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Best Container Plants For Creating Privacy

Elephant Ears have huge leaves for natural privacy screening

Excited by new trends in outdoor living and a desire to connect to nature, gardeners across the country are extending outdoor living areas. You can create a garden room using your deck, patio, porch or balcony. Extend your living area into a serene, private space with the help of container grown plants. If you’ve always wanted to create a little oasis, you can use flowers and foliage planted in containers to create the perfect retreat.

Finding The Best Plants For Natural Privacy

When you’re trying to create a private space with container plants, consider the view you wish to block at eye-level – whether that is standing or seated. If you're surrounding a seating area or table, look for plants that reach eye level while sitting. If you are working to obsure an unsightly view, you can use taller plants to block and redirect your gaze. The benefit of planting in containers is that you can place them on top of tables to help your foliage reach new heights! 

Once you’ve decided how you wish to achieve a sense of privacy, it’s time to look at plant choices! At American Meadows, we offer over 100 container-happy perennials, with plenty of choices for your unique growing conditions. When searching, look d plants that exhibit several of the following characteristics:

  • Strong Foliage – When planting for privacy, it's important to look for plants with lush foliage. Grasses, Shrubs, and Elephant Ears are some of the best plants for long-lasting foliage.
  • Beautiful Form and Color – As an extension of your living space, consider which colors of both flowers and foliage you would like to see in your space. 
  • Height – Use the filters on the shopping page to find plants that will grow as low or as tall as you need. 
  • Four-Season Interest – Why not plant for enjoyment throughout the year?
  • Drought Tolerant – You may want to consider this if you sometimes forget to water!

With those characteristics in mind, let’s look at a few suggestions for some of the best container plants to create privacy in your outdoor oasis!


Container-Happy Shrubs For Privacy

Shrubs are terrific choices to create privacy as they are often well branched, have an exciting flowering season (sometimes with scent!), and can bring a sense of traditional hedging to a small space. When grouped with smaller container plants or layered with other shrubs, they provide the backbone needed to make more from less. One of the most important thingst to look for with shrubs is the mature size – including width. You don’t want to be crowded off your patio by a mature shrub! That being said, their flowers, foliage, and year-round visual interest make them an excellent feature of an outdoor retreat. They'll attract birds and butterflies as well, adding a new layer of serentiy to your garden.

Some shrubs like Elderberry are quite happy to pruned into the shape of small trees, adding a 'canopy layer' to your private retreat with flowers! Make sure you research when it’s best to prune your shrub so you don’t end up cutting off the potential flower buds.

Along with flowering often comes scent. Fragrance will add an intoxicating effect to any garden, but is particularly noticeable in a small, enclosed space. Consider planting a few scented shrubs to stagger bloom time and keep that scent throughout the season.

When the autumn arrives, chances are you’ll still want to use your private retreat. Planting shrubs with good fall foliage and autumn or winter bark color ensures you’ll keep bringing out the drinks and candles until temperatures really drop.

Best Privacy Container Shrubs


Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bushes are true to their name, attracting an outstanding variety of winged pollinators. Pruning them back hard in the early spring will ensure a strong structure, but if space is an issue, you can use dwarf cultivars; or create mini-trees with larger cultivars by pruning out lower branches and encouraging a bushier shrub at eye-level. Drought-tolerant.


Though you might not think of Lavender as a shrub for privacy, many of the larger hybrid lavenders such as Provence can grow three feet tall. Pair this with a large container and you’ll have glorious scent and color throughout the season – lavender foliage is almost as fragrant as the flowers. Trim it back after its first bloom in spring, and it is likely that you’ll have blooms in late summer too. Drought-tolerant.


Native to the edges of Northeast woodlands, Elderberry is a wonderfully versatile shrub that is beautiful throughout the seasons in foliage colors of green, gold and nearly black. Enjoy the panicles of edible flowers in spring, then use the berries in summer to make jam or homemade wine. Moisture lover.


Hydrangeas are a beloved garden shrub with large clusters of flowers that are great for inside vases. They maintain a great branching habit, and often sport good fall color. Hydrangeas make wonderful container plants but require a generous hand with the watering wand. Consider mophead varieties for consistent structure, or use large panicle hydrangeas to create a generous amount of privacy and pizazz. Tolerates part-shade.

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Container-Happy Grasses For Privacy

Grasses are becoming increasingly popular for containers. New trends in meadow gardening transform urban spaces into natural, wildlife-friendly gardens. Grasses provide a great deal of movement to the container garden, and can easily hide a difficult view in a way that doesn’t seem blocky or forced. They can be effective blockers of street noise while adding a pleasant rustling sound of their own to the balcony or patio. As a bonus, they’re often drought resistant, and can do well in the harsher conditions of a container. Many are self-supporting, and when paired with a beautifully shaped container can create a focal point that is almost more ‘art’ than garden. If you’re looking for a lighter, less formal touch, adding grasses to your private retreat might be the answer.

When selecting a container grass for privacy, your first consideration should be height without the tendency to flop. There are lots of wonderful medium grasses (4-5’) that are self-supporting, but the container gardener has even more from which to choose. Small grasses (1-3’) paired with a large container might just give you all the height you need.

Grasses don’t just grow up – they grow out too. Look at the mature width of a grass and its shape. Nothing is worse than wispy foliage tickling your nose while you enjoy a late evening drink. There are many grasses with a more vertical form – like ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass – giving you height without all the bulk.

Best Privacy Container Grasses

Miscanthus Grass

Choose medium cultivars of the vase-shaped maiden grasses when choosing for containers such as Morning Light Miscanthus or Purple Miscanthus. Foliage is most often very narrow and comes in a variety of colors from variegated, to gold banded, to light cream. These grasses will make an effective but gentle screen, and when flower plumes appear in mid- to late-summer the effect is magical.

Pampas Grass

Popular in seaside towns for its ability to tolerate salt, Pampas Grass can make its home in a variety of soils, as long as it can spend plenty of time in the warm sun. A statuesque plant, its ornate, flowering plumes are always eye-catching and look almost weightless as they bend and sway in the breeze. Generally considered to be a large and fast-growing grass, Dwarf Pampas varieties offer a shorter choice for suburban, small-space and container gardeners.



Switchgrasses are native, clump-forming grasses with a strongly upright habit – terrific for maintaining a privacy screen without extra bulk. They form light, airy panicles of silvery-red bloom in late summer and are well-suited to drier conditions. Choose cultivars like Ruby Red or Shenandoah Red to bring late summer color to your natural screen.

Fountain Grass

A constant favorite for containers, fountain grasses come in many sizes and add soft, colorful interest while gently screening tough views. Many are extremely colorful and work as effective accents with other perennials, such as Purple fountain grass. Large, fluffy seed heads in varying shades of soft pink and taupe add to the display as summer draws on. Some species will be hardier than others, so research this group carefully.

Feather Reed Grass

Feather reed grasses can add a sharp, vertical accent, or a wider, softer one, depending upon the species. Unlike other grasses, moisture retentive soil is best for this grass – particularly in containers. ‘Karl Foerster’ is perhaps the best known of this group and will create strong architectural lines for your patio design.

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Flowers and Bulbs For Containers

It’s not just about tall grasses and shrubs! There are many perennials and annuals you can use in your containers to enahnce privacy while creating texture and introducing exciting colors Plus, if you use 'risers' like pots, tables, boxes, etc., to create staggered heights, you can use just about any well-shaped plant to create a private garden feel.

When choosing container annuals and perennials for privacy, look for those that have a good structure all season and are able to support their own weight against winds. They’ll be more vulnerable in taller containers than they would be in the ground.

If the perennials will overwinter in place, choose those whose hardiness is rated at least a zone colder than your zone. In cold climates, some great plants that grow from tropical bulbs, like Canna Lilies or Elephant Ears, can be overwintered easily in a dormant state for next year.

Best Privacy Container Flowers & Bulbs For Containers

For a meadow-like feel:

For movement, sound and wildlife habitat, consider placing containers of long-blooming meadow favorites such as ConeflowerBlack-Eyed Susan or Bee Balm in front of containers of medium grasses. Add some annual seeds of Cosmos, Sunflowers, or Zinnias and you’ll attract pollinators while blocking difficult views with beauty.

For a classic, colorful feel:

Some well-loved, vigorous perennials such as Shasta Daisies or Asiatic Lilies adapt beautifully to large containers – giving you strong foliage and great flowers. When containers are grouped together with larger shrubs such as hydrangea, you can create a formal look, stagger bloom times and block views.

For a lush, tropical feel:

Try large foliage annuals such as Canna Lilies or Elephant Ears which grow vigorously and often don’t need any help from other larger plants to block views – especially when strategically placed in groups. They’re moisture lovers, so keep that hose on standby and add to the jungle effect with large Ferns or Hostas.