How Can You Use Your Houseplants Outside?

by | May 26, 2020 | 3 comments

When you venture out to the garden center to buy plants for your containers, make sure you don’t pass by the houseplant section. Of course, I never do. In fact, as I have been buying plants this spring, I have purchased some new houseplants. (Big surprise!) As I was re-potting them into new containers yesterday, I started thinking about outdoor shade containers and how these houseplants could be used in them. Though most are not grown for their flowers, I try to think of foliage first, anyway. With all the shapes, colors, and variations of leaves, the container could be striking without flowers.

Low light houseplants

Here are the many houseplants I re-potted in the last two days




These are the six ferns I re-potted. In order from top left to right: hart’s tongue fern, Asplenium scolopendriuim, maidenhair fern, adiantum, and Neprolepis ‘Fluffy Ruffles’. Bottom row from left to right: lemon button fern, Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’, elkhorn fern, Microsorum punctatum ‘Green Flame’, and button fern, Pellaea rotundifolia. These plants were all found in a garden center in the houseplant section or in the area with shade-loving 4″ plants. I think they would all be great in a shady container outside. Look at all the different textures and colors! Some would trail over the pot, while others could be the “fillers”, as they are a little more mounding, and then the elkhorn or hart’s tongue could be the taller “thriller” in the middle. Can you believe they are all ferns?



Calatheas are amazing foliage plants

I love calatheas, but unfortunately I have allowed a few to languish and die. They like to be kept moist and prefer to not have fluoride in their water. The leaves may develop brown edges, tips, or spots from the fluoride. That being said, they would be a lovely addition to a shady container and would love rainwater. In order front row left to right above: ‘Medalion’, ‘White Fusion’, ‘Vittata’, and ‘Beauty Star’ in the back.

Philodendron and Pothos

'Brasil' philodendron

Philodendron ‘Brasil’

Want the look of a potato vine in the shade? Use a philodendron, like the ‘Brasil’ above or the Pothos ‘Pearls and Jade’ below? There are so many varieties of these plants including the solid yellow forms of each that would most resemble the potato vine. They are something different and I bet the deer and bunnies wouldn’t eat them. Deer are a problem for me and I actually had one in my landscape today.

'Peals and Jade' Pothos

‘Pearls and Jade’ Pothos Epipremnum aureum ‘Pearls and Jade’ 



Colorful aglaonema

Who needs flowers when you can have foliage like this? The new colorful aglaonemas would make great fillers in a shade container.



Purple streptocarpus

I was so surprised when I saw these a few years ago in the annual section of a garden center. The streptocarpus is an African violet relative and also does not like cold water on its leaves. It’s hard to find one without marks on its leaves in the garden center, but the new leaves come out fine. I’ve seen them in full sun and the leaves are burnt and scorched, but in a shade container, they would be perfect.


'Snow White' Aphelandra

‘Snow White’ Aphelandra

I had the regular zebra plant or aphelandra in my hand when I saw this ‘Snow White’ cultivar and I put the other one back. This plant is so gorgeous! It is actually more white, but my patio umbrella is bright green so it appears greener than it is. This would add a bright pop of color to a shade container. It does produce a yellow flower, but I really don’t care if it blooms.


'Escargot' begonia

Look at the foliage on this ‘Escargot’ begonia!

The sheer number of begonia hybrids is crazy. This ‘Escargot’ above is definitely an older variety but still has its place in any shade container. There are also red ones, striped ones, and ones that look like scaly reptile skin. Check out the begonia section of your favorite garden center or houseplant store.

So many choices

There are so many more plants that would work well in shade containers for the summer. The ones I’ve shown you are ones that I purchased recently and wanted to show you. You could use spathiphyllum or peace lilies, snake plants, parlor palms, grape ivy (cissus), and so many more. The choices are endless.

Make a container

While these are all back in the house after repotting, they could have easily gone into a nice container for a shady spot in the garden. These are just a few of the plants that could be used, but the houseplant section of the garden center is full of great plants that would work for your shade containers. All the plants above would do fine with the east sun shining directly on them, but I would not put them in the full blazing sun. I hope you look at the houseplants differently the next time you walk by your local garden center’s houseplant section. Do you use low light houseplants in your shade containers?

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  1. Patricia Burrell

    I use shade perennials and annuals in my containers but not house plants because I would be concerned about how to effectively debug them to bring them indoors for winter. Wouldn’t want to loose money on shade plants that aren’t hardy although I guess I loose all the money I spend on impatiens and coleus for my shaded yard any way every season. Will you bring the plants you purchased indoors for winter?

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Patricia. I don’t use them outside. I brought those all inside. I wish I could use them, but then I feel, like you, that I have to bring them inside. I wish I could look at them like I do my annuals.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I don’t usually bring them inside as I have so many inside already. I use them as annuals and then usually discard them like the annuals.


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