Annuals for Total Shade Containers


Our condo building in Hamilton has two 20” planters at our front entrance which we plant out with annuals. These planters are on the north side, under an overhang, in total shade. They’re also subject to strong winds. The soil holds moisture quite well. We’ve used tropical palms, low growing annuals and vines. The only success we’ve had is with the palms and coleus. Regular and double impatiens and begonias produced very few blooms. Creeping Jenny and English Ivy were straggly. We’d like to have something other than the tropical palm as a centre piece; a tall ornamental grass would be ideal, but are there any that will thrive in full shade (annual or perennial for a single season’s growth)? Could you please recommend annuals and vines that will be happy with our shady, windy location.
Thank you for your help.


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

It is difficult to grow plants in shade and even more difficult when you pair it with strong winds.

Palms are classified as a monocot and as such do not produce wood like trees; this allows them to bend and move with the wind making them an ideal plant for your location. Also, the pinnately compound leaves of the palm allows the wind to pass through and over the leaf with minimum tearing of the blade. You mention that your containers are in total shade- full shade areas receive no direct sunlight, but may receive light reflected off surrounding areas.

Annuals which you might like to consider for your location are: thunbergia, tuberous begonias, wax begonias, browallia.  Annuals for Shade is a Toronto Master Gardening Guide which lists examples of annuals that will thrive in partial and full shade.

Another gardening guide which you mught find of use is: Perennials for Shade in Dry or Moist Areas,

Shade loving honeysuckle, climbing hydrangea, Sweet potato vine and dutchman’s pipe are examples of shade loving vines. However, I would be reluctant to plant vines, the strong winds are apt to shred the leaves and tendrils of the vines.

Lastly, you may wish to consider planting some shade loving perennials which do not flower but possess beautiful foliage which will  impart colour and texture to your planters.  Coral bells (Heuchera), Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa), Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium),  Siberian bugloss (Brunnera) are just a few examples.

Have fun designing next years containers.