For color, try impatiens
The large flowers of New Guinea impatiens brighten a lightly shaded spot. Here, a pure white impatiens (repeated in the companion pot) is accented with the frilly burgundy and pink leaves of 'hilo holiday' rex begonias, part of the Great American Cities series of rex begonias. The feltlike, gray-green leaves of 'Silver shield' plectranthus argentatus (also called silver plectranthus) grow on long stems that will trail downward. The neutral color of the plectranthus pairs well with many other plants.
All three of these do well with bright shade (morning sun is OK). Keep the soil evenly moist but not overwatered. Fertilize once or twice a month.
A mix of textures
In areas that are bright but receive no direct sun, the large blossoms of tuberous begonias make striking container plants. The round blooms contrast well with the spiky variegated leaves of common spider plants Chlorophytum comosum). The tiny leaves and blooms of 'palace blue' lobelia add a third texture and dimension. Lobelia may go dormant during the heat of summer but will perk up when temperatures cool.
Let the container get barely dry to the touch before watering. Add a slow-release fertilizer to your potting soil, or fertilize about once a week with a liquid bloom booster.
Dragons and herbs
Containers are an easy way to house an herb garden. Here, a rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) topiary tree centers the container. The rosemary's short spikes complement the elongated, shiny leaves and prolific red blooms of 'Dragon wing' begonias. The third spot goes to 'icterina' golden variegated sage (Salvia officinalis). Herbs do best in full sun, but the begonia likes just a little bit less intensity.
To keep all three happy, expose them to about four hours of sun per day with the rest of the time in bright, indirect light. Snip the sage and rosemary for cooking. A few weeks before fall frost, you can transplant the sage into the ground, or bring the herbs indoors for the winter.
A trio to beat the heat
This tough combination is nearly foolproof. It stands up well to intense, direct sun as long as you keep it watered. The centerpiece is a spiky 'variegatum' new zealand flax (Phormium tenax). Clustered around the edge are purple ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum) and yellow lantana (Lantana camara). The number of plants you'll need depends on the size of your container.