Most screened porches receive little or no direct sunlight, so they need to be populated with shade-loving plants. These plants need to be constantly pinched back so they don't get too spindly during the growing season. Cut any damaged, ragged or wayward branches. The foliage on shade plants will look sparse unless it is regularly fertilized. Add fertilizer in small amounts to avoid root and leaf burn. The safest way to add fertilizer to these container plants is when you repot them. Mix slow-release fertilizer into the potting soil right before potting the plants.
Containers of plants can hold more than one type of plant. Pick a few shade plants of varying height and color to mix together in your containers. Some plants to consider are flowering maple, coleus, trailing begonia, spider plant, English ivy, honeysuckle and trumpet vine. Dwarf burning bush is another good choice, but their colors will be more muted when grown in the shade. For showy summer flowers, try a couple of different species of hydrangea. Japanese yews, rhododendrons and azaleas are found in naturally shady spaces in the wild. Periwinkles and hostas thrive in shady environments. Annuals like impatiens, salvia, primrose and torenia will provide seasonal color.
Bring the feeling of the forest onto your screened porch with a collection of shade plants that thrive in the woods. Boxed crabapple, Kousa dogwood and trellised Virginia creeper give you lasting foliage. Plant an enkianthus for a splash of fall color. Plant lily-of-the-valley, bleeding heart, trillium and Virginia bluebell for shade-loving flowers in the spring. Maidenhair ferns make a great background for these blossoms. For summer color, use monkey flowers, corydalis, foxgloves and New Guinea impatiens.
Create a formal atmosphere on your screened porch by using elegant tables and benches along with the greenery of potted shrubs and small trees. Try combinations using camellia, skimmia, sarcococca, David's viburnum, boxwood, holly and yew. For summer displays, use fatsia or herbal topiaries. These topiaries grow and train quickly as well as give your porch a pleasant aroma. Variegated English ivy grows slowly and trains into different shapes. Other plants to work with are creeping figs, Myers asparagus fern, cyclamen, ranunculus and violets.
Karen Carter spent three years as a technology specialist in the public school system and her writing has appeared in the "Willapa Harbor Herald" and the "Rogue College Byline." She has an Associate of Arts from Rogue Community College with a certificate in computer information systems.