Coloring a Shady Entry for Your Holiday Potted Garden

Butterfly Iris, Geraniums, Bacopa and White Alyssum

Do you have a front door that is crying for some easy-care color? This pot arrangement might just do the trick, especially for your holiday potted garden. For instant gratification, the nurseries should be spilling over with Cyclamen, Geraniums and Bacopa in the greenhouse.  

Choose a pot that is at least 18” in diameter. I prefer you go up another 2-4” but see what you like that you want to use for the holidays. Fill the bottom of the pot with your favorite potting soil (after making sure you have a good drainage hole and that you cover it with a screen or coffee filter) and add some time-released fertilizer. 

Decide if the pot will be seen just from one side or all around and plant in the following order back to front, or center out.  

The Thriller

First, take the Butterfly Iris out of its nursery container and be sure to loosen up the roots as they are usually packed. A Fortnight lily will work just as well but as the plant matures, the leaves become much broader and I prefer the “grassy” appearance of the Iris. Plant the Iris in the back or center of the pot. 

The Filler

Look for Cyclamen or Geraniums in gallon containers that are already eight inches tall. Decide if you want all red or a mixture of red and white. If you buy gallon plants, you will need three. If quart or 4” plants, buy a total of 5. 

Plant the Cyclamen (if planting front to back you only may need three) closely around the Iris. 

The Spiller

Variegated Vinca (either gallon or a  jumbo pack is what you will most likely find.) is a ground cover but works especially well in pots as a trailing plant. You will need to remove stubborn stems that insist on growing vertically but soon you will have a nice cascading effect for your pot.  

Another option for warmer areas is Bacopa (Bridal’s Wreath). I recommend you get the equivalent of two 1-gallon plants. This would be three 4” or on the off chance you find the Vinca in six-paks, get one but just plant three individual plants.  

Then take your Vinca or Bacopa, keeping the trailers on the outside of the pot and fill in between the Cyclamen.  

Add soil as needed to snug up and the plants and water in well. 


These plants do nicely with a strong hose spray to keep problems of powdery mildew and insects at bay. Also, spray with a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks for nice growth. Cyclamen do not like their feet continually wet so be sure to not overwater. 

Place the pot outside your front door if it is in the shade or on a shady covered patio in front of your window to enjoy indoors and out! It would look very nice on a stand or table to raise it closer to eye level. You will find you only need to water the pot every few days as all of these plants have low to moderate water needs once established. 

If you feel in a decorating mood, you can add some holiday décor on stakes to the pot, put some glass beads around the base with some blue-gray river rock or add a couple smaller pots with some white or red cyclamen in them. If you find you have any dirt showing around your plants, add some sphagnum moss to cover it and dress the pot up more. 

Each of these plants is perennials however if it gets cold in your area, the Bacopa may need to be treated as an annual. I have Bacopa growing in my carport yard year-round and some have lasted for three years now! The cyclamen will stop flowering when it gets hot but you can plant something else around it in the summer and then spice up the fertilizer in the fall to get it to start flowering again. Eventually, your iris will need to be divided – probably in two years. Then you can add it to another pot. 

If you are having a holiday party, feel free to bring the pot in but be sure to get it back outside soon. You don’t want to leave it inside more than a day.  

Enjoy! Keep this pot going and it will work for Valentine’s Day also! 

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