Container Design Challenge: Mix to Match!

sunny front garden

Do you have one of those tricky scenarios like I do: two containers that need to "match" yet have different lighting conditions?

The two pots flanking our front door are always a challenge.The one on the right receives more direct sun than the one on the left, and the far left side of that left pot is really mostly shaded, while the back right of the right side container receives some shade too. My challenge is to make the two containers relate visually yet accommodate these variable shade/sun conditions.

Until a few weeks ago I had a blue conifer anchoring the design in each, but after several years the one that received more sun just looked too "different" from the one in partial sun so it was time to transplant them to the landscape and start again. I was completely stuck for ideas at first so the pots sat empty for several weeks until my daughter casually remarked "that porch can always be a bit dark for photography  – you need something with chartreuse or white variegated foliage." Brilliant! There was my starting point.

Design Criteria

porch container designs

The variegated hibiscus will stay columnar but get much taller, balancing the design

Color scheme: blue, silver, white, with accents of burgundy and chartreuse

Lighting: right pot for full sun with some shade at back right, left pot for partial sun with partial shade/bright shade on the left side

Something to "sparkle" as the centerpiece!

Plant Selection used in Both

ontainer garden design

Close up of left container that receives more shade

Summer Ruffle hibiscus (for height) (First Editions)

Angel Wings Senecio (for drama)

Dibs Moonlight begonia

Purple Queen tradescantia

Lemon Lime heavenly bamboo (Sunset Plants)

Diamond Frost euphorbia (Proven Winners)

Bondi Blue fanflower to weave color throughout the design

Silver Falls Dichondra (Proven Winners)


Plant Variations

Close up of right container which is mostly sun

White tuberous begonia in left pot (shade) – Supertunia Vista Snowdrift (Proven Winners) in right pot (sun)

Main Street Rodeo Drive coleus in left pot (shade) – Summer Sunshine germander in right pot (sun)

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Stay tuned!

I'll post photos of how this fills in mid- and late-summer so we can see together if the silver begonia scorched or something just looked "off". Experience has taught me that the fanflower, tradescantia, and annual Euphorbia will always perform well on both sides of the porch. In fact all three of these are great "go to" plants that I use frequently. And although deer literally put their noses to the back door, so far they haven't explored the front porch so I'm hoping the heavenly bamboo will be safe as they are usually eaten by deer in my garden. All the other plants have proven to be deer resistant although the deer may chomp on a begonia flower if it is somewhere convenient, and I'm testing my friends claims that coleus are not bothered by deer….

Want to Learn More about Container Design?

I have several online courses and workshops that you might be interested in. I would recommend Designing Abundant Containers as ideal- you can read the reviews and curriculum here.


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  1. Clarice on June 13, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Thank you for this post! I have this same situation at my house, only magnified as there are 4 pots involved, full sun, full shade, and 2 in between like yours! Very helpful info!

    • Karen Chapman on June 14, 2019 at 4:21 pm

      So glad you found it helpful!