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BellaOnline's Container Gardening Editor

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Shade Tolerant Bushes for Containers

Guest Author - Jessica Carson

Many plants are well adapted to growing in partial to full shade and can add great beauty and interest to your container garden. Some of the most colorful shrubs can be grown in containers (if sufficiently large) and make great backdrops or focal points for your garden. There is hardly anything more breathtaking than the rich color of a rhododendron in full bloom or the scent of gardenia on a summer evening. These eleven perennial shrubs will delight you in your garden for many years.

Abutilon (Flowering Maple) - Erect rangy shrub 8 to 15 feet tall, depending on species. Can be trained to grow more busy by pinching back tips of branches. Blooms mainly late spring to summer in shades of white, yellow, pink, coral and red. White and pink varieties will bloom year-round in mild climates. Prefers partial sun and moderate water. Watch for scale and whitefly.

Camelia There are many flower forms and growth habits for Camelias, and all are quite beautiful. Camelia generally bloom for 2-3 months in fall, winter, or spring, depending on weather and species. Prefer partial shade (strong sun can burn the leaves and bleach the flowers). Needs regular water when young then only moderate water as the shrub matures. Feed once or twice a year with a good general fertilizer for acid-loving plants.

Carpenteria californica (Bush Anemone) This evergreen shrub is a native of the California Siarre Nevada foothills. It is slow growing and will reach a maximum height of 3 to 6 feet. Blooms spring through summer with white anemone-shaped flowers 2-3 inches across. Watch for aphids and prune after flowering to shape. Protecting from heavy freezes.

Fuchsia - F. thymifolia is an erect shrub 3 to 10 feet tall and can be easily shaped. Blooms profusely from spring through frost with tine white, pink, red, or coral dangling blooms. Resistant to fuchsia mite. Does very well in partial shade. Requires regular water and feed lightly every two weeks. If bush is growing too leggy, pinch off ends of branches to encourage side growth. Watch for spider mites and white flies. Remove the blooms as they fade to prevent the formation of berry-shaped seed pods, and hence prolong the bloom. Protect from freezing in winter.

Gardenia jasminoides - Intensely sweet white flowers on deep green shiny leaves. Single or double flowers, bushes growing to 4 feet. Gardenia are a little fussy. They prefer warmth and sun, but filtered shade in hot summer areas. They require regular water and a moist soil, regular feeding, and good drainage. They will also benefit from a regular morning misting or dew. Use a soil mix with plenty of peat moss. Best if planted alone in containers as they do not like competing for root space. Feed every 3-4 weeks during growing and bloom seasons with a fertilizer for acid-loving plants or with fish emulsion. If leaves start to yellow give iron sulfate or iron chelate.

Hydrangea - These are beautiful bushes for containers, and will reward you with large clusters of blue to pink or white flowers over a long bloom period. They are fast growing, so prune to shape and remove stems which have already flowered. Leaves are large and beautiful, hydrangeas are deciduous, however, and will drop their leaves in winter. Some are quite cold hardy, others will need to be protected or moved indoors to protect from freezing. Watch for aphids.

Pittosporum Very attractive evergreen shrub; some varieties have fragrant flowers and/or produce attractive fruit. Grows 10 to 20 feet high, depending on variety. Excellent when used as windbreaks. Feed once a year in spring or summer with a complete fertilizer. Watch for aphids and scale.

Rhapsis (Lady palm) A very attactive palm with fan-shapped open leaf clusters emerging from bamboo-like stems. Slow growing to 5 to 12 feet. Prefers light to moderate shade and moderate temperatures take your Lady palm indoors for the winter and protect from high heat in the summer.

Rhododendron - Like Camelia, there are a many types and colors or rhododendron. Some are evergreen and some deciduous, and most prefer filtered shade. In general, all rhododendron, including azaleas, like humid air and moist soil. Some hybrids can tolerate winters as cold as -25 degrees F, so check with nurseries in your area for varieties for your climate. Feed once or twice a year with a good general fertilizer for acid-loving plants.

Sambucus (Elderberry) These deciduous shrubs prefer light shade and moderate water. Most produce edible berries, but the berries of S. callicarpa are poisonous. Prune hard in dormant season to control growth habit. Taller varieties grow 8-10 feet, shorter ones to 4 feet. Flower colors and forms differe among species some form flowers in flat clumps, others are rounded bunches, and ranging from white and cream to pink. Foliage color varies, also, from deep green to purple. S. canadensis (American Elderberry) is the one commonly used for fruit pies, jams, and wines. This elderberry grows best in cold-winter climates.

Sarcococca These evergreen shrubs are native to the Himalayas. They prefer shade and partial shade, and have a slow, orderly growth habit. Will do well even in deepest shade, such as under overhangs, evergreen trees, or enclosed entryways. Be sure to use soil rich in organic matter (peat moss, compost). Relatively pest-free, watch for scale. Tiny, fragrant white flowers in spring followed by black or red fruit. Will grow to from 2 to 6 feet, depending on cultivar.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Jessica Carson. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Jessica Carson. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lestie Mulholland for details.

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