15 Beautiful Shade Flowers for Pots

Greg Stevens

Love the look of colorful flowers but don’t have the soil space for an expansive garden? Planting in pots might just be the perfect solution.

Depending on your location and budget, there are plenty of different ways to design and organize your container garden. The flowers on this list are tolerant to areas with less sun with little to no garden space, such as apartment balconies, small backyards, or even vacant driveways.

Here are 15 bright and cheery shade flowers for pots that can thrive in partial sun or shade outdoors.

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

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Ideal for planting in upright containers, garden bedding, or hanging baskets, the honey-scented flowers of sweet alyssum are native to the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, and the Azores. These flowers are part of the mustard family and boast dense clusters of small blossoms. They continue growing for long periods of time, even year-round in some mild climates without frost.

Thanks to the sweet alyssum’s small, sweet-smelling flowers, their fragrance attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies, but also tiny insects that are beneficial to biodiversity. They are especially easy to grow from seed and do well with partial shade in hotter climates.

USDA Growing Zones: 2-11.

Sun Exposure: Partial sun to shade

Soil Needs: Well-drained and moderately moist.

Lobelia (Lobelia spp.)

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This flowering plant comes in shades of purple, white, and blue that fall nicely over the rims of containers. While it can tolerate full sun in cooler climates, it prefers partial shade and tends to show off its flowers before evening temperatures become too warm. Even better, these annuals (technically herbs) will grow pretty much anywhere due to their compact nature, and many will continue to bloom from mid-summer up through the first frost of the season.

Once they’re established, potted lobelia plants require very little maintenance, though they may require more frequent watering during particularly hot or dry periods.

USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 10.

Sun Exposure: Partial shade to sun.

Soil Needs: Moist, slightly acidic.

Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)

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Many gardeners consider impatiens to be their go-to annual for shady areas due to their low maintenance and resiliency. Impatiens goes by many different names, including Touch-me-not plant, busy Lizzie, patient Lucy, and sultana. They have been hybridized enough to offer a variety of colors, foliage, and blossom shapes to choose from.

Keep these flowers out of direct sunlight, instead opting for an area with well-draining potting soil and light to medium shade (although some varieties may tolerate more sun if their roots are kept moist). Keep in mind that while the plants do well in shady spots, they’re quite sensitive to cold temperatures when first starting out.

USDA Growing Zones: 10-11.

Sun Exposure: light to medium shade.

Soil Needs: Moist and well-draining.

Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)

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Creeping phlox plants come in a range of colors, but most commonly shades of purple, pink, blue, and sometimes white. Their flowers grow low to the ground in tight clusters and give off a mildly-sweet smell, and the plants will easily spread to cover every nook and cranny of your container. That’s why many gardeners choose to keep their creeping phlox in pots rather than in traditional gardens or flower beds.

Their blooms arrive in late spring and early summer, though they keep their green foliage throughout the year, and are both deer and rabbit tolerant.

USDA Growing Zones: 5-9.

Sun Exposure: Part shade.

Soil Needs: Moist, rich, well-draining.

Fuchsia (Fuchsia)

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The bright, teardrop-shaped blossoms of the fuchsia flower (an obvious favorite for hummingbirds) will droop delicately from both hanging baskets and taller ground pots. They will happily bloom all summer long, even without much sunlight, making them ideal for the shadier sections of your outdoor space.

Native to Central and South America, fuchsias come in several different varieties and colors, though almost all of them prefer dappled shade and cooler temperatures to hotter summer temperatures and direct light. Pay special attention as new growth appears with fuchsia plants, as they will bloom more abundantly when pinched back. Likewise, as branches finish blooming, clip them back with garden shears to keep them healthy.

USDA Growing Zones: 10-11.

Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade.

Soil Needs: Consistently moist and well-draining.

Sapphire Flower (Browallia speciosa)

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Part of the nightshade family (which includes plants like eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes), this annual plant varies in colors of white, purple, and blue that come alive in shaded to partially shaded areas. If you’re trying to fill smaller pots or containers, look for one of the dwarf varieties—though even the common-sized ones will only grow to about 12 to 16 inches. Also, keep in mind that browallia flowers don’t produce a scent, so consider another option on this list if you purchase plants specifically for their fragrance.

USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11.

Sun Exposure: Full to partial shade.

Soil Needs: Sandy loam to clay loam.

Miss Piggy Flower (Bergenia cordifolia)

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With a nickname like “miss piggy flower,” it should come as no surprise that the bergenia cordifolia is known for its delicate pink flowers. These plants are also known as “pigsqueak” due to the noise produced by rubbing their leaves between your thumb and finger. They bloom from early to mid spring, boasting dark green and shiny foliage that stick around long after the last flowers are gone. They’re tolerant of a wide range of soils, but prefer moist, well-draining ones.

USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9.

Sun Exposure: Full to partial shade.

Soil Needs: Average, well-draining.

Bush lily (Clivia miniata)

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Although these potted shade flowers have established a more popular reputation as houseplants, bush lilies will also bloom outdoors in the spring with a little extra care. Outside, they require soil that drains very well and a spot that’s at least partially shaded. They will also benefit from a small amount of morning or dappled sunlight.

Their trumpet-shaped flowers are typically orange in color; some rare yellow varieties are harder to find and more expensive than their orange counterparts. According to the director of Ornamental Plant Research at the Chicago Botanic Garden, clivias are slow-growing and difficult to propagate, so it’s best to purchase a mature plant if you don’t want to wait a few years for it to bloom.

USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11.

Sun Exposure: Partial shade.

Soil Needs: Well-draining.

Wishbone Flower (Torenia fournieri)

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Also known as the wishbone flower thanks to its uniquely-shaped stamen, Torenia fournieri is a wonderful option for shaded containers due to its long blooming season.

Gardeners should look for a light pot with plenty of drain holes for these plants, keeping them protected from the hot afternoon sun (though they can tolerate some, occasional direct sunlight). Or, pair the plants with a combination of small ferns or coral bells for a bit of variety. The trumpet-shaped blooms will also attract hummingbirds and resist deer.

USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11.

Sun Exposure: Partial shade.

Soil Needs: Acidic to neutral, and well-draining.

Common primrose (Primula vulgaris)

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Primrose are found in the wild among woodlands, but also do well in containers in shaded spots with two to three hours of sunlight per day. These cheerful flowers, which are mostly found in pale yellow colors, are one of the first signs of spring.

Primroses prefer consistent moisture when it comes to soil, as well as cool summer temperatures and protection from the hot afternoon sun. In Irish folklore and mythology, placing primrose flowers in the doorway helped protect the home from fairies.

USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8.

Sun Exposure: Partial shade.

Soil Needs: Slightly acidic, well-draining.

Wax Begonia (Begonia x semperflorens)

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A popular plant for flower beds that produce clusters of fleshy blossoms through summer and into the fall, wax begonias are a sturdy and durable choice for your shaded containers. The plants are slow-growing at first when planted from seed and can take months to mature, and can also be successfully cultivated as indoor plants or in windowsills. They are suited for tropical regions and can therefore handle warm or humid growing conditions, reacting poorly to the extreme cold.

USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11.

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.

Soil Needs: Moist and well-draining with slightly acidic pH.

Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana)

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On the other hand, pansy flowers are fast-growing and tolerant to colder conditions. Their heart-shaped, bright-colored petals surround center markings that are often compared to little faces, earning their reputation as one of the most cheerful flowers. Pansies would grow very tall—about five to eight inches—in groupings closer to the ground. Common garden pansies are a mixture of several different species, including violas, and were considered a weed up until the 19th century.

USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 11.

Sun Exposure: Partial shade.

Soil Needs: Well-draining.

Nelly Moser (Clematis lanuginosa)

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These popular flowers bloom in late spring to early summer and then again in the late summer to early fall. They thrive in well-draining soils that are kept moist and partly shaded. The unique star-shaped flowers are pale in color with a darker stripe down the middle of the petals.

Nelly mosers can handle some full sun but thrive best in partial shade, growing quickly up to 10 or 12 feet long. Some varieties also prefer to keep their heads in the sun and roots in the shade. These hardy vine plants are a good choice for trellises and can be pruned to climb walls or fences, though they’re also great for containers.

USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8.

Sun Exposure: Full sun or partial shade. 

Soil Needs: Moist, well-draining.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

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Unlike other types of hydrangeas that require several hours worth of sun per day, the oakleaf hydrangea can easily bloom in full shade. These plants grow longer, more tube-shaped flower clusters rather than the traditional round clusters of blooms for which common varieties of hydrangeas are known.

They are quite tolerant of different growing conditions, and their green foliage will fade to darker shades of purple and red in the fall. Good for hedges or shrub borders as well as larger containers, oakleaf hydrangeas can reach six to eight feet tall and wide.

USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9. 

Sun Exposure: Full to partial shade.

Soil Needs: Moist, acidic, well-draining.

Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.)

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Funnel-shaped lungwort flowers range from blue and purple to white and pink. Growing best in shaded spots, their leaves are fuzzy, spotted, and green, with fast-spreading roots that require adequate water and shade to stay resilient.

The spotted leaves helped give it its common name, as Medieval herbalists once believed the plant to be effective in treating lung disease. Although these plants are often chosen for their foliage, the flowers will be some of the first to bloom in the early spring.

USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.

Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full shade.

Soil Needs: Moist, well-draining.

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