Whimsical Woodland Mix Container for Part Shade

This woodland inspired container brings a plethora of texture and grace to a space with its mix of tall spikes, substantial hosta foliage and wispy blooms. These plants thrive in part shade with protection from the hottest afternoon sun and are mostly perennial with the exception of the begonias. The large leaves of the hosta contrast with the lush, textural foamflower that creeps throughout the container, providing the perfect backdrop for the vibrant Jacob’s ladder blooms.

Plants Featured

Jacob’s Ladder

This perennial blooms in the spring and with over two dozen varieties to choose from, you can get flowers in shades of blue, pink, purple or white. The blooms grow on upright, tall stems, adding height to containers. Jacob’s ladder does not need much maintenance, but you can prune the spent flowers or foliage back to maintain a neat appearance.

Holly Fern

This evergreen, perennial fern looks great in containers or in flower beds as a ground cover or border plant where it can take deep shade to partial sun conditions. Its leaves are deep green and shiny. Holly fern doesn’t need to be pruned often, only when it looks shaggy and leggy.


Foamflower is a perennial plant that produces pink and white flowers in spring. In this container, the foamflower acts as a filler plant, filling up the container with textured blooms and gorgeous foliage. Several species are native to the United States. Remove the blossoms when they are finished blooming.


This herbaceous perennial plant is very popular in the garden as a groundcover and in containers. Its colors vary dramatically from yellow and gold to blue-green and emerald green. Some are variegated, like we see in this particular container. The leaf texture and size also varies, some rounded or oval and others heart-shaped and elongated. The majority of hostas need shade, such as hosta ‘Great Expectations’ seen here, while others can adapt to sunnier locations. If they are happy, they will produce purple or white flowers in summertime. If you wish to plant hostas in the garden, make sure to purchase a variety that will thrive in your sun conditions.


With color options in shades of orange, pink, red, white and yellow, there are hundreds of cultivars of begonias to choose from that will bloom from summer to late fall. As an annual plant, it will not come back year after year. Deadheading begonias regularly as the blooms fade will encourage more blooms and will keep the plant looking bushy and uniform.


This perennial plant is evergreen and this variety has beautiful burgundy/purple foliage. There are other varieties with orange, blush, chartreuse and multi-colored foliage. In the spring it produces long stems with delicate white and pink flowers that dance above the foliage. When it’s done blooming, we recommend cutting the flower stalks back so more energy can go to producing leaves. If you wish to plant heuchera in the garden, it will thrive in part shade away from the hot afternoon sun.

Planting Instructions

If you’re looking to replicate this container in your own home, follow our step by step potting instructions. Here is an abbreviated version.

1. Select a container. Choose a container with drainage holes. This allows excess water to drain out of the bottom of the pot, letting the roots take in the oxygen they need to survive. When choosing a container, consider the size of the plants you’re planning to put into it. You want to allow plenty of room for root growth. The larger the pot, the more soil you can use, meaning there is more room for growth and it is easier to keep that soil moist.

2. Add Merrifield Potting Mix. We recommend using a well draining potting soil to allow adequate moisture and oxygen balance for optimal plant health. Before you pour in your soil, place a piece of landscape fabric or a coffee filter over the drainage holes in your container. This will prevent soil from leaking out of the holes. Add Merrifield Potting Mix until the container is around ⅔ full.

3. Add a slow release fertilizer. Mix a slow release plant food, such as organic Plant Tone, into the soil. This will provide a continual release of nutrients for your plants to thrive. Follow the instructions on the bag for the amount of fertilizer to add based on the size of your container. Continue fertilizing 3 or 4 times during the summer.

4. Add your plants. Before placing your plants into the soil, we suggest arranging your plants in their growers pots to see what the layout will look like when they are planted. Then, working with the tallest plant first, Jacob’s ladder in this instance, remove the growers pot and loosen the roots, tucking the plant into your fertilized soil. Continue planting with holly fern, foamflower, hosta, begonia and coral bells in the same way. As you’re planting, you can tuck in more potting soil as you need it. The goal is to keep the soil around 1” below the lip of the container when you are finished planting.

5. Top dress your container. Use decorative rocks or mulch in a thin layer over the surface of your soil to help retain moisture, keep critters out of the soil, and keep the soil in the pot when watering.

6. Water thoroughly. After everything is planted, water thoroughly until the soil is moist and water comes out of the drainage holes of your container. If you’re placing the container on a wood surface like a deck or a balcony, we suggest using a saucer or plant toes or plant feet to keep the container lifted off of the ground so that excess water does collect under your pot and potentially damage your surface.

7. Fertilize throughout the growing season. We recommend reapplying Plant Tone two or three times during the growing season, pouring it directly on top of the soil. Supplement this feeding by adding liquid fertilizer every 3 or 4 weeks. If you’re using a decorative soil cover, push it aside to place the Plant Tone directly on the soil surface. Follow the instructions on the bag for the amount to apply for continual feeding.

Ongoing Care


The plants in this container will thrive with moist soil. You do not want the soil to completely dry out or remain soaking wet. In general, you will likely need to check the soil for water every 1 to 2 days. Use your finger to reach into the soil a few inches deep and feel if the soil is wet or dry. If the soil is beginning to dry out, water thoroughly until the soil is totally saturated and feels like a soaking wet sponge and water runs through the drainage holes of the container.


If you’re planting in a high quality planter, such as wood, well-fired ceramics or frost resistant terracotta, your plants will likely overwinter just fine, provided the pot is elevated off the ground using plant toes or plant feet to prevent water from collecting and cracking the pot. If we’re expecting severe winter weather in our area, we recommend wrapping the container in bubble wrap and burlap or insulating a group of containers in mulch to provide extra root protection.