If your air-conditioning unit isn't really doing it for you, aesthetically speaking, hide it with a potted tree. Planting trees in containers offers advantages beyond just looks: You can plant varieties that wouldn't otherwise grow in your climate and bring them indoors for the winter. If you don't like the tree's placement, you can move it somewhere else. No matter which type of tree you choose, keep it happy by planting it in a container with adequate drainage.
Flowering trees mask your ugly a/c unit with color and fragrance. Choices for pots include the silk tree (Albizia julibrissin), a deciduous tree with tiny, light green leaves offset by fragrant pink flowers in spring and summer. This Asian native grows well in full sun to partial shade and is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9. The species grows from 20 to 35 feet, but the "Alba" cultivar grows from 20 to 25 feet. The "Okame" cherry (Prunus x incamp "Okame") grows well in containers and blooms with aromatic pink flowers in late winter through early spring. Reaching heights to 20 feet, this versatile tree thrives in full sun to full shade and is hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9.
To hide your a/c and provide fruit, plant a fruit-bearing, container-friendly tree such as the edible fig (Ficus carica). When planted in a pot, this deciduous tree grows shorter and produces abundant fruits, advises Bayer Advanced. Cultivars suited to pots include "Brown Turkey," which can bear two crops each year. Figs grow in USDA zones 6 through 9 and grow in full sun to partial shade. Dwarf varieties of apple trees (Malus spp.) that grow well in containers include "Northpole," "Golden Sentinel" and "Scarlet Sentinel." Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8, place your potted apple tree in full sun for the best results.
When other plants are fading in fall, some container-friendly trees brighten the autumn garden with their colorful foliage. Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) grow well in containers and come in a range of colors and sizes, from the 20-foot-tall "Sango Kaku," with its green summer and golden fall leaves, to 6-foot-tall "Dissectum Atropurpureum" with its deep purple and red foliage. Japanese maples grow in USDA zones 6 through 8 and prefer partial to full shade. The Southwest redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) also has attractive fall foliage. This 20-foot-tall tree has round, blue- to dark-green leaves that turn golden in fall. Hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9, this redbud grows in full sun to partial shade.
For year-round foliage, and year-round a/c unit coverage, plant an evergreen. Dwarf trees for containers include the mugo pine (Pinus mugo), a 20-foot-tall conifer that grows well in full sun to partial shade. Mugo pines have dense foliage and are hardy in USDA zones 3 through 7. The "Little Gem" magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora "Little Gem") has glossy leaves and blooms with white blossoms from spring through fall. Hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9, this sun-loving evergreen grows slowly to 20 feet tall.