Cultivating plants around your outdoor central air conditioning unit serve two purposes. First, it helps block the unattractive unit, helping it blend into your landscaping. Second, green, leafy plants provide a source of shade, keeping the cool and helping it run more efficiently.

Which Plants Work Best

The best plants to plant around your outdoor HVAC unit varies. Plants that flourish in the mild and moist climate of the Northwest, won’t survive the hot dry summer of Arizona. Whenever possible, choose plants that are native to your region. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Vines and Trellises

For a quick solution to that ugly outdoor unit, consider a simple trellis with fast-growing annual vines. Plant sweet pea, jasmine, morning glory, or bougainvillea at the base of a trellis installed at least two feet in front of your HVAC unit. The space ensures the vines don’t grow up onto the unit, restricting airflow and potentially causing damage.

These attractive, flowering vines will grow quickly, climbing the trellis and providing shade for your outdoor system unit. Because most annual vines grow at such a fast rate, be sure to cut them back regularly, especially if they begin to grow toward your air conditioner.

Tall Perennials and Ornamental Grasses

Unlike annual vines, which have to be replanted yearly, perennials and ornamental grasses only have to be planted once. Although some varieties will turn brown or lose leaves in the late fall, they will grow back each spring. Both are a simple and attractive solution for disguising that outdoor equipment, especially where year-round screening isn’t necessary.

Some options to consider are black-eyed Susan, giant knotweed, and hollyhock. If your unit is already in a shady area, ferns are an attractive option. Tall cacti like the Mexican Fence Post cactus offer a low-maintenance solution for drier Southwestern climates. If you enjoy utility as well as attractive embellishment, consider planting edible asparagus. Its beautiful fern like growth is a beautiful addition to any yard, and offer a delicious harvest in the spring.

While you won’t have to replant perennials each year, many will take a few years to develop into large plants, so be patient. You can always plant some annuals between them to help provide cover until your perennials become established.

Shrubs and Hedges

There is nothing more classic to hide your unsightly air conditioner than healthy hedge or shrubs. Choose varieties that will match your needs once they reach maturity. Most homeowners choose to begin with younger bushes since it can be costly to start with mature plants. It may take several years for your new shrubs to fully hide your unit. Consider utilizing an attractive temporary screen between the new bushes and the unit. You can easily remove it once the hedge begins to reach maturity.

It is hard to beat the classic look of a boxwood hedge. These hardy plants flourish in most North American climates. However, if boxwoods don’t fit your landscaping tastes, consider planting  English laurel, yew, holly, or common beech.

Basic Planting Tips

Make sure to leave enough space between your new plants and your air conditioner for ample air circulation. Two feet is usually sufficient, although you should check the manufacturer’s specifications to be sure. Also, be sure to leave a gap in the plants to allow easy access to the unit for regular maintenance and repair. Your HVAC professional will thank you.

As the plants grow around your air conditioner, they may shed leaves, seeds, and branches. Be sure to clean up debris regularly to prevent any plant debris from accidentally entering the coils of your HVAC unit. Many plants will also need to pruned and trimmed to maintain the appropriate spacing between your unit and your vegetative barrier.

Consult a Specialist

If you aren’t sure which plants will work best to hide your unsightly outdoor unit, ask a professional. Check with your local nursery to determine which plants will flourish in your area and how much care and attention they require.

If you have any questions about your HVAC unit, or if you need additional tips for landscaping around your air conditioner, contact your local HVAC professional.