During the recent Going Native Garden Tour, several of the visitors commented that they never know what to plant in containers, and especially in containers in shade. In my garden, I have a set of black containers under the redwoods near the seating area. I always try to throw in something bright green there because the area is quite dark.
I also have several blue containers in a very narrow side strip that is completely paved over. I did a post about my side yard beautification project here; the end result was a row of blue containers and a blue sink.
The containers have worked out fairly well. It's a bit of a challenging spot, with shade for most of the day and about 2 hours of mid-day sun. But the garden hose is right there, so I can water everything twice a week.
The mainstay of my shade garden and my shade containers are three plants:
Asarum caudatum (native ginger)
Heuchera (different colors and sizes, not all native)
Douglas iris (shade-loving Pacific coast iris)
Here's a pot with some purple Heuchera and a few shade-tolerant annuals including Chinese Houses and Mimulus guttatus.
In the first picture of this post, we have a dark blue iris with stunning velvety flowers. Below, we have Heuchera and Asarum caudatum. The Asarum spills over the pot at least a little, and the big shiny leaves are attractive year round.
I often mix in some ferns, as in this container.
As an additional "spiller", I might use Satureja mimeloides (yerba buena - careful, many plants have this common name). Satureja can get a little out of hand in the garden, so a container is the perfect choice. I feel the same about my Rubus parvifolius (thimbleberry), a gift from Ms. Country Mouse. It's a lovely plant in the garden and really lights up the shade!
And I prefer having it in a container because my garden may not be able to - contain it.
I also enjoy trying some new things. Here is Clarkia 'Pink Ribbons' from Annie's Annuals. It bloomed for a long time last year, and I bought a few more this year.
This year, I tried a few new things from Gold Rush Nursery. I adore the Potentialla I bought, shown in the first picture with its large finger-like leaves. And I'm totally captivated by the large yellow flowers.
I also picked up a few rather insignificant looking 4-inch pots with Thalictrum (meadow rue). Yes, it had nice ferny leaves, but I was enchanted when I saw the flowers.
Tiny lanterns, trembling in even the slightest breeze. Having such a plant in a container, closer to eye level, really adds to the enjoyment, though I really enjoy all my containers. And having native plants, even if these shade lovers do need some water, means I can usually get by for 5 days without.