Recently a regular customer suggested a few blog topics for us to write about, one being suggestions for a Spring/Summer Shade Planter. I love getting questions, requests and blog ideas from our customers so I was more than happy to oblige!
Shade areas in our garden offer both challenges and opportunities with our plant choices. When planting in the ground we have to be a bit more cognizant about our soil composition and moisture. However, in a container we have a lot more control of what we can plant as long as we pair our plants needs accordingly.
For instance, you wouldn't want to plant something which prefers dry shade with something that prefers moist shade. Those two conditions are conflicting and therefore one plant or both is like to suffer. So for this lovely spring/summer shape planter I chose both annuals and perennials which prefer consistently moist soil (not wet though! So be sure your pot has drainage.)
Also, when planting perennials in a container, it is always good practice to check the ultimate size of the plant. For instance I chose the Hosta variety 'Loyalty' because its maximum size is 12-14", meaning it won't overwhelm the planter by mid summer. I also chose a mid-size Astilbe 'Ruby Red' which was almost at its full size at the time of planting.
1 - 6" Hosta 'Loyalty'
1 - 1 gal Astilbe 'Ruby Red'
2 - 4" 'Ivalace' Ivy
5 - 4" Non-Stop Begonia (3 red, 2 white) *
1 - 16" 'Emma' Crescent Plastic Black Pot
1 - MySoil Container Mix
1 - Bag of Moss **
Thriller, Filler, Spiller:
These three words are the basics of container flower gardening and have been the gospel for many gardeners. Thriller means that there is one or two plants that are the focal point - in our case it is the Astilbe which is tall and takes a majority of the vertical space in the planter. Fillers are the plants which take up space in the middle of the planter - in our case it is the Hosta and the Begonias. Lastly, spillers are plants which trail over the edge of the planter - this would be our Ivy's.
If you like the look of a symmetrical planter, there isn't a reason why you couldn't plant each half of the planter exactly the same. This method produces a nice look which is neat and tidy and pleasing to the eye. An asymmetrical planter will look a little more casual, and fun. It just depends on your style! I planted this arrangement in a asymmetrical style because I thought the Astilbe and Ivy lent itself to a more to that look.
Creating this planter is very easy and allows you to be very intuitive with your design based on where your planter will be placed. If you know your planter will be viewed from multiple angles like on a deck, then you are going to want to plant with a 360 degree view in mind. This means you are going to follow these instructions exactly.
In contrast if you planter is going to be beside your front door and only viewed from one side, you can eliminate two of the Begonias * and offset your plants to the back of the planter. This creates a slightly more one-sided planter. The upside of this planting is that your plants will have more room to grow and in comparison, with the first planter style you may need to remove 2 Begonias later in the summer to provide the plants with more space. Style-wise this isn't a problem because your Astilbe and Hosta will grow to fill the space quickly.
Step 1: Fill your planter 3/4 full of the MySoil Container Mix.
Step 2: Dry fit your plants. Take your plants and place them in the planter on top of the soil. Rotate them so that their best sides face the way you are going to enjoy them for the most part and gauge their spacing and move plants accordingly. With that in mind, remove everything and start planting.
Step 3: Start with planting the two largest plants the Astilbe and Hosta.
Step 4: Plant the Begonias, being sure to stagger the colours.
Step 5: Plant the Ivy on the sides.
Step 6: Using your hands (it is easier than using a trowel) place soil into all the gaps between the plants. Be sure to check the backs of them as well as you might miss the areas covered with foliage.
Step 7: Now take several handfuls of the moss and place over the areas of bare soil. This step is optional because it is entirely aesthetic, but it produces a very finished look.
Be sure to water your planter deeply but infrequently during the cooler spring weather as you do not want to overwater your plants. As the weather warms up, increase your watering but first checking your planter by inserting your finger to the second knuckle to check moisture levels.
Additionally you may choose to deadhead your begonias as their flowers fade. Technically they are 'self-cleaning' and fall off, but it can make a bit of a mess.
Lastly, use a slow release fertilizer like Orgunique Hanging Basket Food 14-14-14 for all season feeding option!
The Astilbe and Hosta are perennial, so at the end of the season in September or October you can remove them from the pot and plant in your garden for next Spring. As for the Ivy, though it is perennial and this type is less invasive than other varieties , I do not recommend that you plant it in your garden. Instead trim it back slightly and leave in your container for next years planter!
Cheers - Heather Youl