Container gardening for privacy screen


I would like to put up a privacy screen but it must be in containers and is under the shade of a maple. There is a driveway at the back with a 6 foot fence and we are looking directly into our neighbour’s house. The rest of our yard has dewyk beech along the perimeter. Is there a plant that will grow under these conditions and give us some height? Or should we use faux cedars?


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your inquiry.

If you are considering providing year round privacy then your best choice is to plant an evergreen. We receive numerous questions concerning growing evergreens in containers, entering ‘evergreens in containers‘ in the search bar will bring up a number of our archived posts.

Overwintering perennials in containers is one of the biggest challenges faced by container gardeners in our zone.  The freeze-thaw cycle is the main problem; that is, the melting of the water in the container’s soil during sunny or warmer spells, followed by freezing when the temperatures dip again.  This is what kills a plant’s roots over the winter.  Your most important starting point is the container itself: it should be as large as possible (the more soil it can contain, the more insulation it will provide.”  Ensure that the containers are freeze thaw resistant.  Ceramic and clay pots will probably crack as will cheaper plastic pots. This link might be helpful:

When a plant is grown in a container, its roots are essentially surrounded by air, meaning it’s more susceptible to temperature change than if it were in the ground. Because of this, you should only try to overwinter container grown evergreens that are hardy to winters considerably colder than what your area experiences. Keeping a potted evergreen watered in winter is a delicate balance. If you live in an area that experiences a hard frost, keep watering until the root ball is completely frozen. You’ll have to water again during any warm spells and as soon as the ground begins to thaw in the spring to keep your plants roots from drying out.

The big challenge to this planting will be the shade.  There are, however, two types of evergreens that continually keep coming up in research as species that are shade and container tolerant.  The Chamecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’  “‘Nana Gracilis’ is a compact, slow-growing, multi-stemmed, evergreen shrub that typically grows to 3′ tall over the first 10 years. It will eventually mature over time in pyramidal to conical form to 6-9′ tall. It features shell-shaped sprays of dense rich dark green foliage. Nana means dwarf and gracilis means slender or graceful.” This evergreen does best in full sun to part shade in moist well drained soil. 

Hicks yew is hardy to zone 4 grows best in partial shade to full sun  and can reach heights of 20-30 feet. It grows slowly in containers.