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There are many cultivars available of this fast-growing annual. They are best used as bedding, edging, or container plants. Panicles of blue, pink, purple, or white flowerheads arise from oval, downy leaves in midsummer and continue until frost. They have a soft, fuzzy appearance and attract butterflies.
This early, compact bloomer grows to only about 6 or 7 inches tall. With its icy blue-purple flowers, it works well when planted tightly along the foreground of a bed. Its color blends easily with most other hues and textures. -Julia Jones, Designing with annueals, Fine Gardening issue #120
The spine-tipped leaves of this aloe grow in a beautiful spiral; mature plants have five rows of leaves growing either clockwise or counterclockwise. It is very hardy, but will rarely flower. A native of Lesotho, Africa, it is extremely endangered due to overcollecting.
A. ficoidea ‘Red Threads’ is a slender-leaved perennial selection that doesn't wander, forming a textured carpet in shades of deep burgundy. A single plant makes a mound about 8 inches tall and 14 inches wide. It blooms on and off all year, but you may never notice. The small, pale flower buttons are held in the leaf axils, where they are nearly indistinguishable from the foliage unless you're paying close attention. Use 'Red Threads' at the base of taller plants in the border to provide vibrant color echoes or contrasts. Grow as a warm-season annual in cooler climates, mass the plants in beds, or use in a formal knot garden as the Victorians did.
Upright, low perennial with deep mauve to violet two-lipped flowers blooming all summer. Angelonia are superlative container plants, and can also be grown as bedding annuals.
This wild ginger is an evergreen groundcover with heart-shaped, shiny leaves that are often marbled. Its interesting brown-purple flowers hide beneath the foliage.
Unlike many other shade garden plants with their cool blue colors, 'Cowardly Lion' rex begonia offers rich warm tones. Chocolate-colored leaf veins veil the golden leaves, which become darker with age and make a fine counterpoint to yellow-based foliage plants. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
'Escargot' takes its name from the snail-like curl pattern at the base of the leaf. The foliage is striking enough to stand on its own but it's a good mixer, too. Use it with other foliage plants and brightly colored blooms. This is an extremely popular Rex hybrid begonia. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
Like other Rex begonias, 'Fireworks' is noteworthy for the coloration of its foliage. Its silvery leaves are edged in purple and have a black burst of fireworks in the center. Use it in a container or shady garden, or grow it as a houseplant. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
The leaves of 'Green Gold' are predominantly silver with deep green veining. New leaves are edged in burgundy. The silver color brightens up shady areas. 'Green Gold' grows vigorously and harmonizes well with other shade plants. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
'Marmaduke' Rex begonia sports chocolate-colored speckles across golden leaves. The earth tones of 'Marmaduke' go well with solid-colored foliage plants and yellow or rusty-hued blooms. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
Unlike other Rex begonias, 'River Nile' isn't flashy. Its charm comes from the leaves, which are green and ruffled, with a deep bronze edging. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
'Stained Glass' is simply stunning. Ruby red leaves are rimmed in pewter with dark veining at the center and a rosy underside. This Rex begonia goes well with pink plants or flowers. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
English daisy bears stems topped with a single white, daisy-like flower. The flowers are tinged maroon and yellow; but cultivars are available with single, semi-double, or double button flowers in shades of white, pink, salmon, and ruby. The plant's smooth, spoon-shaped leaves form neat rosettes. This carpeting perennial is often grown as a biennial. Its many cultivars are used for bedding out or container displays.
This brunnera cultivar has a silvery, heart-shaped leaves that are mostly everygreen. Delicate blue flowers emerge in spring. Drought tolerant once established, ‘Looking Glass’ brunnera requires little watering and is fairly resistant to pests. This cultivar grows to a little more than a foot tall and almost as wide. Use it in a woodland or shade garden, in a container, or at waterside. -Sylvia Matlock, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #127
A well-behaved perennial from the mint family (Lamiaceae), variegated calamint has pale-green, oval leaves with strong white marbling. It sends up a wealth of clear-pink tubular flowers that muster an army of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds from mid- to late summer. It’s eye-catching both in and out of bloom and has a wonderful minty fragrance all season long.
This rose-and-cream Calibrachoa is one of a kind. The unique markings on the petals and the plant's mounding habit make it a standout in hanging baskets and containers.
Calibrachoa is a relatively new genus of flowering plants. The first cultivars weren't released until 1992. This cultivar's self-cleaning, petunia-like flowers are painted in a sunny mix of orange, red, and yellow. It is an easy-to-grow, trailing perennial, often used as an annual in hanging baskets, window boxes, and other containers.
Calibrachoas are great alternatives to petunias. Superbells® Dreamsicle is cloaked with larger-than-usual, yellow-throated apricot-orange flowers. It can create a carpet of color or cascade beautifully from a container.
Best used as a foliage plant, this plant's intricately cut, frosty-silver leaves produce a large, elegant arching mound. It also bears pale lavender-blue pin-cushion flowers on lanky 30-inch stems in late spring.
Stylish Shady Containers
Low light doesn't have to cramp your creativity or limit your plant choices
by Karen Chapman
Container Plantings in the Shade Yield a Spectacular Garden
You don't need a lot of sun or even access to the soil to have a lovely garden
by Gary Keim
Conifers for Shade
Yes, you can grow evergreen trees and shrubs in shade. Who knew?
by Christine Froehlich
10 Combinations for Shade
The secret is in using color to pump up the interest in low-light spots
by Inta Krombolz
Potting Soil Recipes
Cook up your own container mix that is suited to your plants
by Daryl Beyers
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