By Marianne Binetti
This year I’m giving my shaded patio some tropical punch with bold foliage from coleus (a big-leaf variety called ‘Kong’) and easy-care hostas in pots. I am also using begonia, lobelia, and lamium in a window box. Here are some more tips to make the most of any potted display:
Use hostas and coleus for bold foliage in the shade. Hostas are perennials, so they will go dormant, then return each spring. Hostas are happy to grow in the same container for four or five years, and in the Pacific Northwest this makes them easier to protect from slugs. Look for hostas with variegated leaves to help brighten a dark entry or shaded patio. Hostas are surprisingly drought resistant—but colorful coleus needs more water and protection from frost and wind.
Raise some pots to eye level for maximum impact and ease of care. I have a window box mounted on the wall, but I also use a table to raise a pot of coleus. I repurposed an ice bucket on a stand to hold a purple Cineraria ‘Senetti’; trained a potted clematis to grow up the wall; and set hostas on raised brick pillars. Any time you can get your pots up off the ground, they have more visual impact.
Position pots beneath hanging baskets and window boxes to catch drips. Container gardens are not potty trained—and who wants them leaking all over the patio? You can use saucers under pots that sit on the ground. For hanging baskets and window boxes, I placed pots of hostas right under the drainage holes, not only to catch the drips but also to recycle water and fertilizer that would just end up on the concrete.
Accessorize your potted display. I added a bright-yellow outdoor rug, a tropical print as a chair cover, and candles on tall iron stands. It also helps to use colorful ceramic containers, tiles, and wall art.
So what packs a punch on your shaded patio?
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