What Kind of Plants Do Well in Containers and Provide Privacy?


The root structures and growth habits of many plants make them candidates for container cultivation. Large shrubs, vigorous vines and small-to-medium trees perform well in containers when their cultural needs are met. Tubs of evergreen trees, potted shrubs and large containers of vines provide privacy for a balcony, deck or patio. Plain or highly decorative containers large enough to support the plant are attractive accents.

Container Basics

  • Inadequate soil volume in containers subjects roots to cold, heat and drought. Two cubic feet of soil for each square foot of mature plant canopy in an adequately spacious container buffers temperature extremes. Large plastic or glazed-ceramic saucers protect deck or patio surfaces from water drainage. Container weights are considerable with mature, well-watered plants. Balconies and decks must be structurally capable of supporting the finished container garden. Locally suited and native plants perform best in containers.

Evergreen Trees

  • The slow-growing Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra) is dense and pyramidal in youth. Klein with violet-blue cones reaches 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide. The Japanese red pine (P. densiflora) is a rapid grower in youth. Compacta and Unbraculifera reach 12 to 20 feet tall and 18 feet wide. Mugo pine (P. mugo mugo) slowly reaches 4 to 8 feet high and 15 feet wide. Yew trees (Taxus) provide heavy cover with vertical growth. T. baccata “Adpressa” spreads 6 to 8 feet wide at 4 to 5 feet tall. Pines and yews are widely adapted, cold hardy, dense evergreen trees for container privacy planting.

Evergreen Shrubs

  • Holly (Ilex) plants provide prickly, evergreen foliage for privacy and added security. Choose from among several varieties. Arborvitae (Thuja) shrubs have tidy, symmetrical growth habits. T. occidentalis are especially cold hardy. Brandon is a rapid grower to 15 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide, creating an effective privacy screen. Emerald reaches 15 feet tall and 4 feet wide, holding its bright green color through winter. Boxwood (Buxus) shrubs are effective trained as topiary. Mentor barberry (Berberis x mentorensis), growing 5 feet tall and wide, displays purple fall foliage.

Vigorous Vines

  • Annual common morning glory creates an effective temporary screening anywhere. The widely adapted fiveleaf akebia (Akebia quinata) reaches 30 feet tall and is evergreen in mild-winter regions. Vigorous, flowering clematis plants include the evergreen C. armandii, which sports fragrant, white blossoms in the spring. The evergreen Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is suited to warm-winter regions. It grows to 30 feet, creating a dense screen with fragrant, white flowers during a long season. Bougainvillea vines are evergreen where adapted. Richly colored, long-seasoned flowers and thorny stems provide color, screening and a measure of security.

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