Flower bed

Asked April 14, 2020, 1:40 PM EDT

I have a 2’x 12’ brick (attached to the house) flower bed which outside of our large picture window. Not sure how deep it is but there is potting soil in it. The soffit hangs over the entire bed and does not get direct sun. We live in Bel Air. Can you please suggest what I can plant there. Thank you Toni

Harford County Maryland

1 Response

Hello Toni,

Since this is more-or-less a large container (rather than a raised bed, which tend to be larger in volume), anything that is reliable for container gardening in the shade should suffice, though certainly drought tolerance is ideal to minimize your watering schedule.

For hardiness concerns, annuals or houseplants (treated as annuals) are the safest bet, as they do not overwinter due to cold intolerance. (Those annuals that grow best in cool weather, like pansies, need a good amount of sun.) This way, you can change color palettes and design schemes yearly if you wish. Houseplants with decorative foliage can add welcome texture and variety to flowering annuals. Examples of annual plants that grow well in shadier sites include Wishbone Flower (Torenia), Fuchsia, most Impatiens (look for those stated to be resistant to downy mildew), tuberous Begonias, and colorful-foliage plants like Caladium and some Coleus.

Perennials may do well if selected for drought tolerance and primarily foliage interest, as those that flower will do so relatively briefly compared with season-long annual flowers. Ferns, Hosta, Heuchera, and Sedges (Carex) are common groups for this purpose. Fringed Bleeding-hart (Dicentra eximia) is one low-growing perennial with a relatively long bloom season (other bleeding-hearts go dormant); a low grass like Hakonechloa will offer both color and texture. There are many flowering perennials with good shade tolerance, but their typical heights of two to four feet tall (by the time they flower) probably limit them to use elsewhere unless you don't mind obscuring some of the window. (Even the aforementioned groups for foliage should be selected with mature height in mind, as there can be quite a range between varieties.)

One decorative option for the in-between season of winter (if you do not use perennials in this bed) would be to turn it into an evergreen display. "Porch pots" is the name typically given nowadays to such a display when used in more traditional flower pots around the holidays, but any decorative arrangement of evergreen boughs, colorful stems, decorative seed pods, and stems of berries would create the same result. Web searches on this topic would certainly offer up some inspiration, and you can remove the stems when they age too much and re-plant once we pass danger of frost in spring (roughly early to mid-May).