Deck Plantings Tips

Dress your deck in signature style with plantings—in the ground or containers. Discover practical deckscaping tips you can use.
deck with bench

deck with bench

From: Designed to Sell

Give your deck a sense of being rooted in place with plantings. Whether you have a ground-level deck or one that’s high off the ground, you can count on plants—in pots or the ground—to help blend the structure with the yard around it. Deckscaping brings a deck to life while providing beauty, enhancing privacy or even yielding produce for the dinner table.

In small yards, the area on or around a deck may be the sole place you have to garden. In this case, select plantings with a purpose, such as providing fresh herbs or salad fixings, blossoms for bouquets or privacy.

In a small yard, providing privacy may be most important during seasons when you’re outside enjoying the deck. For this situation, lean on ornamental grasses, tall annuals like cannas or deciduous shrubs. These plants won’t create a feeling of enclosure during winter months but will instead permit views of the yard, helping you feel more connected to the great outdoors.

With elevated decks, consider planting small trees along one or more sides. Choose trees with a maximum mature height that places the leaf canopy at deck level to enjoy the feeling of living among the treetops. You can also cultivate privacy by planting grasses, palms or bamboo in containers along one edge of the deck. Use care when choosing bamboo for privacy plantings. Running types are best used in containers to avoid having them overtake your yard.

Containers can be free-standing or built into the deck. With low elevation decks, you might incorporate a deck-level bed that gives the illusion of plants sprouting from the deck itself. Position deck-level planting areas outside main traffic flow patterns to avoid accidents. Built in planters tucked along deck rails can also incorporate seating, a nice option if you frequently host large gatherings.

Free-standing pots and planters provide a multitude of options for deckscaping. For instance, you might position a row of pots to serve as a wall on your deck, dividing the space into separate areas based on use. Four similar pots placed at corners of an outdoor dining area effectively define that space. Tuck container-size trellises into pots like these, and plant a pretty annual vine to delineate the space even more strongly.

With containers on wooden decks, use pot feet to help preserve a deck’s finish. Consider how you’ll water containers. Pots on elevated decks especially need a steady supply of water during warm months once plants achieve size.

Incorporate water-absorbing polymer crystals or hydrogels into soil. These crystals absorb water, slowly releasing it to plant roots. Hydromats feature polyspun fabric with water crystals embedded in it. You slip a piece of the mat into soil prior to planting. Both of these materials can reduce watering chores for pots on decks.

Choose plants to support a theme, such as mandevilla vine, hibiscus and palms for a tropical escape, or succulents, phormium and kangaroo paws for a drought-tolerant display. Plan a deckscape stocked with herbs to provide fresh garnishes for drinks and dishes, or raise a crop of edible favorites for homegrown produce. Remember that flowers beckon bees and other stinging insects. Position them carefully in relationship to areas where young children play or bare feet prevail.

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