Tall Outdoor Plants In Containers For Privacy.

I had this problem to solve, I needed screening privacy for my deck, patio, pool and my air conditioning unit, but was renting. After looking for inspiration, brainstorming and
much research, this is the solution I came up with.

Versatile, portable, and effective plants in pots to the rescue.

When you want to screen for privacy, a few fast-growing favorites planted in pots, containers, or troughs are:

  • bamboo, clumping or spreading
  • pampas grass
  • Schipka laurel
  • red twig/ yellow twig dogwood
  • dog fennel
  • Elephant ear
  • Mandevilla
  • Emerald Green Arborvitae
  • Karl Forester grass
  • Spartan Juniper
  • Fineline Buckthorn
Block Your Neighbors, Screening 4 Your Pool, Deck, Balcony...

How to find “The One”

Which you choose depends on many factors. The first thing to consider is when do you need screening. Just for the summer? Do you need screening all year? Thick screening in summer but need only thin screening in the winter months?

Summer screening only plants:

  • Tall grass, such as Karl Forester
  • Dog fennel
  • elephant ear- Colocasia and Alocasia
  • Mandevilla
  • Thunbergia vine ( needs support)
  • Pillar hibiscus

Winter screening plants:

  • Arborvitae
  • bamboo
  • pampas grass
  • Schipka laurel
  • Spartan Juniper

Container Choice

After you have focused on your screening needs, next, what type of containers are best to use? Many medium to large individual containers (20 gal or 20 inches plus) will be more portable than a single, very large, long, trough containers, if that is a consideration. How will this affect your visual design? For the plants to thrive and for stability, the wind not knocking them over, the largest that fits into your other considerations is absolutely the best. Remember, these pots will have tall, dense plants in them, on purpose, which will act like a sail and catch the wind. You want solid heavy containers so there will be no worries!

If you choose plants that will THRIVE where you need them, they will be amazing! If you fall in love with a plant and try to push the envelope on cold hardiness, heat tolerance, and sunlight tolerance and ask it to fit into a growth environment it is not adapted to, not only will it not look good, but it will be so much work to keep alive! You will never want to do it again. What is the fun in that?

“I’m dying of thirst here!!!” or, where is the water coming from? You did remember they are going to need water, right?

The larger the pot, the longer it will hold water. Smaller pots might require water 2 times a day! Get the largest pot that will fit the proportions of your space and your budget can supportr. You will thank me!

Or Automated watering, click here to find out about that!

“Again???” or, will I have to plant it every year?

This is where you choose between annuals (plant every year), and perennials and shrubs (live several years). Who would choose to do the work and expense of new plants every year? Because annuals have a huge bang for the buck! Some can get huge in a very short time and given half a chance they will bloom and bloom and bloom, and oh yeah, bloom some more! Thumberginia is included here! Include perennials for their long-lasting foliage and structure, ( you can get year-round foliage in this group, and if they bloom, bonus!)

“MOM, he’s touching me!!!!” or remembering to leave elbow room.

Even the massive St Bernard, was a cute, tiny puppy once. Plants grow. Some fast, some slow, some small, some monstrous! Look at the tag and believe it! With experience, you will know under which situations the rules can be broken. (Or ask a knowledgeable and friendly plant groupie at your local garden center).

Just because you saw it in a magazine or on Pinterest, doesn’t mean it will work in real life. I know, and yes it does look awesome, but water lilies and cacti don’t have the same likes in growing conditions…disaster!!

“Hey, you’re a slob!!” or, will it drop leaves into the pool?

This is a consideration easily overlooked! If you are screening a pool, choose evergreens, and low mess plants. Blooms will also drop and drop/blow into your water. Grasses, including bamboo, is a great choice!

How large or mature (read expensive) to buy your plants? How tall do you want your living screen? The same consideration as if you were planting in the ground, or building a fence, remember to consider the container height, and it gives you a jump start!

If you want to know if you need saucers, click here to read a short bit I wrote to answer that question.


Toni has a bachelor degree in Plant & Soil Science, has lived, gardened and growing all over the US, in Vermont, Tennessee, Idaho, coastal North Carolina and Virginia. She has been sharing her knowledge through writing, one on one consulting and talking to anyone who wants to listen at social gatherings everywhere : )

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