Patio / Terrace plants


I'm looking for advice on what to plant in my rather large planter on my terrace.

The terrace is north facing and gets a tiny bit of northern sun, but mostly shade. It is a covered terrace so only gets the water that I give it when I'm there, so there may be spells of lack of watering.

I had some bamboo which died, and rosemary which half died so looking for something that will survive a north facing dry terrace and come back again next spring. I am thinking thyme or bay but would appreciate advice. Anything that will make the terrace a bit more inviting.



So much good advice on this forum, and such a lot to learn in the plant world. I'm down there tommorrow so I'll have a wander around the garden centre/

Bay trees are an excellent alternative. I have two in front of the house which is northwest facing and under a balcony. Need to water from time to time in summer but otherwise flourishing. I have under planted with a variety of bulbs (you can choose varieties for summer and autumn as well as spring)which bring a touch of colour throughout the year.

Hi Jim,

There's a fantastic world of shade plants out there, don't confine yourself to geraniums. You say it's a large planter, big enough for a tree? because surprisingly Acers do quite well in the shade and tolerate short bouts of drought.

Otherwise there's azaleas as mentioned, but they like their soil more acidic than most other plants so that limits companion planting.

Astilbes, dicentras. Wood anemones and bluebells (spring flowering) hostas, hydrangeas, heucheras ( fabulous foliage plants) trailing ivy, tiarella, brunnera, hellebores, lily of the valley, carex pendula (a lovely lush grass with deep green leaves), bizzie lizzies, primroses, violas, aubretias, campanula, Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' (one of my favourites, it will creep, trail and sometimes climbs, gorgeous buttery yellow foliage, not hardy but self rooted cutting overwinter quite happily in a cold frame). Cyclamen for winter colour. alchemilla mollis is another favourite, has a long flowering period and the flowers are lovely in bouquets. lamium has lovely foliage.

You can plant a combination of these for year round interest. So far as watering goes try putting a couple of nappies at the bottom of the planter as they will retain moisture for quite a while! Keep the top mulched to retain water too. I have also used upended wine bottles filled with water and pebbles to create a slow drip waterer.

I hope this helps! Have fun, shade gardens are easier than you think. P.s. sage does surprisingly well in shade as can thyme. They get spindly but the leaves are bigger.

well Brian that is interesting. Its amazing how we take our own plants and climate for granted!

I'll have a look around the garden centre and see what is there, Thanks again,


Rhododendrons and azaleas in Nepal, Borneo and a few other places I have been in are very heat tolerant, but being forest plants like shade. I have a few here that I keep well mulched with compost and damp, bearing in mind they are almost surface rooting. So try them in pots and find a load of leaf mould to put over their 'feet'. The hybrids that have developed in the UK and taken over the glens and well up the mountains now would never survive here. If you are in the right area for forest land with lots of heavy mosses, collect that and put it over the soil in the pots and cut watering back to a couple of times a week. It works here and gets mighty hot in the summer.

Hi Brian, I already have one succulent that has reproduced amazingly so I want to balance that out with some variety so I think i'll go with the geranium idea. I'm very familiar with rhododendrons (living in Scotland) and while hardy and colourful, I think they would struggle with the random watering i'm likely to give them.

I just realised I didn't mention in my post that the plants are from France so the combination of Lack of water and very hot summers are likely to kill of the poor rhoddie



Hi David,

Thanks for that advice, I had a romantic notion of using the herbs in cooking but i'll let that notion go! Someone in France suggested geranium but no more info than that so I left it, but your explanation makes the choice totally understandable. I have a local garden centre in France so I'll pop in next visit.

Many thanks


Shade loving cactuses, rhododendrons and similar cool, damp loving plants in pots, keep them quite wet but not soaking. You'll find all of the latter together in real garden centres.

I've asked my wife Jim and she suggested geraniums. Don't buy expensive ones but ones that look as if they're on their last legs. Not plug plants but the next stage on. She did that with some from the 99p store in Norwich and planted them in a container in the side return next to the kitchen in the house (terraced) in Norwich. Because of two overhanging roofs they got very little rain - and because they were between two tall Victorian terraced houses they got very little light. They went from strength to strength and I can testify to that! They put on growth year after year and were on their way to becoming shrubs (small) when we moved in 2009. They needed very little maintenance apart from picking off the dead blooms - but she did talk to them.

A bay wouldn't like it - she moved hers because it became very sad in the same conditions - it became enormous once she put it in the sun.

Thyme for the same reason wouldn't work - needs sun.