Large decorative plants that will survive in a container on a Seattle deck
November 18, 2008 10:24 AM   Subscribe

What plants are suitable for putting on our deck in Seattle? There's no yard/soil, so they must live in containers. The deck is quite large so I was thinking about large decorative plants like small trees or some form of bamboo. Climate-wise, we have the typical PNW weather of moist winters that only fall below freezing a few days out of the year. Also, we are completely ignorant of gardening and would rather have something that can survive with a minimum of attention.
posted by matildaben to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
New Zealand Fern? once used to a pot, they need no attention whatsoever. If there is a significant wind chill they won't like it though.
posted by Wilder at 10:34 AM on November 18, 2008

Meyer lemon trees are quite festive and good in a cocktail. If you get enough precipitation you won't need to worry too much about maintenance; they're pretty hardy.
posted by Alison at 11:09 AM on November 18, 2008

I can highly, highly recommend the book You Grow Girl - all about container gardening. There's also a web site (blog and forums, very helpful).
posted by twiki at 11:53 AM on November 18, 2008

Bamboo does very well in large containers. We do have a yard, but since bamboo is so invasive, we thought it responsible to build large planters for it. We filled them with a mix of sand and soil, making sure there was good drainage, then dug up root stock from a local park where the city was working on eradicating the bamboo. The first year, we got some sickly-looking sprouts, and the second year got some respectable growth. But, man-o-man, the third year--8 to 12 inches of growth per day, no lie. And I love how it looks.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:02 PM on November 18, 2008

What is the exposure? Bamboo does not like a hot southern exposure if there is reflective glass and/or wind. It will just be burned and look crummy, no matter how much water you've given it. I see this all the time on roof decks in (relatively) cool and humid San Francisco, so it would be a problem in Seattle as well. If it's the northern shady side of your house, the possibility that a fruit tree will be damaged by frost or not produce fruit is heightened. Are you comfortable with drainage from the planter staining your deck? How big are you anticipating the planters to be? expect at least 3x3 for a small tree to be happy for any length of time.

In other words, more information is needed to make suitable suggestions. :)
posted by oneirodynia at 12:46 PM on November 18, 2008

You can even grow roses in (big) pots.
posted by trinity8-director at 2:29 PM on November 18, 2008

Rosemary loves our weather, plus it smells good and you can eat it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:47 PM on November 18, 2008

RE: Alison, would a Meyer lemon tree really do okay in Seattle weather? If so I would second the suggestion -- there are few things that are handier to have around for cooking/cocktails than fresh lemons, and the trees are small and reasonably pretty.
posted by madmethods at 6:46 PM on November 18, 2008

Seconding rosemary, but make sure it has good drainage.

I killed our Meyer Lemon (and a lime) tree when we were too busy with a new baby and forgot to bring the pot inside (the garage works fine) during some freezing nights, so you do have to be careful in the winter.
posted by girlhacker at 1:03 AM on November 19, 2008

Response by poster: The deck takes up the whole front of the house, which faces west, but the edges of it are open to the north and south.
posted by matildaben at 9:26 AM on November 19, 2008

You're gong to want to choose plants that can tolerate full sun. Even though you will only get direct sun for half the day, it will be in the hotter, dryer half of the day (I know we are talking about Seattle, but this is all relative). You don't say how large your containers can be, so I would look for tough perennials like the above mentioned rosemary or lavender. Smaller, brittle, evergreen leaves are more tolerant of potential dry wind and hot days, and these mediterranean plants will appreciate the good drainage that containers will provide. Let them dry out between waterings. You can try citrus, but it would be very important to feed and water consistently. citrus in pots need acidic soil so they don't get iron deficiencies, and they are also frequently in need of nitrogen, magnesium, or sulfur. Other than being somewhat high maintenance, they can be great small trees in pots. Roses are good if you have room to get by without being jabbed.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:18 PM on November 19, 2008

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