supporting cast, filling in around the thrillers with lush foliage and flowers.


Sun Containers:

- Creeping Thyme: Aromatic ground cover.

- Bidens: Bright lively flowers

- Basil: Useful and fragrant.

- Petunias: Bright and cheerful flowers.

- Cosmos: Light and airy flowers.

- Eucalyptus: Fragrant and silvery.

- Nemesia: Small, colorful flowers.


Shade Containers:

- Violas: Delicate blooms.

- Hostas: Bushy and variegated.

- Twinspurs: Small and charming flowers.

- Begonia: Colorful and varied.

- Impatiens: Shade-loving and vibrant.

- Lobelia: Plentiful flowers.

- Pansy: Bright and cheerful.

- Boston Fern: Lush and green.



Spillers cascade over the edges of your container, adding a flowing effect.


Sun Containers:

- English Ivy: Evergreen and trailing.

- Sweet Potato Vine: Bright leaves.

- Licorice plant: Soft silvery foliage

- Creeping Jenny: Golden foliage.

- Bacopa: Small, white flowers.

- Million Bells: Dense trailing flowers.


Shade Containers:

- Vinca Minor: Mix of foliage and flowers

- Asparagus Fern: Soft and trailing.

- Ivy Geranium: Trailing blooms.

- Purple Heart: Deep purple leaves.

- Ivy: Evergreen and trailing.

- Creeping Wire Vine: Tiny leaves and trailing stems.


By choosing the right thrillers, fillers, and spillers for your sun or shade containers, you’ll set yourself up for a beautiful display all summer long. 



On our part sun/part shade porch, we used the Classic Barcelona Planter Box and selected three primary plants to create a beautiful arrangement:


1. THRILLER - Kimberly Queen Fern: These tall, upright ferns add height and drama to the planter.


2. FILLER - Variegated Hosta: These plants fill plenty of space around the fern with their lush, striking leaves, making the arrangement look full and vibrant. Unseen are white lobelia to fill in some extra space and add a touch of showy flowers.


3. SPILLER - Sweet Potato Vine: These trailing plants hang over the edges of the planter, creating a lovely cascading effect.


Happy planting!

Thank you for reading, and see you next time!