Landscaping Ideas for Pool Areas

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Landscaping Ideas for Pool Areas

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Now that you have a pool, turn it into a luxurious oasis by surrounding it with luscious plants. But, you’ll want to carefully choose the plants that will go near a swimming pool or hot tub. Something that is attractive at 2 feet tall can grow quickly and drop leaves and debris into your pool in just a couple of years. Research the best plants, shrubs, trees, and ornamentals that will survive and even thrive when planted close to a pool full of splashing chlorinated or saltwater. Whether you are choosing plants for privacy or ornamentation, there are three main considerations when choosing plantings for your pool area:

They should unify, balance, and fit in with the rest of your landscaping and home.
They should be easy to maintain and safe for children and pets.
They should be able to grow well in your native climate or microclimates on your property.

Here are 16 plant selections for landscaping your pool that will bring color, texture, and scent to your backyard.

Succulents

Succulents are increasing in popularity and are integrated with other plants in both front and back yards. That means they can be found growing poolside, where they can be foundation plants that are evergreen (or whatever color they are), sculptural in form, and hardy. Just make sure succulents planted near pools and spas don't have spines (thorns or needles) that can accidently injure children and pool-goers in bathing suits.

Many succulents don't have spines, or if they do, they can be small. Larger succulents with spines can be planted at the back of a border or raised bed. 

The best succulents for pool landscaping include:

Aeonium
Agave attenuata
Aptenia cordifolia
Crassula
Dudleya
Echeveria (some)
Euphorbia (some)
Kalanchoe
Plumeria (considered a succulent)
Portulacaria afra (dwarf jade)
Sedum
Sempervivum
Senecio

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses can be low maintenance and visually striking near pools. These types of grasses are not the lawn grasses with which you may be familiar—ornamental grasses include sedges, rushes, and bamboo.

The best grasses to plant near pools include:

Yellow foxtail grass (Alopecurus pratensis ‘Aureus’)
Giant reed (Arundo donax)
Bamboo (some types; can be invasive)
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Blue fescue (Festuca glauca)
Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’)
Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’)
Feather grass (Stipa)
Rush (Juncus)
Phormium
Zebra grass

Vines

Vines climb over walls and weave their way through fences and trellises. Most are fast growers and can quickly help to form a sort of privacy screen around pool areas, or can be trained as living roofs on arbors and pergolas.

Vines we recommend include:

Passionflower
Carolina Jessamine
Jasmine
Honeysuckle
Trumpet vine
Lady Banks rose

Trees

Carefully choose trees that will grow near a swimming pool, keeping in mind ultimate growth height and width. While considering potential trees, look for ones that won’t make a mess as they drop their leaves, flowers, or fruit, so avoid anything with buds. One perfect choice: a fruitless olive tree.

Drought-Tolerant Plants

If you live in a dry climate or region experiencing drought, then landscape with watering needs in mind. Many plants are drought-tolerant, especially after roots have been established in the grounds for a year or so with regular watering.

Container Gardens

Container gardens can be beautifully arranged with plants that have similar care needs. They can also be moved around, depending on the time of year, unexpected weather, and special occasions. Choose hardy plants that follow the thriller, filler, and spiller design technique, or one type of plant that stands tall in containers.

Fragrant Plants

Nothing smells better than the lovely fragrance that comes from nature itself, specifically sweet-scented vines, shrubs, and trees. Plant a few near the pool, patio, along a path, or where you dine outdoors. Some plants become more fragrant during the evening hours.

Tropical Plants

Many pool owners dream of a pool surrounded by tropical landscaping as an ideal private backyard retreat. If the climate permits, a pool area can appear more tropical with the addition of tropical plants. 

Exotic-looking plants for pool-scaping include:

Bird of paradise
Banana trees
Hibiscus
Canna
Palms
Papyrus

Cactus

While their spines are not something you and your guests want to come in contact with, a cactus can be striking and natural near a pool in desert regions. Plant them in raised beds or containers far enough away from the pool and center of activity.

Ground Covers

If you prefer plantings with a bit more oomph than turf, ground coverings can offer texture and color around a pool. Most ground coverings are not considered fancy or temperamental, and they are meant to be trampled. Try the pretty and elegant creeping Jenny as a ground cover—it grows super fast—and you can also use it to climb a nearby trellis. Scotch moss, another ground cover, is soft to walk on and looks elegant between pavers around a pool or path.

Evergreens and Hedges

Evergreens and hedges aren’t just for your front yard. Using them to landscape a pool area can offer many benefits to your backyard experience. Evergreen hedges, such as boxwoods, provide privacy, they’re easy to maintain, or you can even clip them into playful shapes. When they grow larger, an evergreen conifer, such as false cypress, can offer shade from the scorching summer sun. In addition, most evergreens and hedges won’t litter your pool water, but watch for some arborvitae that may shed needles in the fall before the pool is covered.

Wildflowers

If you prefer a casual landscape look around your pool, opt for a wildflower garden. These perennial blooms will bring a charming cottage style to your backyard. They also can attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and beneficial insects such as ladybugs. Many popular wildflowers (such as Joe Pye weed and blue vervain) will attract bees, so plant those perennials far from lounge chairs and poolside. Wildflowers look beautiful when they are planted on the horizon of a landscape, perhaps to the back or bordering the sides of your pool so you can float and gaze at the garden as it sways in the breeze.

Rock Gardens

If you have a pool with water features including rocks, stepping stones, and other detailed hardscaping, consider landscaping with lovely, fragrant, and colorful flowers, such as creeping phlox, which peek out of crevices and cracks. Succulents, such as hens and chicks, also look natural around a pool’s rock garden. Look for plants that love the heat and tolerate some drought since the rocks may become hot if they’re located around the pool and in the direct sun.

Moon Garden Plants

If you love nighttime swimming and entertaining, consider planting a moon garden that shines bright with blooms in the dark. White, yellow, and other very pale plants will naturally reflect the light from the moon so that the garden looks like it’s glowing. Look for mid-to-late-blooming plants that show through the summer. Try tropical night-blooming red or white water lilies known as ‘Antares.’ Other popular night bloomers also include moonflower and foamflower.

Lawn Grasses

There's nothing more refreshing in the summer than walking barefoot through soft, lush green grass to get to a crystal clear pool. Sometimes all you need to beautifully landscape a classic square or rectangular pool is to surround it with large swathes of manicured lawn. A lawn also provides a soft and cool place to fall if you have kids who insist on running around the pool area.

Lawn grass will need a lot of maintenance and water (not pool water) to thrive under the hot summer sun. Consider tough and drought-tolerant grasses, such as Bermuda grass and Korean grass (Zoysia)

, for pool landscaping, or go for artificial sod.

Insect-Repelling Herbs

Besides citronella candles and insect sprays, there are natural insect-repellant herbs you can plant around your pool for pest-free fun. Though you may not want to plant too much mint around your pool unless you relish the scent, try these other fragrant favorites:

Lavender
Rosemary
Basil
Ornamental onion (a pretty flower that has a slight onion scent if bruised)

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