I enjoy my outdoor space and take full advantage of the little room I have. But, there’s one issue that I’ll never get used to: The lack of privacy!
To solve this problem, I sought out to learn more about the best container plants for privacy screens. Come to find out, many plants are suitable for the task!
From voluminous bushes to dense grasses, I’ve outlined some of my favorite plants below.
Bamboo is the quintessential privacy plant. Technically a grass, bamboo is capable of growing very tall! Some variants can grow up to 25 feet, making it a suitable choice for multi-story dwellings.
Best of all, bamboo grows fast. These plants reach impressive heights in only a few years. On top of that, they stay green in the right growing conditions.
Speaking of which, bamboo is highly adaptable. While most cultivars do best in temperate climates, there are some cold-hardy ones, too. The most cold-resistant cultivar can tolerate temperatures as low as minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit!
Needless to say, there are plenty of options for your privacy screen. For tall running bamboo varieties, use a large 40-gallon container. It should have nearly vertical sides for easy root pruning. For bushy clumping varieties, use a 20 to 30-gallon pot.
Horsetail is another fast-growing plant that can add some drama to your patio or rooftop terrace. These grass-like plants aren’t as big as bamboo. But they’re still plenty tall. Fully grown, horsetail reeds can reach heights of five to six feet.
The plant does quite well in containers. In the wild, they can easily spread thanks to their underground rhizomes. But, the walls of a sturdy pot will keep that under control.
Horsetail plants do best in smaller containers when they’re young. You can start with a two-gallon pot, but you’ll need to upgrade to bigger containers to give the rootball room to grow.
As for the climate, horsetails grow in zones 3 through 11. They do fine in partial shade as long as they’re getting about half a day of exposure.
Here’s a vining plant that requires a bit of encouragement to create privacy. The English Ivy can produce vines as long as 100 feet! Needless to say, a trellis is a must-have.
You can train the vines to grow vertically and create a lush wall of greenery. After your first year, you may even see some yellowish blooms during the fall!
English Ivy plants don’t need a massive container. Transplant young plants in a pot that is only an inch or two bigger in diameter than the original pot. Then, mount your trellis close to the base.
These plants can grow in partial shade. But in colder climates, they might benefit from full sun exposure when possible.
Hydrangeas are gorgeous flowering perennials. The genus contains about 75 different cultivars, providing plenty of options. The plant produces large clusters of colorful flowers that vary in color. The flowers look great as a privacy screen and provide a nice aroma to your outdoor oasis!
In terms of size, some cultivars can reach heights of about 15 feet. But the main draw of the Hydrangea for privacy screens is the spread. With proper care, they can have a width of 10 feet. Furthermore, these plants have an excellent branch structure.
They do need large containers. To help it reach its full potential, you’ll need to keep the plant in a pot that’s 18 to 20 inches in diameter.
The aptly named Butterfly Bush is another plant that offers tons of color. It also attracts winged pollinators that are looking to harvest some of that sweet nectar.
Butterfly Bushes can grow to upwards of 10 feet. However, there are also dwarf varieties. These plants also do well with pruning. You can prune the plant to encourage bushier growth at eye level.
This privacy plant does require a bit of work to keep healthy. They need full sun exposure and plenty of water. Excellent drainage is a must, too. The good news is that these plants don’t need fertilization. Light fertilization is fine if you want a denser plant with more leaves. But if the blooms are what you’re after, avoid fertilization altogether.
The Elderberry plant does double-duty! Its structure and foliage provide ample privacy on a deck or terrace. However, the plant also produces edible flowers and berries!
The berries are rich in nutrients in antioxidants. Many say it’s a superfood! Either way, the berries are tasty and great for desserts and preservation.
The plant itself is dense and wide. It’s a bushy plant that can grow to 12 feet or more. Smaller varieties do best in containers. But they provide just as much privacy as their taller counterparts.
To grow an Elderberry plant, you’ll need a large container that’s at least 24 inches wide and 20 inches deep. The plants have a strong root system that needs plenty of room to spread out.
Here’s a grassy plant that’s very easy to take care of. Big Bluestems are a perennial bunchgrass. They grow in dense clusters that are about two to three feet wide. In terms of height, most cultivars can reach up to eight feet tall.
Big Bluestems make fantastic privacy screens because of their density. You can easily space several plants close together to create a living wall. In the wild, the plant can be invasive. But, managing the grass spread is much easier in a container.
The best part of Big Bluestems is their versatility. They adapt to a wide range of soil conditions and can grow well in soils that are otherwise considered “poor.”
Switchgrass is similar to Big Bluestems. These plants are bushy, tall, and very dense! Often used as an ornamental grass, it has thin and long leaves. With some cultivars, the leaves take on a vibrant color.
For the most part, Switchgrass is low-maintenance. The plant is hardy and does well in partial shade or full sun. It does require regular watering. But, the plant does a fantastic job of storing water and nutrients in times of drought.
Switchgrass can even grow in shallower soils. When you first plant the grass, get a pot that’s big enough to support a few years of growth. Then, continue to upgrade the pot as the plant becomes wider and taller.
Want a pop of color in your outdoor garden? Yellow Indiangrass is a beautiful plant that produces vibrant yellow stems and golden spikelet flowers.
Like other grasses, Yellow Indiangrass is quite dense. It doesn’t get as large as some other grasses we’ve covered. But, it’s still plenty tall to give you some privacy. On average, healthy plants will reach heights of three to seven feet. Meanwhile, it spreads to a few feet at the top.
Yellow Indiangrass does well in a myriad of different soil conditions. It even grows in heavy clays or infertile soils. That said, it prefers adequate drainage and full sun to truly flourish.
Next up, we have the iconic Elephant Ear plant. The main draw of this plant is its massive leaves. On healthy plants, an individual leaf can get as big as three feet long and two feet wide!
The leaves are waxy, green, and very eye-catching. They stand upright and catch the wind to provide some calming movement.
These plants do require some extra precautions to avoid tipping over. The container needs to be at least 18 inches wide and equally deep. Many gardeners will add some hefty stones to the bottom of the pot to prevent weight imbalances up top.
Best for those in warmer climates, Elephant Ears need ample sun exposure and warm temperatures.
Arborvitae is a popular evergreen that many landscapers use to provide some privacy. While typically used on property lines, it also grows well in containers!
The plant is conical and can grow to impressive heights. There are many types of Arborvitae trees out there, the tallest of which will reach up to 25 feet tall. However, smaller variants can be as short as three feet tall.
When it comes to width, Arborvitae spread to about three feet.
Containers need to be pretty big to house this plant. Ideally, 20-gallon containers are best. Though, you may need to go even bigger with larger cultivars.
This iconic holiday plant looks good all year long! The evergreen is commonly used for privacy hedges and fences, much like the Arborvitae. At about 10 feet tall and four feet wide at maturity, you can use them to create a dense shield against the sights and sounds of city living.
In many cases, Holly leaves are prickly. However, there are variants with smooth leaves. These plants also produce gorgeous bright red berries. But don’t eat them! They’re toxic and cause a range of uncomfortable aftereffects!
To get the best results, position your Holly plants in an area that gets at least four hours of direct sunlight. Containers should be about 10 inches in diameter for adequate growth.
With its pinkish-orange blooms, the Canna Lily is an eye-catching option that can provide some good privacy. At maturity, plants grow to heights of six feet or more. Plus, these flowering plants grow relatively quickly.
It doesn’t take long to get to a substantial height, allowing you to enjoy the privacy they provide.
To grow Canna Lillies, you’ll need a wide container that’s between 15 and 18 inches in diameter. Considerable depth is a plus. However, these flowers can grow well in shallow soil, too. You can also plant several in long baskets along a railing. Just make sure that the basket is at least 12 inches wide and long enough to accommodate root spread.
Fountain Grass is often mistaken for its more popular cousin, Pampas Grass. But, this ornamental grass plant is unique in its own right. For one it doesn’t need a massive pot. You can easily put these plants in containers with as little volume as two gallons. As long as the pot can accommodate the roots, it will do just fine!
A healthy Fountain Grass plant will grow to about three or four feet tall. It has adequate width, too, providing excellent coverage against tough views.
This plant offers plenty of beauty, too. Atop each reed, fluffy seed heads add a pop of color to your patio. There are several cultivars with vibrant colors like purple and muted tones like taupe.
Growing three to six feet tall and about three feet wide, the Princess Flower makes for an excellent patio barrier. Also known as the Glory Bush, this flowering plant produces dense branches and tons of foliage.
The best part of the plant is the blooms! Deep purple flowers appear throughout the year in warm climates. Most of the flowering will occur in the late spring and last into winter.
Hardy from zones 9 to 11, the Princess Flower requires ample room to flourish. However, it doesn’t need an overly large container. It’s best to keep the pot one to two inches larger in diameter than the root ball to manage growth.
Sometimes called the Leather Flower, Clematis plants are a long-term solution to privacy problems. It takes several years for the plant to mature and start flowering. But once you get there, you won’t regret it! Flowers are roughly six inches across. Pair that with the thick leaves and you have a dense plant that onlookers won’t be able to see through.
The Clematis is a vining plant. While there are several cultivars out there, most will produce vines between 10 and 20 feet long.
Needless to say, trellising is a must. These plants look great on tall lattice trellises and balcony railings. Start off in a gallon-sized pot and provide plenty of sun to keep them healthy.
Often associated with bitters and beer, the Hops plant is surprisingly effective in landscaping. Take one look at how it grows and you’ll see why! Hops plants have 20-foot vines that burst with thick foliage during the spring and summer seasons. They easily climb up exterior walls and fences.
To support that growth, Hops plants need room to spread their roots. 20-inch containers are the bare minimum. You’ll also need a solid trellis or a post system that can handle the weight of the vines.
Well-draining soil is essential for hops plants. They do not tolerate standing water of any kind. To promote growth, provide about an inch and a half of water per week and full sun exposure.
This coniferous tree is another favorite among landscapers. Junipers grow in a conical shape, much like a Christmas tree. The branches grow close together and develop sharp leaves that grow in whorls of three. Depending on the variety, leaves can be dark green or even bluish-gray.
The tallest Juniper cultivars can reach heights of 50 feet! That may be overkill for a privacy screen, so it’s best to stick with a smaller variety. Shimpaku Junipers are an excellent choice for containers. They are about four feet wide and just as wide.
Junipers are slow-growing plants. But they are also relatively low maintenance. Conservative pruning, access to six hours of sun, and enough water to keep the soil moist are all they need.
Rose of Sharon
The Rose of Sharon plant is an ultra-wide shrub that goes by many names. You might see these plants labeled as Chinese Hibiscus, Korean Rose, or Rose Mallow at your local nursery.
Regardless of their namesake, these plants add tons of color to your container garden. They produce wrinkly flowers of varying colors depending on the cultivar.
In terms of plant growth, the Rose of Sharon plants is quite big. Taller varieties can get up to 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Due to this massive size, the plant needs a large and stable container. They can get top-heavy when flowering, resulting in tip-overs and damage.
Chances are, you’ve seen a Boxwood shrub at some point. They are one of the most iconic privacy plants. Many upscale landscapers use them as ornamental plants for sculpting, too.
The Boxwood plant produces evergreen leaves that can last through even the harshest winters. Typically, Boxwoods are hardy as far north as Zone 6. However, some cultivars can grow well in even colder climates.
Most shrubs will reach heights of around six feet, making them perfect for privacy screens. Thanks to the branch structure and small leaves, these plants are very easy to shape. Place containers on a patio and prune regularly to create a living wall.
There are roughly 175 different Viburnum species out there. Most of them do a fine job of creating privacy. That’s because Viburnum shrubs have opposite branching. Stems and leaves sprout directly across from one another, creating a thick and uniform look.
Heights can vary dramatically based on the species of Viburnum you choose. Some of the best cultivars for container growing are the Mapleleaf and David Viburnum. Both reach heights of five to six feet.
Whatever variety you choose, use the largest container you can fit into your outdoor space! These plants have large root systems that require plenty of room to spread out.
Here’s another eye-catching plant that serves a practical purpose. The Sweet Bay plant produces aromatic leaves. They work wonders in food dishes as a seasoning.
Sweet Bay grows as either a bush or a small tree. Most varieties are slow-growers, taking several years to reach their desired height. However, the wait is well worth it. The leaves are large are evergreen. Meanwhile, the branches grow close together to create some dense vegetation.
Heights will vary based on the cultivar. Smaller plants for container growing will reach 10 feet or so. Caring for the plant is a straightforward process. They need full sun all year long and protection once the temperature drops.
The Dracaena plant is a bit different from other privacy plants. This one isn’t known for its dense vegetation. In fact, the plant grows a thin trunk in both tree and shrub form. However, the leaves are what provide privacy.
Dracaenas have thin, grass-like foliage that grows upright. The leaves burst from the trunk, creating some drama and density. Many gardeners will plant them in groups of varying height to achieve adequate privacy coverage.
In a container, Dracaenas top out at about six feet. They do exceptionally well in pots. You can even grow them indoors. All they need is a moderate amount of indirect sunlight.
This tropical flowering shrub can add pops of color to your garden. Available in hundreds of cultivars, Hibiscus flowers can take on a wide range of colors.
Most varieties will grow to a maximum of eight feet tall and roughly 5 feet wide. Hibiscus plants excel in containers. Best of all, they do just fine in smaller containers. You can use pots as small as 10 inches in diameter.
Hibiscus plants require warm temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures drop to 50 degrees or lower, growth will come to a grinding halt. Blooms can become deformed as well, so make sure you choose a variety that works for your climate.
If you want a fast-growing shrub, Skip Laurels are a good choice. These evergreen plants have an average growth rate of about 24 inches per year!
When it comes to size, Skip Laurels don’t disappoint either. They can grow to 10 to 18 feet tall. Plants will spread to a width of five to seven feet, providing some great coverage.
Spacing is key with the Skip Laurel. Placement will dictate how the plants develop over time. To create a privacy screen or windbreak, place your containers about 15 feet apart. But if you want to have a shorter and more manageable hedge, five to 10 feet apart is better.
You wouldn’t think that a succulent like the Agave could provide privacy. But, these plants get surprisingly large. Depending on the cultivar, you’re looking at upwards of 10 feet in height!
The thing that makes Agave so appealing for privacy is the leaves. Like aloe plants, the leaves of the Agave are thick and fleshy. They burst out from the base of the plant to create a lotus-like shape that’s impossible to see through.
Agave plants grow best in warm climates with full sun. They do a good job of storing water for times of drought. So, they don’t tolerate standing water. Instead, the plants prefer quick drainage and soil that stays moist.
Amaranth is an ancient plant that produces tiny seeds that many mistakes for grains. Good for food dishes, the grains offer tons of purported health benefits.
However, it’s the plant’s growth that makes it a good choice for privacy screens. Growing up to eight feet tall, these plants have large leaves and tall vertical seed pods. The pods are usually brightly colored and thick, providing ample coverage for your outdoor space.
The most important thing when choosing a container for Amaranth is the depth. Adequate width is crucial, too, but the plant has deeper roots than most. So, you’ll need to choose a pot that’s about a foot deep to help the plant reach its full potential.
This ornamental vine can transform your outdoor space! Not only does it block out those ugly sights and sounds, but it also adds a pop of color that will attract all the right attention.
Bougainvillea plants are ornamental vines. On the smaller end of the scale, vines can grow to a mere three feet long. But, the largest plants can have vines up to 40 feet long!
Foliage is green and dense. Meanwhile, blooms can be pink, yellow, and more. The vines do contain thorns, so be extra careful when positioning this plant.
Like other vining plant species, Bougainvillea requires a trellis or post system. A pot diameter of 10 to 14 inches is ideal. Bougainvillea love to be pot-bound, so they do well in smaller containers despite their size.
Fuchsia shrubs and trees are a prized possession among gardeners that have one. The jewel-like flowers dangle from strong branches, creating a whimsical look that no other flower can match!
There are thousands of Fuchsia cultivars, making it easy to choose a container-ready option. The best kinds of plants for privacy screens are going to be on the larger end of the size spectrum. Bigger plants reach heights of eight feet and can spread to about five weed wide.
Fuschia plants are hardy. But, they can be particular about the heat. Too much heat can cause flowering issues and stunted growth. Provide plenty of water and create partial shade on those super-sunny days.
Last, but not least, we have the Yucca plant. A popular houseplant, Yuccas can get bigger than most think. Smaller varieties top out at about four feet tall and equally as wide. However, bigger variants can grow to 30 feet and 25 feet wide! Yucca shrubs and dwarf trees that grow somewhere in the middle are best for container growing.
Yucca plants are large succulents. They have enormous pointy leaves. In the right conditions, large flower clusters can sprout from the base of the plant. The flowers are colorful and burst from a central stem, creating even more density for your privacy screen.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.