What type of privacy trees can I grow in pots? 5 container gardening picks that can help screen your backyard

If you're searching for solitude in your outdoor spaces, these container-grown trees could be the answer

A courtyard full of different trees in container pots
(Image credit: Getty)

There's nothing better than relaxing in your backyard on a summer's afternoon, but if your neighbor's home overlooks your outdoor space, it can be hard to feel entirely at ease. While tall fences, parasols, or privacy screens might be your go-to, greener landscaping ideas can offer a more visually appealing solution, and you don't necessarily need a sprawling garden border for them, either. 

That's because it's easy to grow beautiful bushy trees in pots to offer an extra layer of privacy from prying eyes. Whether you have a sweeping lawn with roomy flower beds or a small urban courtyard with no soil in sight, container-grown trees are the stylish landscaping idea that makes your outdoor space a private oasis reserved for your eyes only. 

Here, we asked experts about the best trees for container gardening for a private landscaping idea that allows you to enjoy some well-deserved solitude this season. 

The 5 best privacy trees to grow in pots

'Creating privacy in your backyard doesn't have to be limited to planting trees directly in the ground,' explains Lina Cowley, gardening expert at Trimmed Roots. 'Many trees can be grown in pots, making them a perfect choice for those with limited space, renters, or those looking to create privacy on patios and balconies. It can be both a practical and an attractive way to create privacy in your outdoor space, regardless of the size.'

1.  Dwarf Alberta Spruce  

Close up of a Dwarf Alberta Spruce tree

(Image credit: Getty)

We all value our privacy, especially since a moment's quietude can be hard to come by in our busy modern world. One of the best trees for privacy that will certainly make that more attainable is the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, an bushy evergreen conifer with a classic pyramid shape that is great for growing in pots. 

'The Dwarf Alberta Spruce is a compact, slow-growing evergreen tree that can reach up to 10-13 feet in height when planted in the ground but remains smaller when grown in pots,' says Lina Cowley of Trimmed Roots. 'That said, its dense foliage and conical shape make it perfect for creating a privacy screen on patios and balconies.'

With their symmetrical shape, these trees are a great way to add structure to any space, be it flanking a gate or lining a fence, and they can grow up to 6 feet in containers, helping to keep your backyard hidden. When it comes to growing them in pots, choose a large, well-draining container and fill it with a high-quality potting mix. 'Place the tree in a spot with full sun to partial shade and water regularly, ensuring the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged,' adds Lina. 'Fertilize with a slow-release granular fertilizer in spring and prune lightly to maintain its shape.' 

2.  Japanese Maple 

A red Japanese Maple tree in a white pot on decking

(Image credit: Getty)

One of the best trees to grow in pots, the Japanese Maple makes quite the spectacle thanks to its bright red ornamental leaves. 

'This tree is a great option for those who want a smaller, more decorative privacy tree,' explains Zeeshan Haider, founder of Greenry Enthusiast. 'Growing it in a pot allows you to easily move it around your yard or patio for different aesthetics. It prefers partial shade and moist soil, so be sure to keep its soil consistently moist.'

Although they lose their dense canopy of leaves in winter, Lina notes that their intricate branch structure adds interest to your space during the colder months. 'Select a dwarf or slow-growing variety, and plant it in a well-draining container filled with acidic potting mix,' she says. She also encourages positioning the tree in a spot with dappled shade to protect the leaves from scorching in hot weather. 

3. Bay Laurel  

A bay laurel tree in a square grey container pot

(Image credit: Alamy)

Bays are a traditional decorative tree for landscaping, often seen lining steps or flanking a front porch, but they're also a great plant for privacy.

'Bay Laurel is an evergreen tree with dense, glossy green foliage that can be easily shaped and pruned, making it an excellent choice for a living privacy screen,' says Lina. 'It has attractive, aromatic leaves, which can also be used for cooking, making this tree both visually appealing and functional.' 

To incorporate it in your yard, select a dwarf or compact variety and plant it in a large, well-draining container with a high-quality potting mix. 'Position the tree in a spot with full sun to partial shade and water regularly, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings,' Lina adds. 'Fertilize with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in spring and prune as needed to maintain the desired shape and size.' 

4. Olive Tree 

Olive trees are slow growing options – making them perfect for small spaces

(Image credit: Gardenesque)

An olive tree in a terracotta pot is the Mediterranean tree landscaping idea we all long for, but be wary that these trees thrive best in warmer climates. A mature olive tree will be adorned with silvery-green leaves to offer both privacy and shade, and the beautiful green tinge looks beautiful against a brick backdrop. If you're lucky, some varieties will even produce edible fruits in summer. 

'Choose a dwarf or patio-sized olive tree and plant it in a large, well-draining container with a high-quality potting mix,' Lina notes. 'Place the tree in a sunny spot and water regularly, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.' If you have windows that face onto a road or pathway, these are a great option to place in front of a window since the delicate branches will allow enough light to pass through. 

5. Emerald Green Arborvitae

Three Arborvitae trees in box planters against a white weatherboard house

(Image credit: Getty)

Another evergreen conifer that's suitable for most hardiness zones is the Emerald Green Arborvitae. 'This conical-shaped evergreen tree can grow up to 15 feet tall in a container and is perfect for creating a privacy screen,' notes Zahid Adnan, gardening expert at The Plant Bible. 

The best thing about these leafy trees is that they're relatively fast-growing. Young trees can grow around one to two feet per year, and as they age they'll gain between six and 12 inches annually, making them a perfect partner for your privacy fence within a year or two. 'When selecting a pot for your privacy tree, it is important to choose one that is large enough to accommodate the tree's root system,' Zahid points out. 'A container with drainage holes is also important to ensure proper water drainage.' As with other forms of container gardening, this means you should be prepared to report your arborvitae as it grows.

Lilith Hudson
News Editor

Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.