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Great Plant Choices for Your Poolside Landscape

Chris has been professionally developing award-winning landscapes for pools and patios in the West Michigan area for over 11 years.

Take your pool to the next level by including plants that can soften the hard edge of the surrounding patio and pool coping.

Take your pool to the next level by including plants that can soften the hard edge of the surrounding patio and pool coping.

Adding plants around your poolside retreat will help create a lush and inviting place to kick back and relax. Not only will plants add interest around the landscape, there is a direct functional benefit for having them around, too.

Plants will ease the transition from pool patio to landscape bed, encouraging a low-stress environment. The surrounding temperature can even be lowered due to the proximity of plants, as they can provide shade and reduce the glare of sunlight off the patio surface.

Here some ideas to consider based on my experience with past landscape clients and their pools.

Debris in Your Pool Is Inevitable

Before discussing any specifics on plants, I will typically connect with my client's needs in regards to their pool area. Almost every client has one thing in common here, and that is not wanting any litter/debris from the landscape in their pool.

While this is a completely understandable request, often the reality is that a perfectly leaf-free pool is not possible. Prevailing winds can carry seeds, dust, and leaves from far away (even miles), and the pool can become a pretty big target. I remind my clients of this unfortunate reality, and then work to figure out ways to minimize further landscape litter from making its way into the pool.

Stachys 'Hummelo' is a great perennial for growing near pools and around the house.

Stachys 'Hummelo' is a great perennial for growing near pools and around the house.

Consider the Logistics of Your Pool and Landscape

First, consider the logistics of the pool in the landscape and how they will impact your possible plant choices.

  • Generally there will be a patio or deck next to or surrounding it. All this flat area can allow wind to move quickly from one end to another. If you are near a lake, this typically exacerbates the wind factor. Choose plant material that can take plenty of wind. Where are the prevailing winds on your site? Try to choose plants that won't drop wind-borne seeds that can land into your pool.
  • Second, how close is the landscape bed to the pool? Between the splashing of chlorinated water, hot reflected sun from the water's surface, and the occasional tossing of foam pool noodles, your plant choices near the edge must be fairly tolerant of abuse. This is probably not the place to show off your grandmother's peony collection.
  • Finally, what about existing plants? While the pool will most likely be situated to be in the sun as much as possible, nearby trees are generally always an issue because of leaves, fruit, dead twigs, and branches, etc. If the trees are on your property and are a key factor in your landscape, consult a certified arborist to make sure they are as healthy as possible. While this will not remove the leaf issue, it can certainly reduce the twig and branch hazard through annual pruning.

Poolside-Friendly Plant Ideas

ShrubsPerennialsGroundcovers

Hydrangea paniculata, Panicle Hydrangea

Miscanthus sinenis 'Gracillimus'

Assorted Sedum Varieties

Hydrangea macrophylla, Endless Summer Hydrangea

Nepeta faasenii 'Blue Wonder', Catmint

Mazus reptans, Creeping Mazus

Picea abies 'Nidiformis', Bird's Nest Spruce

Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal', Switch Grass

Liriope spicata, Creeping Lily-turf

Viburnum carlesii, Korean Spice Viburnum

Geranium macrorrhyzum 'Bevans' Bigroot Geranium

Pachysandra terminalis, Pachysandra

Clethra alnifolia, Summersweet Clethra

Lavendula x intermedia 'Violet Intrigue', 'Violet Intrigue' Lavender

Herniaria glabra, Rupturewort

Nepeta blooms a profusion of purplish blue flowers on the pool edge. Companion plants like hydrangea and ornamental grasses help round out the look of the landscape with minimal maintenance.

Nepeta blooms a profusion of purplish blue flowers on the pool edge. Companion plants like hydrangea and ornamental grasses help round out the look of the landscape with minimal maintenance.

Perennial Groundcovers Make Great Poolside Edges

After installing your plant bed, mulch is always helpful to maintain and sustain your landscape. While 1–2" stone might be preferred to keep bark mulch from making its way into the pool, I often try to encourage a different solution.

Stone mulch does have its downsides, such as catching dust and debris, which over time will break down and become a nice place for weeds to grow while unleashing a slew of problems previously discussed (seeds, leaf debris).

I will typically suggest the installation of perennial groundcovers that will mass together along the pool patio edge. These plants will decrease the amount of bark you need as they grow and will soften the hard edges of the concrete or pavers and blend the pool area into the landscape bed. If combined with taller plants, the low groundcover will create a layered effect and can promote textural contrast in the landscape.

A pool is a wonderful investment for those wanting to extend their enjoyment of water and sun outside of the house. After considering your particular space, adding the right plants can really enhance the space. I hope these ideas help you as you create your backyard oasis.

When not in flower, Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevans' will be a workhorse in a poolside landscape by creeping along the ground and softening edges of patio and stone outcropping without pushing other plants around.

When not in flower, Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevans' will be a workhorse in a poolside landscape by creeping along the ground and softening edges of patio and stone outcropping without pushing other plants around.