This guide is part of our in-depth coverage into growing healthy potted plants, both inside and outside the home.
We recommend starting with Smart Tips for Growing Healthy Pot Plants at Home.
Then move on to our comprehensive guide to the best pot plants for the home gardener, starting with part one.
Large pot plants for privacy screening
If you live in an apartment block or units, there may be occasions when you require a visual privacy screen. A large potted plant in a container could be the easy solution to this problem.
The major issue when growing such plants are the light conditions. Choose a plant that will be suitable for the light conditions that prevail and you will decrease any potential growth problems.
Also make sure the area where you will be placing your potted plant will tolerate any excess water dripping or flooding, as accidents can happen. A self-watering pot is the easiest way to grow a potted plant.
We will list a number of large pot plants suitable to use as visual screens throughout this guide.
Please also see our post on Growing Metrosideros Hedging Plants for more ideas.
Ficus Benjamina (weeping Fig)
One screening plant that is very versatile is the Ficus Bejamina plant which can be used as an indoor plant, patio plant or grown outdoors.
Ficus will grow into trees when in the natural wild and will grow to a large size when planted in a large pot. It is suitable for both shady and sunny positions and makes an excellent screening plant for privacy.
We have written at some length about the virtues of this lovely plant in part 6 of our Best Potted Plants series. Please visit this page to read all about growing healthy Ficus plants.
Murraya “Orange jessamine” potted screen plant
If you are looking for are larger growing shrub to grow in a container, then have a look at the Murraya paniculata “Orange jessamine”.
Murraya is commonly used as a hedge and screening plant in gardens in temperate and subtropical climates. However, it also makes a great potted screen plant for around the house.
Murraya grows very thickly with glossy green leaves. White perfumed flowers develop in spring & summer in temperate climates and in tropical climates they flower all year.
Murraya grows best in full sun, however they will also grow in semi-shade spots, this makes them a great plant for a balcony which gets intense sun for part of the day.
Murraya will grow to around 2m in a very large pot. It is worth planting them in a large pot, this prevents the wind blowing them over and allows the plant to grow to a good size. Purchase an advanced plant for your pot as these plants can be a bit slow growing in the early stages.
Murraya pot plants require regular fertilising to keep them looking good, they can turn yellow over time if not fed. Fertilising will also assist with the development of flowers and keep the plant looking generally healthy. Liquid feeding during watering is the best way to fed potted Murraya plants.
Under helpful conditions Murraya plants will live around a dozen years or longer in a pot.
We have written about “Orange Jessamine” previously in the first part of our Hedging Plants Guide.
Care of Murraya “Orange jessamine” pot plant:
To care for your potted Murraya plant, plant it into a good quality potting mix. Azalea/Camellia potting mix is a good choice. Make sure you use a long lasting slow release fertiliser.
Plant into a self-watering pot if possible as these plants look best when regularly watered. Fertilise your Murraya with a liquid fertiliser, a seaweed based fertiliser with NPK is a good choice. Under usual conditions you may need to liquid feed once every two weeks, just add some to your watering can when watering.
Slow release fertilisers used on the surface also work well, however they work best when activated by water, so they are only good for outdoor situations, open to natural rainfall.
Pests are not usually a problem with Murraya, but you may get some soil borne grubs and aphids. Systemic pest sprays are usually quite affective for these, consult your local nursery on the sprays available in your area.
Plants which have grown to the required size may need pruning. Pruning is best done during the growing season (spring and summer in temperate climates) when plants are actively growing.
Lilly Pilly Cascade colourful screening pot plant
A very colourful shrub which is great as a large potted screen plant is the Lilly pilly “Cascade”(pbr).
Lilly pilly “Cascade” is a thick growing Australian native plant with weeping foliage. The leaves are a lime green colour and the new growth a vibrant pink. The pink new growth develops at the tips of the branches and covers the plant. It is one of the best large pot plants for privacy screening if you want plenty of colour.
This new growth generally only occurs during the cooler months, but can develop at any time when the plant is actively growing.
The flowering period of this shrub is very vibrant and ‘showy’, with pink fluffy flowers developing in spring.
Lilly pilly “Cascade” grows best in full sun, however they can grow in semi-shade situations. Plants grow very quickly in good conditions.
“Cascade” can grow to around 2.5m in a large pot. They are best suited to large pots with good weight. Because the plant grows so thickly it has a tendency to be blown over in strong winds, so use a heavy large pot if possible.
“Cascade” is quite a hardy plant, but good watering is required to keep them looking optimum. A large self-watering pot will supply them with a constant source of water and plants will grow quickly under such conditions. You will probably need to prune your “Cascade” at some stage to thicken up the foliage.
A good tip prune with some hedging shears is the best approach for a potted “Cascade”. Pruning is best done after flowering. Plants can live are 10 years in a large pot.
Again, Lilly Pilly have come up before in Part 3 and Part 4 of our extensive piece on Hedging Plants. It is this very suitability for forming a hedge that makes them one of the best large pot plants for privacy screening.
Care of Lilly Pilly “Cascade” pot plants:
To care for your Lilly pilly “Cascade”, make sure you plant them into a large broad pot with a good quality potting mix. Use a long lasting slow release fertiliser in the mix.
You may also need to use a liquid fertiliser to maintain good growth. A seaweed based NPK liquid fertiliser is best. Feed every two weeks with a watering can.
Pests are not a big problem, but you may get some “Curl grubs” in the pot. These can eat the roots of the plant, but can be controlled using various methods. Scale insects are a common problem, but usually do not damage the plant to any great extent. Use white oil to control these.
Lilly pilly “Cascade” responds very well to pruning and older plants can be rejuvenated by a good prune after flowering in spring.
Magnolia Little gem – a container tree suitable for large pots
“What’s that beautiful perfume”? – a question often posed when walking into a garden planted with a Magnolia “little gem”.
The perfume is jasmine like and wafts around the garden on the summer breeze. The flowers of Magnolia “little gem” are one of its main features. The flowers are large, around 20cm across and vibrant white in colour.
Unlike many other Magnolia varieties, “Little Gem” flowers for an extended period and in some warm situations it may flower all year! And thankfully for us, “Little Gem” Magnolia trees make fabulous pot plants and are one of the best large pot plants for privacy screening.
Magnolia “Little gem” is a dwarf Magnolia growing around 4m tall if planted in the ground. In a very large pot they will grow around 2.5m tall. “Little gem” plants naturally have a conical shape if left unpruned.
Generally they grow with a single stem and for all intense purposes look like a mini tree in a pot. Magnolia “Little gem” is evergreen and the foliage is dense making them a good visual screen plant. The leaves are emerald green colour, glossy, with a brown underside.
The leaves are much smaller than the larger growing Magnolias.
Magnolia “Little Gems” are best grown in full sun situations. The best climates for these trees are temperate (with mild winters) and warm temperate regions. They will also grow in some subtropical areas with low summer humidity.
In areas with high summer humidity they can get mildew problems on the leaves.
When potting use a large pot, for water holding, or get a large self-watering pot (these can be hard to find, unfortunately). Although Little Gem plants are quite hardy in a pot, they do require regular watering in summer and will drop leaves if they dry out. So use a good potting mix and possibly some water crystals if using a standard pot.
In good conditions Magnolia “Little gem” can live in a pot for around 10 years or more.
Care of Magnolia “Little Gem” pot plants:
To care for your “Little gem” Magnolia house plant, pot it with a good quality potting mix, Azalea/Camellia mix is preferred by Magnolias. Use a long lasting slow release fertiliser or around 12 months.
These plants usually only grow in the warmer months and can grow quite quickly with care and water. Fertilise with a liquid fertiliser if you prefer and once a fortnight is usually sufficient. Seaweed based NPK fertilisers will enhance growth, enhance flowering and extend the life of these plants in a pot.
Pests are not usually a problem with these trees, however they can get scale insects and mildew on the leaves. Generally they are very easy to care for if watered regularly.
“Little gem” can be pruned and usually tip pruning is the best approach, however pruning is not usually required if the plant has been grown correctly at the nursery. Pick a plant that already has the shape you want, as it can be hard to reshape them.
Pruning is best done during the growing season. Pruning will remove flowers, generally these plants flower constantly, so new flowers will develop in a couple of months. Avoid areas with heavy frosts in winter and grow in a open sunny spot for best results.
Thuja occidentalis (smaragd) conifer pot plants
Conifer plants can make great pot plants and Thuja occidentalis “smaragd” is one of the best to grow in a pot.
Thuja “smaragd” is a dwarf conifer which as a garden plant will grow from 2 to 4m tall. In a pot they can be kept as small as 60cm. The pot size seems to limit the growth of these little conifers. So, if you use a small pot they will stay small.
Personally, we think they look much better and live longer in a larger pot of around 60cm wide or larger. Generally, they will grow to around 1m in a large pot.
Thuja occidentalis “smaragd” is an evergreen conifer with very thick dark green foliage. The plant is very compact and has a beautiful conical shape which can be enhanced by a light tip prune of the foliage.
Thuja “smaragd” grows best in full sun situations or at least long hours of sunlight. This conifer will grow in cool temperate, temperate and warm temperate climates. Frosts do not normally affect it to any great extent.
This dwarf conifer is very easy to care for and is quite tolerant to all sorts of climatic variations. They can grow in climates with cool winters and then withstand hot dry summers.
Although this is a hardy little plant and seems to cope without water for long periodds, it is best to water them well in hot weather otherwise one day you may find that they just give up and drop dead!
When this plant is under moisture stress it will start to turn brown and drop tiny leaves. This can be fixed by some good deep watering, however if left for weeks without water there will be a point that they do not regenerate.
However, this is a very good pot plant and with a small amount of care can live in a pot for decades under good conditions.
Care of Thuja “smaragd” pot plants:
To care for your Thuja “smaragd” potted house plant make sure you use a good quality potting mix. A long lasting slow release fertiliser is effective when mixed through the mix.
Make sure that your pot has good drainage holes in the base as these plants like good drainage. Use a saucer in summer to keep up moisture during hot periods. You can use liquid fertilisers once every fortnight. Seaweed based NPK fertilisers will enhance growth and extend the life of these plants in pots.
Slow release fertiliser spread on the surface will also help these plants develop dense foliage over time.
Pest problems for Thuja “smaragd” are minimal and they seem to be resistant to most pests. We have seen scale insects develop on the plants in shaded spots and sometimes “Mealy bugs”, but both of these seem to only develop when the plant is under stress.
So keep your plant healthy and grow it in an open sunny spot. Balcony positions are fine as long as there is sufficient sun. These last 2 factors make it one of the best large pot plants for privacy screening purposes.
Gordonia tree – a visual screen house pot plant
Many people know the Gordonia (or fried egg plant) as a large garden shrub, but it also makes a good potted screen plant.
Gordonia plants are large spreading shrubs with thick glossy leaves, similar to camellia shrubs. In the garden Gordonia shrubs grow to around 5m tall and in a pot around 3m in a very large pot. This is a handy plant to grow in spots which get sun and shade during the day.
Gordonia plants can grow in part shade to full sun conditions and can grow quite quickly during the growing season. These plants can grow to a good size so a large pot is required, with plenty of room for root growth.
Gordonia pot plants will flower in winter in most temperate and warm temperate climates. The flowers are white with a yellow centre and numerous. New growth will then develop very quickly after flowering.
When purchasing your Gordonia make sure you purchase one with a good shape, it can be hard to reshape them otherwise, although they do respond to pruning well. Pruning plants after flowering will enhance the shape of these plants as stems can go a bit haphazard at times.
Stop any pruning around late spring to give plants time to develop flowers for next season. Gordonia plants are quite hardy and generally easy to care for. Water well during the summer.
Plants can live for around 10 years in a large pot under good conditions.
Care of Gordonia pot plants:
To care for your Gordonia potted house plant make sure you use a good quality potting mix with slow release fertiliser. Azalea/Camellia potting mix is best as Gordonia plants, like Camellias, prefer acid soils.
Fertilise with a liquid fertiliser for best results. Seaweed fertilisers with NPK are excellent for these plants and will develop lush foliage and good flowering. Liquid feeding once a fortnight is usually sufficient.
Gordonia plants respond well to pruning, but it is best done only after flowering if you want to develop flowers for the next year. Otherwise you can prune anytime during the warm part of the year.
There are not too many pest problems with Gordonia plants. Scales and Mealy bugs seem to be the only major pests. Aphids also can do damage to the soft new growth in early spring, so keep an eye out for these.