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Majesty Palm
Pothos and Philodendron

Creating a Tropical Container for Shade

When creating any container, there are several factors to consider that will affect the overall impact. Color, of course, is a high priority when trying to achieve a tropical look. There are other details to consider though such as pattern, shape, texture and movement. Considering these will help you create a container you can’t take your eyes off of all summer!

Understanding “thriller, fillers and spillers” will help you to create an eye-catching combination. The “thriller” is the plant that not only brings height to the container, but is also the standout. It’s the plant you normally notice first. “Fillers” are shorter than the “thriller” but equally important. They fill in space while also bringing some element (texture or color) to complement the other plants. “Spillers” are trailing plants. The perfect “spiller” can have a wonderful effect as it cascades over the edge of the container.

You can create your own stunning container with as little as three plants…or feel free to use more! Just remember the elements mentioned above and consider the shady tropical plant suggestions below:


Cordylines – the deep red leaves of ‘Florica Red’ Cordyline lend dramatic color that only gets better as the season progresses.

Dracaenas - another eye-catching tropical, especially varieties such as ‘Colorama’ and ‘Limelight.’ Whichever one you choose, you are sure to be impressed by the easy-to-grow nature of these plants.

Palms - potted alone or with companions, palms are the epitome of tropical. Palms bring movement and texture to your container. Even the slightest breeze causes the fronds to rustle back and forth. Try ‘Majesty’, ‘Rhapis’, or ‘Phoenix’ palms.


Stromanthe ‘Tri Color’ – this beauty brings both color and pattern to the shade. In the evening, watch its leaves fold upward to reveal the magenta undersides.

Ferns – there are many different kinds of ferns. Each provides a unique opportunity to create texture and add a lush tropical feel to your containers. Each new frond on the ‘Autumn’ fern unfurls and takes on a bronze color. The almost wax-like shine and deeply lobed fronds of ‘Austral Gem’ ferns will bring beautiful texture to your container. If you’re looking for something that’s a little more unusual, try ‘Staghorn’ or ‘Blue Star’ ferns. Their funky fronds are sure to garner attention.

Anthuriums - there are few plants that can bloom the way anthurium do. This tropical beauty will thrive on your hot, shady porch all summer too. They can be either the filler or the thriller in a combination container. Anthuriums now come in several shades of pink, red, white, and even purple.

Crotons – the bright mixture of red, orange, yellow and green in croton leaves will dazzle you all summer. Crotons can be grown in the shade, but a little sun will bring out more color in the leaves. Try the varieties ‘Petra’ or ‘Curly Boy.’


Pothos and Philodendron – trailing pothos and philodendron are old school houseplants that can become the finishing touch on an outdoor shady container. Both vines grow quickly in our summer heat. Consider ‘Golden’, ‘Satin’, and ‘Neon’ Pothos or Philodendron ‘Cordatum.’

Angel Vine– the lacy stems of this plant are a little more airy and understated compared to big, bold pothos. Angel vine adds a delicate texture to combination containers.

Ivy – one of the most reliable shady trailers. Try traditional green English Ivy or variegated versions like ‘Glacier’ and ‘Gold Child’.

Whichever plants you choose, don’t be afraid to get creative with your containers. To see more shady tropicals or receive help putting your containers together, come on by and see us today!