Pool-ready Plants

By Chelle Cordero

March 6, 2015 5 min read

After the harsh winter most of our nation has experienced, the thought of warm weather and swimming pools may seem like a dream. Backyard swimming pools have become lovely personal oases and family staycation opportunities. Functional doesn't have to be "blah." You can dress up your pool area and make it an attractive resort in your own yard.

Before you choose plants or a landscaping layout, study the pool area and the grounds for sunlight, slopes, drainage and nearby foliage. Is your pool aboveground or in-ground? Do you need more privacy or an unobstructed view to keep an eye on your children? If you have lighting around your pool for nighttime dipping, make sure plants and bushes do not obscure the lights. Of course, your plans should take into consideration your normal year-round and seasonal climates. Allow for drainage between your plants and pool decking so that runoff will not wind up in the pool's filtration system.

Choose plants that will not overgrow the pool in height or overrun it with branches or roots. These plants may eventually plunge your swimming hole into a permanent shade, cause cracks or tears to a liner, or drop leaves and branches into the water. Avoid plants that drop bothersome nettles, drip sap on the ground and nearby walkways, or attract wildlife or insects due to flowers, fruits (like berries) or scent. All plants do tend to drop their leaves occasionally, but broad leaves are easier to clean out of the water and pool filter than tiny leaves and nettles.

Low-growing bushes generally do well around an aboveground pool without obscuring the view or overhanging the pool water. Plant bushes a few feet from the pool and decking to avoid damage from roots. In-ground pools look good with ornamental groundcovers. Visit a local nursery to see which ones fare best in your region. Bushes ideally should have no more than four-feet of potential growth.

Chain-link safety fencing provides excellent support for climbing ivy, which in turn will provide more privacy to your swimming area. Another great idea is to use a variety of potted and hanging plants around your pool area. Potted and hanging plants also look great as edging for stone and brick walkways and will not creep under the bricks or stones to cause unsightly tufts of vegetation or push stones out of place.

Heated pools and sunlight refection may create a greenhouse effect on nearby plants. Brick and concrete pool patios will retain more heat from the sun. Potted plants will need watering and more maintenance than plants in the ground. If you are placing potted plants on concrete or brick, keep the pot raised from the surface to allow more air to circulate. While chlorinated water rarely causes harm to hardy plants, constant splashing may cause minor discoloration of ornamental leaves. Pools and sunshine go together, so use mulch around your in-ground plantings to retain moisture that would otherwise be lost to the hot sun. Avoid placing picnic and barbecue areas, birdbaths and feeders, or food-producing gardens too close to the pool.

If you want your backyard to look like an oasis and have a reasonable area to landscape, use full, lush and colorful foliage to make it look like a welcoming tropical paradise. Depending on your climate (growing zone), some favorite choices for pool landscaping include foliage like golden euonymus, heavenly bamboo and papyrus. Good flowering plants include daylilies, birds-of-paradise and hibiscus.

The closer you are to the actual pool and pool deck area the lower the plant height should be. Background trees should be planted far enough away from the pool so that it doesn't shade the water or risk dropping leaves and branches onto the swimming or seating area. Some popular backyard trees are fruitless olive, red gum trees and queen palms. If you have enough room, plan a shady lounging area, as well. Non-plant-life decor for your retreat might include rock gardens, water fountains, trellised walkways and sheltered lounging.

Whatever plants and other ornamentation you decide to use around your pool, aim to keep the maintenance low so that you can spend more time taking a dip with the family.

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