Best Pool Landscaping Plants to Consider – Forbes Advisor


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Relaxing by the pool is more enjoyable when the poolside scenery is on point. The best plants to put around a swimming pool are those that are low maintenance, don’t make a mess, and can withstand intense exposure to sun and radiant heat. Additionally, they must perform roles such as providing shade, protecting privacy, or adding attractive texture, structure, and color. What to plant around a swimming pool? Read on for our recommendations.

Pool Landscape Plants

Unlike container gardens on the pool deck, the landscape from the pool deck to the fence is more permanent. It’s the trees, shrubs, and perennials that create privacy, block strong winds, provide shade, and build the structure of your poolside or backyard oasis. Choose hardy, self-sufficient varieties that match your garden style.

Emerald Green Arborvitae, Thuja Occidentalis ‘Emerald Green’

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This pillar-shaped evergreen develops dense, soft, glossy green foliage, perfect for creating a privacy screen by the pool. It grows three to five feet wide and 20 feet tall. If a larger screen is needed, consider the larger Green Giant Arborvitae.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 3 to 8
  • Sun exposure: full sun
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Rustic Banana, Musa Basjoo

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For a tropical look in a temperate zone, look no further than the hardy banana tree. This tall, clumping perennial reaches over 12 feet in one growing season, and the top dies off to winter dormancy. Gardeners in warm climates may even be rewarded with a crop of small bananas.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 4 to 11
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Japanese maple, Acer palmatum

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Upright Japanese maples reach 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide, casting some welcome shade over the sunny poolside landscape. The fall color varies from golden yellow to fiery red.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 5 to 8
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus Syriacus

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With its worry-free upkeep and extended bloom cycle, the Rose of Sharon is a top choice for Mediterranean-style pool gardens. This hardy shrub hibiscus is available in a wide range of bloom colors, including white, pink, brown, lavender, and multicolor.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 5 to 9
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Soil needs: Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions

Angel’s Trumpet, Brugmansia species

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Promote a tropical look with the large, bold, pendulous flowers and lush foliage of the Angel’s Trumpet. It is an excellent shrub to plant in places saturated with pool runoff. In temperate zones, it is an excellent container plant for the pool deck.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 10 to 11
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sunshine
  • Soil needs: Damp to wet soil

Star Jasmine, Trachelospermum Jasminoides

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This evergreen vine is prized for its small, star-shaped, yet deeply fragrant flowers. It grows quickly to cover any supporting structure, such as an arbor, trellis, or pergola, and fills the landscape in midsummer with a sweet, sweet scent.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 8 to 11
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sunshine
  • Soil needs: Widely adaptable

Hydrangea Limelight, Hydrangea Paniculata

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Hydrangea paniculata cultivars make excellent pool landscaping plants, adding floral color and enhancing privacy. They thrive in full sun, bloom in mid to late summer, and tolerate (but don’t need) moist soil. Limelight flowers start out chartreuse, mature to greenish white and take on pink tones as they dry on the plant.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 3 to 9
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sunshine
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Fountain Grass, Pennisetum Alopecuroides

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Ornamental grasses of all kinds make excellent pool landscaping plants. They add dynamic movement and subtle sound as they sway in the gentlest breeze. And they hold up well to reflected heat and light around the pool. The glossy green foliage and mounded shape complement the tree structure and lush foliage of tropical style plants.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 4 to 9
  • Sun exposure: full sun
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Daylily, Hemerocallis species

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The large, colorful blooms and coarse, grassy foliage of daylilies add a tropical look to temperate landscapes. These easy-to-grow perennials bloom in early summer, and some cultivars continue to bloom well into early fall.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 4 to 9
  • Sun exposure: full sun
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Best potted plants for the pool deck

Adding potted plants to the pool deck visually softens the hard edges and stark appearance of concrete. Pool plants add color, texture and structure that connect the pool to the landscape beyond. Annual flowers and foliage, tender tropicals, and hardy perennials can all be included in poolside container gardens. Choose plants that require less watering or install drip irrigation to reduce maintenance.

Tropical Hibiscus, Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis

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Large, bright blooms all season long, glossy dark green foliage and an iconic tropical appearance make this one of the most popular poolside plants. Although hibiscus plants drop flower petals every day, many pool owners are willing to overlook the small cleaning details.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 9 to 11
  • Sun exposure: full sun
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Sago Palm, Cycas Revoluta

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This shrubby palm with stiff, needle-like foliage is ideal for Japanese and Mediterranean-style gardens. It thrives in containers and is easy to care for. In areas where it is hardy, don’t be afraid to plant it in the landscape.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 8 to 11
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sunshine
  • Soil needs: Well-drained soil

Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia

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Large grey-green leaves and a unique exotic orange and blue flower make it one of the most recognizable plants in the world. For tropical gardens, it is an essential plant. This plant is low maintenance and easy to overwinter indoors for those living in colder climates.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 10 to 12
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sunshine
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Mediterranean Palm, Chamaerops Humilis

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In containers or in the ground, this easy-to-grow palm makes a striking pool accent plant or landscape specimen. It looks great in Mediterranean or Southwestern style gardens and requires little care beyond watering and annual frond pruning.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 8 to 11
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sunshine
  • Soil needs: Tolerates poor soils

Adam’s Needle, Yucca Filamentosa

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This almost stemless evergreen shrub forms a tuft of stiff, spine-tipped foliage with curly filaments along the margins. Some cultivars have golden variegated leaves. In early summer, a flowering spike rises several feet above the foliage with a large cluster of creamy white, bell-shaped flowers.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 5 to 10
  • Sun exposure: full sun
  • Soil needs: Well-drained soil

Smooth prickly pear, Opuntia Ellisiana

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The round, smooth lobes of this cactus give it the appearance of a sculpture. It is an excellent choice for containers and poolside landscapes. Like other desert cacti, smooth prickly pear has low water requirements. It produces an abundance of large yellow flowers in mid-summer.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 4 to 9
  • Sun exposure: full sun
  • Soil needs: Well-drained soil

Million Bells, Calibrachoa

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Million bells have a mound and spill habit that makes them perfect for container plantings. They love the sun and look great on their own or in a mixed container garden with different textures and colors. These petunia lookalikes produce masses of colorful blooms throughout the growing season and even tolerate a light frost.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): Annual
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sunshine
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Geranium, Pelargonium X Hortorum

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Although the classic dark red zonal geranium may be the first that comes to mind, these tender perennials also come in white, pink, lavender and other colors. They are well suited to container gardening and look great around the pool. For best results, plant them where they will receive some protection from the hottest afternoon sun.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): 10 to 11, treated as an annual elsewhere
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Sweet Potato Vine, Ipomea Batatas

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Ornamental cultivars of the edible sweet potato produce beautiful vine foliage. Lush chartreuse, trails of maroon or variegated foliage around the edges of containers and can be trained to climb over plant supports for a topiary effect.

  • USDA Growing Zone(s): Annual
  • Sun exposure: Full to partial sunshine
  • Soil needs: Well-drained soil

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